Do you get a good night’s sleep? Do you wake up feeling fresh and active? Or is it quite the opposite? Most people in today’s age of technological evolution are losing their connection to sleep. Staying awake for long hours, falling asleep at work or school, or feeling tired and irritated throughout the day are becoming increasingly common phenomena. This can affect physical and mental health in the long run.
What is Sleep Disorder?
Conditions that impair sleep quantity, quality, or duration and affect a person’s capacity to function normally when awake are collectively referred to as sleep disorders. Most people sometimes find it difficult to fall asleep for multiple reasons, like stress, over intake of caffeine or sugar, etc. However, there are a few symptoms that clearly indicate a sleep disorder.
- If you are regularly unable to fall asleep,
- If you are tired throughout the day despite having slept for 7 to 8 hours,
- If you are unable to perform everyday tasks actively.
Unsurprisingly, this situation is rarely approached clinically, in contrast to its prevalence. According to a Philips Healthcare survey, 93% of Indians are sleep deprived, i.e., having less than 8 hours of sleep every night. About 11% of Indians have fallen asleep at work due to fatigue. Considering the impact of such a sleep schedule on mental health, the situation only becomes more severe.
There is a multitude of reasons that contribute to the lack of sleep for an individual. Some of these causes might overlap and contribute to sleeping disorders.
- Physical issues include ulcers, and frequent urination, i.e., nocturia, pain, or injury.
- Medical issues like asthma can prevent a person from adequately breathing leading to irregular sleeping patterns.
- Psychiatric issues like depression, stress, or anxiety can drive in untoward thoughts, keeping one up all night.
- Environmental causes such as drinking alcohol or intake of intoxicating elements.
- A work-life situation like late-night working hours can mess up an individual’s biological clock.
- Genetic issues such as narcolepsy.
- Certain medications can also keep an individual awake since they might impact our mind’s work.
- Another significant problem could be aging which is a natural process. Most adults over
- 65 face significant sleep loss and indulge in medicines to induce sleep.
- Overuse of electronics can be extremely harmful to one’s body. Staying awake on the phone all night is a new-age problem.
The American Sleep Disorders Association released the initial classification scheme for sleep disorders in 1979. In today’s time, over 100 sleeping disorders have been recognized and categorized. Among them, a very are immensely common –
The inability to fall asleep or stay asleep is referred to as insomnia. Jet lag, stress, anxiety, hormones, or digestive issues are some of the possible causes. It might also be a sign of another ailment.
Insomnia points to multiple symptoms such as
- Difficulty in falling asleep
- Having a restless sleep cycle throughout the night
- Feeling unrested even after sleeping
- Waking up too early in the morning
- Suffering from fatigue, restlessness, sleepiness, inability to conduct work efficiently, drive, and more.
It can lead to more complex situations like depression, weight gain, inability to function, can affect work or school life, and irritability.
According to a report published by Neurology India, about 9% of the Indian population suffers from insomnia, while about 30% suffer from occasional insomnia. This also brings up the existence of two types of insomnia – short-term (acute or adjustment insomnia) and long-term (chronic insomnia).
Acute or short-term insomnia is caused by a sudden, temporary change in life, like job pressure, the death of a loved one, a shift to a new place, or environmental issues like excessive noise, light, etc. This type can last from a night to a few weeks.
However, it is long-term or chronic insomnia if it continues for at least three times a week, a month, or longer. This can result from underlying issues like depression, discomfort, pain, or chronic illness. Another common aspect that keeps people up at night is the conditioned emotional response, where the thought of not falling asleep keeps you awake.
Breathing pauses while sleeping is a defining feature of sleep apnea. The body absorbs less oxygen as a result of this significant medical issue. You might wake up in the middle of the night as a result. People with untreated sleep apnea repeatedly cease breathing while they are asleep. There are two types of sleep apnea – Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Central Sleep Apnea (CSA).
Of the two, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is more prevalent. It results from an airway obstruction, typically brought on by the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapsing while you sleep. Snoring, daytime sleepiness, weariness, restlessness during sleep, gasping for air while sleeping, and difficulty concentrating are all potential OSA symptoms.
Although the airway is not obstructed in central sleep apnea (CSA), the brain fails to instruct the body to breathe. Because it affects how the central nervous system operates, this form is known as central apnea. People with CSA may gasp for oxygen, although they typically complain of frequent nighttime awakenings.
A group of sleep disorders known as parasomnias induces strange movements and actions while you sleep. Before, during, or after waking up from sleep, parasomnias can occur.
They consist of:
- Sleepwalking and Talking
- Groaning and Nightmares
- Teeth grinding or Jaw clenching
A neurological sleep regulation condition called narcolepsy disrupts the ability to control sleep and alertness. This sudden sleep attack occurs while awake and can suddenly cause you to fall asleep. Excessive daytime sleepiness and sporadic, uncontrollable episodes of daytime sleepiness are symptoms of narcolepsy. These unexpected sleep bouts can happen at any time of day and during any type of activity. Some narcolepsy sufferers describe a sudden onset of muscle weakness accompanied by laughter or other emotions.
The onset of narcolepsy typically occurs between the ages of 15 and 25, though it can happen at any age. Narcolepsy is frequently undetected and, thus, mistreated.
