Lack of sleep is something that many people go through today, especially since we live in a fast-paced society that’s largely centered on work productivity. Because of this, many people forget that sleep is essential, not only so you can function properly, but so you can also get adequate rest and recharge for the next day. Without sleep, you can become irritable, frustrated, and, in extreme cases, may even endanger your life and that of others.
If you’re suffering from lack of sleep for a prolonged period, there’s a high likelihood that you’re experiencing a sleep disorder. To resolve this, you must first become aware of the sleep conditions that can affect your health. Here are some of them:
1) Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is usually characterized by interrupted breathing during sleep. If left untreated, you repeatedly stop breathing while sleeping, which can lead to heart-related ailments (high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease) or even automobile accidents if you fall asleep on the wheel.
There are two types of sleep apnea, which include:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea: This is the most common type of sleep apnea caused by a blocked airway. This happens after the soft tissue at the back of your throat collapses while you’re sleeping. Symptoms include restless sleep, fatigue, gasping while sleeping, difficulty focusing, and daytime sleepiness. Factors that may contribute to OSA are smoking, a narrow air passage, nasal congestion, excess weight, being male, and underlying medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
- Central Sleep Apnea: As suggested by its name, your central nervous system is the culprit as it fails to communicate to your body that you need to continue breathing, which causes you to repeatedly wake up during the night. Unlike obstructive sleep apnea, this condition isn’t caused by a blocked airway. Factors that may affect this type of sleep apnea are age, gender (males are more susceptible), heart disorders, stroke, and taking narcotic pain medicines.
Depending on the severity of your condition, you can treat sleep apnea in many ways. For those suffering from mild sleep apnea, you can try some simple remedies like using a humidifier, changing your sleeping position, or getting a new mattress or different mattress type. Some lifestyle changes like losing weight, quitting smoking, and doing yoga may also help.
On the other hand, those suffering from severe sleep apnea could look into sleep apnea treatment surgery, medications, adaptive servo-ventilation, or the use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines.
As with any other condition, consult your doctor before deciding on a treatment option.
Parasomnias refer to unusual behaviors that occur prior to falling asleep and while you’re asleep, as well as during the moment between sleep and wakefulness. These may be more common in children compared to adults, but parasomnias can occur to anyone regardless of age.
The most common forms of parasomnias include:
- Sleepwalking or somnambulism
- Night terrors
- Sexsomnia or sleep-related abnormal sexual behaviors
- Sleep paralysis
- Nightmare disorder
- Sleep-related hallucinations
- Bedwetting or sleep enuresis
In some cases, parasomnias may be caused by other underlying sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. Taking medications such as clonazepam and melatonin, as well as putting in place safety precautions such as alarm windows and doors to address the issue of sleepwalking may help you manage parasomnias.
Insomnia, which is the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep, or waking up too early and not being able to go back to sleep, is the most common sleep disorder. In fact, according to the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS) conducted in May 2002, an estimated 3.3 million Canadians aged 15 and older suffer from insomnia.
There are two types of insomnia, and these are:
- Acute or short-term insomnia: This usually happens if you’re undergoing stress due to external factors such as relationship problems, losing a loved one, or having an unstable job.
- Chronic insomnia: This type of insomnia is characterized by having a hard time falling asleep at least thrice each week for three months or more.
Possible causes of insomnia can include weight gain, hormonal changes, mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, and irritability. If you’ve been having difficulty sleeping for several weeks, it’s likely that you’re suffering from insomnia so it’s best to consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.
Narcolepsy is often characterized by severe or excessive daytime sleepiness, the persistence of which can even impair activities in school or at work, or cause accidents and injuries. While this is not as common as insomnia, narcolepsy can affect anyone but is mostly observed in people aged 15 to 25. It’s thought that narcolepsy is caused by a lack of hypocretin, a brain chemical that maintains muscle tone and promotes wakefulness.
Signs that indicate you’re likely suffering from narcolepsy include:
- Extreme drowsiness during the day
- Sleep paralysis
- Falling asleep without warning
- Hallucinations while transitioning from sleep to wakefulness, and vice versa
- Cataplexy, an abrupt loss of muscle tone as a response to a particular emotion such as laughter, happiness, and anger
5) Restless Leg Syndrome
As suggested by its name, restless leg syndrome is a condition that causes an intense and overwhelming desire to move your legs because of perceived discomfort like tingling, aching, feeling as though something is creeping up your legs, and a burning sensation.
These symptoms only begin to manifest while you’re asleep or resting, thereby greatly affecting your sleep quality.
There are many possible causes of restless leg syndrome, such as obesity, pregnancy, and iron deficiency. In some cases, the uncomfortable sensations may be reduced by rubbing your legs, walking, and stretching. However, if these don’t work, consider consulting your doctor in case medication is needed to address the problem.
Sleep conditions may have a devastating impact on your health, which is why you shouldn’t take them lightly if they begin to interfere with your normal bodily functions or day-to-day activities. You can fight off sleep deprivation through various, means but if you suffer from any of the sleep conditions discussed above, it’s best not to delay visiting your doctor so you may get the proper diagnosis and treatment.