If you’ve found your sleep cycle a little all over the place over the last year, you’re not alone! The events of 2020 and 2021 have created the perfect cocktail of conditions for any number of sleep disorders, so it’s time we all got familiar with the different ways our brains and bodies can do us dirty at bedtime.
Conditions that impact a person’s ability to properly function while they are awake by affecting sleep quality, timing or duration are collectively known as sleep disorders. These are distinct conditions, but in many cases they can also be symptoms of underlying mental health issues, and can even contribute to other medical problems.
Whether it takes the form of major crises or minor irritations, stress is an unavoidable part of life. Outside influences like stress and hectic schedules will cause most people to lose sleep every now and then. Taking control of your own emotional responses is vital as stress can take a toll on your well-being if it becomes overwhelming or lasts a long time. This is why it’s so important to have an awareness of a variety of stress-relief techniques.
Getting plenty of exercise is one of the most important things you can do to combat stress. This could be for a number of reasons:
- Stress hormones.
Exercise also causes the body to release natural painkillers and mood-improvers known as endorphins. The best way to make the most of these benefits is to exercise regularly. Need2Know Books is the best place to look for more information on stress and stress management – check out The Essential Guide to Stress.
Importantly, we’re not simply talking about taking a while to drift off the night before a big test: sleep must be affected on a regular basis for something to be considered a sleep disorder. These disorders are becoming increasingly common, whether caused by a health problem or by excessive stress.
The first classification system dedicated to sleep disorders was published in 1979 by the American Sleep Disorders Association. Over the past four decades, our knowledge and understanding of sleep health has continued to grow. Criteria such as causes, symptoms and physiological and psychological effects are used to categorise over 100 specific sleep disorders with complex methodologies and classifications.
At their most basic, however, one or more of the following four signs are present in the majority of sleep disorders:
- You find it difficult to stay awake during the day
- Your sleep schedule is affected by imbalances in your circadian rhythm
- You are prone to unusual behaviours that disrupt your sleep
- You struggle to fall or stay asleep
Your overall health, energy, mood and concentration can all be negatively impacted by a lack of sleep. This impact can be compounded if the sleep disorder is a symptom of another medical or mental health condition, as you will have to deal with it alongside a host of other potential symptoms. In these cases, however, once treatment is obtained for the underlying cause, the sleeping problems may eventually go away. A combination of lifestyle changes and medical treatments are often required in cases where a sleep disorder isn’t caused by another condition.
A sleeping disorder could be indicated by any of the four signs mentioned above. We would recommend talking to your doctor if you’re experiencing any of these problems.
If you suspect you might have a sleep disorder, it’s important to receive a diagnosis and treatment right away.
Most Common Sleep Disorders
- Sleep Apnea
- Narcolepsy (hypersomnias)
- Circadian Rhythm Disorders
- Shift Work Disorder
- Non-24-Hour Sleep Wake Disorder
- Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
Further health consequences may result from the negative effects of a sleep disorder left untreated.
Having the means and motive to fall and stay asleep but being unable to do so is the key indicator of insomnia. While they are awake, people with insomnia also experience excessive daytime sleepiness and other cognitive impairments. When patients exhibit symptoms for at least three months at least three times per week, insomnia is considered a chronic condition. Insomnia is believed to affect up to a third of adults to some degree, according to recent statistics.
- If you have difficulty staying asleep throughout the night, this is known as sleep maintenance insomnia.
- If you are tired but still have difficulty falling asleep, this is known as sleep-onset insomnia.
- If you have a combination of sleep maintenance and sleep-onset insomnia symptoms, this is known as mixed insomnia.
Any form of insomnia can impair your ability to perform daily activities, affect your performance at work and cause strain in relationships.
A blockage of the upper airway is characteristic of sleep apnea, a common sleep-related breathing disorder. Symptoms include heavy snoring and waking up choking or gasping for air. Various cognitive impairments including sleepiness and fatigue will often result. There are two main types of sleep apnea:
- Choking episodes during the night are a key problem in central sleep apnea (CSA), which occurs when the brain stops sending signals to the muscles that control breathing.
- A physical obstruction that blocks the upper airway will result in obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
As it causes the body to take in less oxygen, sleep apnea is considered a serious medical condition.
Sleep disorders that cause abnormal behaviours and movements during sleep are known collectively as parasomnias. These include…
- Sleep walking.
- Sleep talking.
Despite getting an adequate amount of sleep the previous night, individuals with narcolepsy will feel excessively tired during the day. As a result, they may suffer from “sleep attacks” lasting for a few minutes due to an irrepressible urge to sleep. Sleep maintenance and sleep-onset problems may also become an issue over time. There are two types of narcolepsy: Narcolepsy Type 1, which includes a sudden loss of muscle tone known as cataplexy, and Narcolepsy Type 2, which does not include cataplexy.
To learn more about sleep disorders, check out The Essential Guide to Insomnia from Need2Know Books.