Why You Should Address Sleep Disorders Before They Get Worse
Updated: Sep 13
Lack of sleep disrupts the body's homeostasis, which has a negative impact on the immune, cardiovascular and nervous system. It can also make you more vulnerable to stress and depression. I would like to emphasize that research shows that a lack of sleep is bad for your health, both mentally and physically. To maintain optimal health, you should address sleep disorders before they get worse.
What are sleep disorders?
Sleep disorders are conditions that cause you to have poor sleep or not get the restful sleep your body needs and, as a result, can lead to daytime sleepiness and other symptoms. Everyone experiences problems with sleep from time to time.
However, you might have a sleep disorder if:
You regularly experience difficulty sleeping.
You are often tired during the day even though you slept for at least seven hours the night before.
You have a reduced or impaired ability to perform regular daytime activities.
Sleep is vital to health and well-being. Inadequate sleep can have adverse effects on school or work performance, interpersonal relationships, health, and safety.
How many types of sleep disorders are there?
There are approximately 80 different types of sleep disorders. The top ones are:
Restless legs syndrome.
How much sleep is necessary?
Experts generally recommend that adults sleep a minimum of seven to nine hours per night, although some people require more and others less. A recent National Sleep Foundation poll showed that the average adult sleeps 6.4 hours on weeknights and 7.7 hours on weekends. The poll showed a downward trend in sleep time over the past several years. People sleeping less hours tend to use the internet at night or bring work home from the office.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, older adults (those aged 55-84) get an average of 7 hours of sleep on weekdays and 7.1 hours on weekends. Sleep is most often disturbed by the need to use the bathroom and physical pain or discomfort in older adults.
Results of a poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation indicated that children do not get enough sleep, with children's sleep time varying depending on age. For instance, an earlier poll showed a discrepancy between recommended and actual sleep time in children, with actual sleep time 1.5 to two hours less than recommended. Consumption of caffeine resulted in a loss of three to five hours of sleep and having a television in the bedroom contributed to a loss of two hours of sleep each week in children.
Lack of sleep can cause a number of physical and mental problems.
Studies have shown that not getting the proper amount or quality of sleep can lead to more than just feeling tired. Sleepiness interferes with cognitive function, which can lead to learning disabilities in children, memory impairment in people of all ages, personality changes and depression.
Lack of sleep can cause difficulty making decisions, irritability, impaired performance, slower reaction times and increase the risk of automobile or work-related accidents. It can also contribute to obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
What causes sleep disorders?
Sleep problems can be caused by various factors. Although causes might differ, the end result of all sleep disorders is that the body's natural cycle of slumber and daytime wakefulness is disrupted or exaggerated. Eight factors include:
Physical (such as ulcers).
Medical (such as asthma).
Psychiatric (such as depression and anxiety disorders).
Environmental (such as alcohol).
Working the night shift (this work schedule messes up “biological clocks.”)
Genetics (narcolepsy is genetic).
Medications (some interfere with sleep).
Aging (about half of all adults over the age of 65 have some sort of sleep disorder. It is not clear if it is a normal part of aging or a result of medicines that older people commonly use).
What are the symptoms of sleep disorders?
You might have a sleep disorder if you experience one or more of the following symptoms. Do you:
Fall asleep while driving?
Struggle to stay awake when inactive, such as when watching television or reading?
Have difficulty paying attention or concentrating at work, school, or home?
Have performance problems at work or school?
Often get told by others that you look sleepy?
Have difficulty with your memory?
Have slowed responses?
Have difficulty controlling your emotions?
Need to take naps almost every day?
What is insomnia?
Insomnia is a sleep disorder where people have difficulty falling or staying asleep. People with insomnia have one or more of the following symptoms:
Difficulty falling asleep.
Waking up often during the night and having trouble going back to sleep.
Waking up too early in the morning.
Having unrefreshing sleep.
Having at least one daytime problem such as fatigue, sleepiness, problems with mood, concentration, accidents at work or while driving, etc. due to poor sleep.
Approximately 50% of adults experience occasional bouts of insomnia and about 10% suffer from chronic insomnia. Insomnia can occur by itself or it can be associated with medical or psychiatric conditions. Short-term (acute) insomnia lasts from one night to a few weeks, while chronic insomnia lasts at least three nights per week for a month or longer. Insomnia can come and go, with periods of time when a person has no sleep problems.
Chronic insomnia, which can last for months or years, may be caused by depression, chronic stress and pain, or environmental factors such as light, noise, or extreme temperatures. A conditioned emotional response may also cause chronic insomnia. Thoughts about the sleep problem (e.g., "What if I don't fall asleep tonight?") and behaviors that develop around the sleep problem (e.g., sleeping in and napping, ruminating in bed) tend to prolong insomnia symptoms.
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person's breathing is interrupted during sleep. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep.
There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive and central.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the more common of the two. It is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep. Symptoms of OSA may include snoring, daytime sleepiness, fatigue, restlessness during sleep, gasping for air while sleeping and trouble concentrating.
In central sleep apnea (CSA), the airway is not blocked, but the brain fails to tell the body to breathe. This type is called central apnea because it is related to the function of the central nervous system. People with CSA may gasp for air but mostly report recurrent awakenings during night.
What is restless legs syndrome?
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a sleep disorder that causes an intense, often irresistible urge to move the legs. This sensation is brought on by resting such as lying down in bed, sitting for prolonged periods such as while driving or at a theatre. RLS typically occurs in the evening, making it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. It can be associated with problems with daytime sleepiness, irritability and concentration. Often, people with RLS want to walk around and shake their legs to help relieve the uncomfortable sensation.
What is narcolepsy?
Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder of sleep regulation that affects the control of sleep and wakefulness. People with narcolepsy experience excessive daytime sleepiness and intermittent, uncontrollable episodes of falling asleep during the daytime. These sudden sleep attacks may occur during any type of activity at any time of the day. Some patients with narcolepsy experience sudden muscle weakness with laughter or other emotions.
Narcolepsy usually begins between the ages of 15 and 25, but it can become apparent at any age. In many cases, narcolepsy is undiagnosed and, therefore, untreated.
How are sleep disorders diagnosed?
If you suspect that you may have a sleep disorder, discuss your symptoms with your healthcare provider or to John Corbett Psychologist. John can give you a physical exam and help identify the difficulties you are having with sleep. Keeping a sleep diary for two weeks may be helpful to the psychologist. Some illnesses can cause disturbed sleep, so the healthcare provider or the psychologist may order tests to rule out other conditions. If they suspect that you have a sleep disorder, they may refer you to a sleep disorders clinic. A sleep specialist will review your symptoms and may suggest that you undergo a sleep study.
In order to determine if you have a sleep disorder, it is important to pay attention to your sleep habits by keeping a sleep diary and discussing patterns and characteristics of your sleep with your healthcare provider. Many common sleep problems can be treated with behavioral treatments and an increased attention to proper sleep hygiene. Consult your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about your sleep patterns.