Restless Leg Syndrome
RLS is a sleep disorder that results in an acute, frequently uncontrollable urge to move the legs. Such experiences can occur while resting, like lying in bed, sitting for a long time, driving, and so on. RLS frequently manifests during sleep time, making it challenging to get and stay asleep. It may be related to problems with daytime tiredness, irritability, and concentration. People suffering from RLS frequently want to move around and shake their legs to ease the painful feeling.
Although the precise origin of RLS isn’t always known, it’s frequently linked to certain medical diseases like Parkinson’s disease and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Tips for Prevention
While sleep disorders can occur due to a sudden change in your life, keeping a regulated set of habits can help maintain an optimal sleeping habit.
- Avoid intaking intoxicants like caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine four to six hours before bedtime. It’s also a good idea to avoid sugar within this time frame.
- Maintain a regular sleep-wake cycle, i.e., wake up and sleep simultaneously every day. This will help set up your biological clock to have healthy sleeping habits.
- Avoid exercise within two hours of bedtime. You may have better sleep if you exercise five to six hours before going to bed. This will tire you enough to fall asleep quicker.
- It’s best to avoid eating large meals within two hours of bedtime. This can impact our digestive process, and a full stomach might hinder sleep.
- Avoid taking a nap later than 3 PM. There might be days when you are stark tired, but it’s best to save your sleep for later. Sleeping earlier might rob you of your night’s sleep.
- Figure out the optimal environment to sleep in. It’s best to sleep in a dark, quiet room with a comfortable temperature. You can also listen to white noise, creating a calm environment.
- Do not force yourself to sleep. If it takes you more than 20 minutes to fall asleep, get out of bed and engage in some quiet activity. Come back to bed once you’re sleepy enough.
- Have some pre-sleeping ritual within 30 minutes of your sleep time. Rituals include listening to soft music, drawing a warm bath, reading, etc.
- Try to turn off the overthinking mind. You can try journaling or creating a to-do list to minimize the unnecessary thoughts that can arise in your head.
- Sleep as soon as sleep comes. Do not scroll on your phone or delay sleeping for any reason. It’s difficult to fall asleep later.
Diagnosis & Treatment
It could be a sleep disorder if you are facing trouble falling asleep or waking up too early for an extended period of time. However, it’s best to visit a physician to know your situation better. To help them understand your sleep situation, you can keep a sleep diary to track your sleep hours.
To figure out the underlying condition of your sleep disorder, your physician can order a few tests to rule out other ailments. A sleep disorder clinic might also be recommended to figure out the issue at hand. You will then be suggested to go for a specific type of sleep study.
- Polysomnography (PSG): Unlike the home sleep study (HST), which is carried out on your own and is used to detect sleep apnea, polysomnography (PSG) is a lab sleep study that assesses oxygen levels, body movements, and brain waves to identify how they interrupt sleep.
- Electroencephalogram (EEG): The electroencephalogram (EEG) is a test that evaluates brain electrical activity and looks for any potential issues that might be connected to that activity. It is a component of a polysomnogram.
- Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT): To identify narcolepsy, this daytime napping study is combined with a PSG at night.
It’s best to keep track of your sleep cycle to determine if you are suffering from a sleep disorder. A few changes in habits and lifestyle can often provide the necessary relief. However, at times, extended treatment is required.
Your physician can recommend certain medications to treat specific sleep disorder issues. In some situations of insomnia, sleep medications such as melatonin, zolpidem, zaleplon, eszopiclone, ramelteon, suvorexant, lamborexant, or doxepin may be beneficial. Treatment options for restless legs syndrome include pregabalin, gabapentin, and gabapentin enacarbil. Numerous stimulants or wake-promoting drugs, including modafinil, armodafinil, pitolisant, and solriamfetol, may be used to treat narcolepsy.
People need to take extreme care of their daily habits with the long list of severe health issues that can derive from unhealthy sleeping habits. Proper sleep is optimal for a human being. To keep oneself happy, active, and on top of your game at all times, sleep is the ultimate solution.
What happens when your brain doesn’t sleep?
What are the psychological effects of sleep deprivation?
Sleep loss can cause confusion, exhaustion, and a lack of energy. It can also worsen pre-existing mood disorders like depression, anxiety, and aggression. Your brain becomes weary from lack of sleep, making it less capable of carrying out its tasks. Additionally, it might be more challenging for you to focus or pick up new information. Your body’s signals may also be delayed, making it harder for you to maintain coordination and raising your risk of accidents.
Which gender is most affected?
According to research, females are more affected by sleep disorders than males. This also results in less concentration stemming from tiredness or sleepiness.
When should I consult a physician?
It’s best to consult a physician if your daily activities are being affected due to a lack of sleep. If changes in behavioral patterns are not showing any improvement, it’s time to visit a doctor.
Which foods should I eat for better sleep?
Researchers, sleep experts, and nutritionists have often explored the idea of food enabling better sleep. While the studies are not conclusive, they do, at times, help with falling asleep. Kiwi, almonds, chamomile tea, tart cherry juice, and dairy products can aid you in sleeping better.
Disclaimer: The information included here is only for knowledge-sharing purposes, and the blog is not intended to be a substitute for diagnosis, medical advice, or treatment by a healthcare professional. Every individual needs advice based on diagnosis and evidence, hence the reader should consult their doctor to determine the disease and any treatment must be taken under appropriate medical guidance.