Sleep is often an indicator for your general well-being. In lots of cases, healthy people get good sleep while those who suffer from chronic sleeping issues can have a hidden mental or physical health condition, be it serious or minor. It is important that you sleep well, for the sake of both your physical heath and emotional well-being.
Even if you suffer from just a little sleep loss, there can be an adverse effect on your efficiency, energy, mood and stress handling ability. Neglecting your sleep issues can result in unhealthiness, hindered job performance, accidents and a stressful relationship. If you desire to stay at the top of your health and potential, sleep is a necessity, not a luxury that you can forego.
It isn’t normal to feel lethargic during the waking day, to have trouble going to sleep at night, or to awaken feeling tired. Even if you have had a sleeping problem for such a long time that it has started to feel normal, it is still possible to learn to improve your sleep. Start by keeping track of your sleep patterns and symptoms, and then make positive changes to your waking habits as well as bedtime routine. If you’re not getting any results through self-help, you can seek out sleep specialists who are experts in sleep medicine. They’ll work with you to identify the actual causes of your sleeping disorder and find ways by which you can get normal sleep back, and with that, a normal life.
Here is an overview of the major sleeping disorders to help you identify your sleep issue on your own:
Insomnia: The Most Frequently Occurring Sleep Disorder
This disorder refers to the inability of an individual to get sufficient sleep for waking up feeling properly rested and refreshed, and is the most common complaint related to sleep. It is usually a symptom of another problem such as depression, stress, anxiety or a health condition. It can also result from lifetime choices that include medications, jet lag, lack of exercise and excessive caffeine consumption.
Common Symptoms Of Insomnia Are:
- It is hard to go to sleep at night or go back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night.
- Frequently awakening during your sleep
- Sleep feels broken, tiresome and light
- You have to consume pills, supplements, nightcap etc. to fall asleep
- Lethargy and drowsiness during daytime
- Regardless of what causes your insomnia, be careful about your sleeping habits, and remember that learning how to relax will aid you in enhancing your sleep and feeling better about yourself.
Other Common Sleeping Disorders
Besides insomnia, the other frequent complaints related to sleep are sleep apnea, narcolepsy and RLS (i.e. restless legs syndrome).
— Sleep Apnea
This common sleep disorder causes your breathing to stop briefly during your sleep (due to your upper airways getting blocked). The pauses in your breathing wake you from your sleep, and this happens several times during an hour. The majority of those suffering from this condition do not remember these troublesome interruptions, but they do feel tired during the day, besides being depressed and irritated, and possibly underproductive.
Sleep apnea is a serious, possibly fatal, sleep disorder. If you think that you or someone close to you is suffering from this condition, go see a doctor ASAP. It is possible to successfully treat this condition with a technique known as Continuous Positive Airway Pressure or CPAP, which uses a mask-like device to deliver an air stream to you during your sleep.
Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea Are:
- Regular pauses in breath during sleep
- Loud, repetitive snoring
- Snorting, choking or gasping during sleep
- Tiredness during waking hours regardless of how long you’ve slept
- Awakening with chest pains, nasal congestion, dry throat, chest pain or short breath
This is a sleep disorder which causes uncontrollable and excessive daytime drowsiness. It is a result of a dysfunctional brain mechanism, specifically, the mechanism responsible for controlling waking and sleeping. If you suffer from narcolepsy, you might suffer from ‘sleep attacks’ mid-speech, mid-work and even mid-driving!
Common Signs Of This Condition Are:
- Hallucinating when you feel sleepy or dreaming before you’ve fully gone to sleep.
- Sudden feelings of weakness / losing muscle controls when you’re angry, laughing or otherwise emotionally affected.
- Dreaming as soon as you drift off or experiencing strong dreams.
- Feelings of paralysis / lost movement when you’re either waking up or going to sleep.
— Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)
Restless legs syndrome is a condition which gives you a near irresistible desire to move your legs (and also sometimes arms). This urge develops when you’re lying down / resting, and is mostly a result of uncomfortable aching, tingling or creeping sensations.
Symptoms Of This Condition Include:
- Uncomfortable feelings deep inside your limbs leading to a strong desire to move them.
