If you struggle to fall asleep at night or feel tired throughout the day, you are not alone. Sleep disorders affect one in three people at some point of their lives, and about half of all adults over the age of 65. From insomnia to sleep apnea, an estimated 50 million Americans suffer from some type of sleeping disorder.
Types of Common Sleep Disorders
Some of the most common sleep disorders include:
- Sleep apnea: This disorder is characterized by repetitive pauses in breathing during slumber. These breathing interruptions last more than ten seconds at a time, and occur multiple times every hour. In addition to preventing a good night’s rest, sleep apnea is a serious health risk.
- Snoring: Not only is snoring a nuisance, it can disrupt your sleep and the sleep of others near you. It is caused when the tongue and soft tissue at the back of the throat relax during sleep and partially block the airway.
- Insomnia: One of the most common sleep disorders, insomnia is a condition that makes it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. While some people experience insomnia for only a few nights or a few weeks, others chronically suffer from the condition for months or even years.
- Narcolepsy: Generally associated with sleep paralysis, sleep hallucinations, cataplexy, and profoundly excessive daytime sleepiness, narcolepsy is both a sleep and neurological disorder. Sufferers of narcolepsy experience an almost constant feeling of uncontrollable sleepiness.
- Sleep deprivation: Being deprived of sleep affects both the brain and cognitive function. Sleep-deprived people can experience extreme sleepiness throughout the day, weight gain or weight loss, clumsiness, or fatigue.
- Night terrors: While nightmares occur in REM sleep, night terrors occur just before the deep dream state of REM sleep. Night terrors are characterized by crying, thrashing, or screaming during sleep
- Restless leg syndrome (RLS): This sensory disorder causes an uncomfortable and irresistible urge to move the legs, RLS can make it very difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Circadian rhythm disorders: “Circadian rhythm” is the formal term for what is commonly considered the body’s internal clock. It refers to the innate biological feature of living organisms that relates to time and life functions. Circadian rhythm can fall out of alignment for several reasons, such as a newborn baby, travel, or the demands of a job.
- Shift work disorder (SWSD): This sleep disorder affects individuals who work non-traditional hours, such as night and swing shifts. These atypical working hours clash with the body’s internal clock (circadian rhythms).
What Causes Sleep Disorders?
Sleep disorders can stem from a variety of psychiatric, physical, medical, and environmental factors. While the causes may vary, the ultimate result of sleep disorders is the disruption or exaggeration of slumber or wakefulness, such as insomnia or excessive daytime sleepiness.
Common causes of sleep disorders include:
- Psychiatric issues: Such as anxiety or depression
- Physical issues: Such as ulcers, genetics, or aging
- Medical issues: Such as asthma or certain medications
- Environmental issues: Such as alcohol or working a night shift
These are just a few examples of factors that can affect your sleep cycle or wakeful life. Nearly half of all people over the age of 65 experience some type of sleep disorder. It is unclear if this is a direct result of growing older, or an effect of medications commonly used by seniors. Of course, younger adults, children and teens are also impacted by a number of sleep problems.
How Do I Cure a Sleep Disorder?
Considering the wide range of sleep disorders, there is no one-size-fits-all remedy that can correct every issue. Effective narcolepsy treatments are quite different from insomnia treatments. The key is to correctly identify the problem and then determine the appropriate treatment that matches the unique physicality and lifestyle of the patient.
For example, the first step to treating sleep apnea is to diagnose the condition with the help of a sleep study test. Once testing confirms the condition, you may be treated with:
- A mouth guard, or other snoring remedies
- CPAP treatment
- BiPAP treatment
Meeting personally with a doctor or sleep specialist can help to obtain an accurate diagnosis of your sleep disorder and effective treatment strategy.
Why Do I Groan When I’m Falling Asleep?
A condition known as catathrenia is characterized by nocturnal groaning or moaning during slumber, often quite loudly. Unlike snoring, which happens during inhalation, groaning happens during exhalation, and can last for up to 30 seconds each time.
The condition is not related to sleep-talking, and has little to no effect on the quality of a person’s sleep. Although there is limited data on catathrenia, some evidence suggests that positive airway pressure (PAP) may be helpful in reducing the ferocity and frequency of groaning.
How Do I Solve Sleep Problems Naturally?
Depending on the nature of your sleep disorder, it may be necessary to meet with a doctor or sleep specialist to determine the ideal treatment for your particular condition.
If you find that it is difficult to fall asleep, there are of number of things you can try at home to remedy the problem. Over-the-counter sleeping pills can help you feel drowsy at night, but you may experience some side effects, such as the feeling of grogginess the next day.
Recently, more people are turning to the use of cannabinoids such as CBD for sleep and insomnia. Derived from marijuana, CBD differs from THC in that it does not produce psychoactive effects, or a “high”. It may, however, help to treat insomnia, as well as pain or anxiety.
Some natural sleep tips to fall asleep fast include keeping your bedroom:
- Cool: Try to keep your room around 70 degrees for an optimal sleep.
- Quiet: Keep electronic devices off or out of the room. This means no cell phones and no TV.
- Dark: Close the blinds and turn off the lights.
What is sleep and why is it so important? The ability to get a good night’s rest is incredibly important to maintain good physical and mental health.
When you develop a sleep debt, or sleep deficit, you may experience significant physical or mental fatigue that impacts every aspect of your life. If you suffer from chronic sleep problems, speak with a doctor or sleep specialist to begin your path to recovery and a good night’s rest.
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If you suffer from a sleep disorder, it is important seek help. An experienced sleep specialist can help determine the nature of your condition and recommend the appropriate treatment to help you sleep soundly and wake up rested.