Four Common Sleep Disorders and How to Cope

Mar 6 • 2015

Did you know that almost 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder? There are around 80 different types of sleep disorders, all of which can prevent a person from getting restful sleep. Suffering from these disorders can result in daytime sleepiness and dysfunction as a result of tiredness. In honor of Sleep Awareness Week, find out more about the four most common sleep disorders and how to cope with them.

Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that is caused by the brain’s inability to normally regulate the sleep-wake cycles. Fatigue and cataplexy are the main identifiers of this disorder, but it is also associated with sudden sleep attacks, insomnia, dream-like hallucinations, nightmares, restlessness, and sleep paralysis. People with narcolepsy do not sleep more than the average person, but they cannot control the timing of sleep. Additionally, their sleep begins almost immediately with REM sleep and fragments of REM occur involuntarily while awake. There is currently no cure that is widely accepted, but symptoms can be alleviated with the use of medication and behavioral therapy. To cope with this disorder, people should have several short daily naps to combat sleepiness; establish a routine sleep, exercise, and meal schedule; and avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine.

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that causes people to have difficulty falling or staying asleep. People who experience this often notice fatigue, low energy, difficulty concentrating, mood disturbances, and decreased performance. Acute insomnia is brief and often happens because of stress or other life situations. Chronic insomnia occurs at least three times per week and lasts for three months or longer. This can be caused by changes to the environment, unhealthy sleep habits, clinical disorders, or medications. Treatment for insomnia includes behavioral, medical, and psychological components depending on your history.

Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless Leg Syndrome, or RLS, is a sleep-related movement disorder that causes a person to feel an overwhelming urge to move his legs while resting. About one in every 10 adults in America suffers from this urge, which is often accompanied by uncomfortable sensations. If you have a strong desire to move your legs when sitting or lying down; feel the need to move your legs is impossible to resist; have involuntary leg movements while awake; are tired or unable to concentrate during the day; or find that moving your legs relieves your symptoms, you may have RLS. Managing the symptoms is key, and some lifestyle changes like limiting caffeine and alcohol, taking iron supplements, taking a hot bath, or beginning an exercise plan can help. There are also options for medications and vein treatments.

Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a disorder that results in breathing being briefly and repeatedly interrupted during sleep. This can cause disjointed sleep and low oxygen levels in the blood, which can result in hypertension, mood and memory problems, drowsy driving, chronic snoring, sleeplessness, difficulty concentrating, depression, sexual dysfunction, irritability, high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease. Changes in lifestyle like quitting smoking, losing weight, and avoiding alcohol can help alleviate sleep apnea. Additionally, a mask called a CPAP fits over the nose and/or mouth and is a common treatment for sleep apnea. It blows air into the airway to help keep it open while you sleep.

If you think you may be suffering from a sleep disorder, contact one of our Sleep Disorders Centers to schedule a sleep study.