- The sensations occur because of resting, and worsen as the night grows.
- The sensations get better if you stretch, massage or move your limbs.
- You may also experience regular jerking / cramping of your legs while sleeping.
You may be interested in: Sleep Tips and Bedding Guide for Restless Leg Syndrome
Sleep Disorders Pertaining To Circadian Rhythm
All of us possess a built-in biological clock which keeps up a 24 hour sleep-wake cycle, otherwise known as the circadian rhythms of our body. These rhythms are most affected by light. As the sun rises in the morning, the brain signals to the body that it is time to awaken. At night, in the absence of light, the brain causes melatonin to be released, which is a hormone that makes you feel sleepy.
If your circadian rhythms get interrupted or imbalanced, you can suffer from disorientation, grogginess and irregular sleep times. Circadian rhythms are associated with a number of sleeping issues and disorders that include jet lag, insomnia and shift work sleep troubles. Circadian rhythms that are outside the norm have also been linked to bipolar disorder, the winter blues, and depression.
#1. Jet Lag Sleeping Issues
This refers to a temporary irregularity in circadian rhythms as a result of travelling across time zones. Symptoms of this condition include fatigue, headache, insomnia, stomach issues and drowsiness. They normally appear within a couple of days after you have jumped several time zones. Longer flights mean more apparent symptoms. Also, the direction of your flight is significant – flying towards the east is more problematic than flying towards the west.
#2. Shift Work Sleeping Issues
This disorder occurs due to a lack of synchronization between your internal biological clock and your work routine. We live in a society that is active 24 hours, which means some of us have to pull early morning shifts, rotating shifts and night shifts. Such a schedule means you’re forcing your body to stay up and work when it is signaling you to sleep, and in reverse.
Some people may be better at adjusting to night work as compared to others, but all in all, their sleep suffers due to this predicament. The resulting sleep deprivation leads to mental lethargy and sleepiness during work hours which affects productivity and increases the risk of injury.
There are several ways to reduce the effect shift work has on your sleep routine.
#3. Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder
This condition is characterized by a considerable delay present in your biological clock which tracks your 24 hour sleeping / waking cycle. Consequently, you fall asleep and awaken a lot later than normally you would. For instance, you won’t feel sleepy until well past midnight, after which you’ll fall into a deep slumber, awakening at noon – unless of course, your daytime responsibilities force you to wake up earlier. This sleeping disorder makes it tough to maintain regular hours – taking classes in the morning, driving the kids to school, a nine to five job, etc.
It is vital that you understand that this is an actual condition – it isn’t merely due to a preference of staying up late:
- Those suffering from it simply can’t go to sleep before 2AM, regardless of how much they try. It is hard for them to sleep and wake up at a time which is considered normal.
- When it is possible for them to follow their own hours, they’ll get into a proper sleep schedule.
- This condition is most prevalent among teens, and many of them tend to outgrow it eventually.
- Those who are struggling with this condition can resort to treatments such as chronotherapy and light therapy. Visit your nearest sleep doctor / sleep clinic to find out more about these.
You may want to check out: Best Sleep Trackers and Monitors
Some Tips For A Better Sleep Experience
No matter what your sleep issue is exactly, sticking to a fixed sleep routine and improving your sleeping habits will eventually result into a healthier sleeping experience. You can deal with ordinary sleep problems by changing your lifestyle and observing better sleep hygiene. For instance, you may discover that regular exercise and stress management leads to better sleep. The important thing is to keep experimenting. You can use a ‘sleep diary’ as a platform for this!
Here are some basic tips that you can implement to get better sleep:
- Stick to a regular sleep routine: Sleep and wake up at a fixed time every day, even the weekend.
- Reserve sufficient time for sleep: Normally, between seven and eight hours are enough sleep for a person to wake up feeling fresh and productive.
- Go for a dark, quiet and cool theme for your bedroom: Electrical displays should be covered, heavy curtains / shades should be utilized to keep the light out, etc. Use a sleep mask if necessary.
- Switch off all electronic gadgets: Your TV, computer, smartphone and tablet will emit light that suppresses the production of melatonin, resulting in heightened brain activity at night that prevents you from sleeping.