What is a Sleep Disorder?

What is a sleep disorder? Fix My Sleep

Healthy sleep patterns are essential for unlocking a happier future, but sleep disorders are a major obstacle that could prevent you from unlocking your full potential.

In fact, the CDC reports that around  70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep problems. If you believe that you’re one of them, you’ll naturally have several key questions to ask. Some of the most pertinent will be;

  • What is a sleep disorder?
  • Do I have a sleep disorder?
  • What causes sleep disorders?
  • How do I get diagnosed with a sleep disorder?
  • What can be done to treat my sleep disorder?

Here’s all you need to know about sleep disorders and how to regain control of the situation.

What is a Sleep Disorder?

If you regularly find yourself  tossing and turning at night, you may assume that you have a sleep disorder. It is an umbrella term that covers s a range of sleep-based health conditions, including but not limited to;

  • Insomnia,
  • Sleep apnea,
  • Narcolepsy,
  • Sleep paralysis,
  • Parasomnias.

In many cases, sleep disorders can be linked to a range of other health complaints and may make symptoms worse. Fibromyalgia and Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) are two examples.

Sleep disorders are defined by the  American Psychiatric Association as causing “problems with the quality, timing, and amount of sleep, which result in daytime distress and impairment in functioning”. They are often referred to as sleep-wake disorders and can trigger physical and emotional distress.

Do you have a Sleep Disorder?

Everyone will struggle to sleep from time to time. You may be worried about the big team meeting, missing the presence of your partner, or finding it difficult to sleep in a hotel. Alternatively, you may be kept up through the night by a viral illness or related condition. While infrequent nights of tossing and turning will frustrate you, they are not a major cause for concern.

When restless nights are a little more regular, though, you might be left asking ‘do I have a sleep disorder?’ or similar questions.

While one-third of American adults report sleep disorder symptoms, fewer than 1 in 10 are classified as having a disorder. You may fall into this category if you regularly have difficulties in getting to sleep or feel exhausted during the day despite getting  at least seven hours of sleep. Other significant symptoms that may indicate a disorder include but are not limited to;

  • Struggling to stay awake during inactive activities like watching TV.
  • Reduced concentration or performance at work or school.
  • Delayed or slowed responses during daily tasks.
  • Find yourself taking naps or involuntarily falling asleep.
  • Difficulties with managing your emotions.

The symptoms alone do not mean that a sleep disorder is guaranteed but these are the issues to consider when wondering whether you have a sleep disorder. However, knowing what causes sleep disorders will help you determine whether you have a disorder or not.

What Causes Sleep Disorders?

Given that sleep disorders can be broken down into various conditions, it is unsurprising to learn that they can be attributed to a range of root causes. As well as the type of disorder in question, the causes may be influenced by individual circumstances. For starters, research shows that  women generally gain better quality sleep than men but also experience more frequent sleep disorders.

While the list of potential causes is extensive, some of the most common issues are listed below;

  • Your biological clock is all over the place due to work patterns and lifestyle issues.
  • Mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, or paranoia.
  • Physical conditions and side effects caused by medications.
  • Genetics in the case of narcolepsy, for example.
  • Older age, with almost 1 in 2 people over 65 experiencing sleep disorders.

Physical causes can be as simple as oral ulcers while issues like alcohol addiction can lead to sleep disorders too. Similarly, respiratory conditions like asthma can make it hard for your body to relax and reach the pivotal REM and deep wave stages of sleep.

Whatever the source of your sleep disorder might be, gaining a clear diagnosis will be the first step to regaining control.

How to get a diagnosis

If you believe that your symptoms of disrupted sleep, you may wish to invest in some of the most effective  tips for improved sleep patterns. Even if they subsequently work, though, seeking an accurate diagnosis is advised. The results can determine whether you have a sleep disorder, what type of sleep disorder you have, and which treatment plan will manage the situation.

When speaking to your healthcare provider, they will probably ask a series of questions to get a better understanding of your circumstances. You can prepare for this by keeping a diary in the days leading up to your appointment while also taking notes about the past. 

The questions asked may relate to various aspects such as;

  • How often is your sleep disrupted?
  • How long does it take to fall back asleep?
  • Whether or not you work night shifts
  • Which symptoms do you regularly experience.
  • If you have a family history of sleep disorders.

If the doctor agrees that you may have a sleep disorder, you will likely be sent for a polysomnogram (PSG). It is a sleep study that will monitor your brain reactions during a night’s sleep. The data is coupled with the analysis you’ve provided about your sleeping patterns to determine what (if any) sleep disorder is involved.

How to treat a Sleep Disorder

The exact treatment plan for any sleep disorder will be determined by the type of disorder as well as the individual circumstances. However, most patients can expect to receive at least one of the following;

  • Counseling to implement behavioral changes that can consequently help you identify and manage the symptoms that commonly cause you to suffer a bad night’s sleep.
  • Medications that can manage your mindset before sleep while also providing the placebo effect to help you drift off to sleep. Supplements can also keep your body and mind at ease during the night.
  • Lifestyle changes because losing weight, adopting a sleep schedule, and a change of sleeping environment can make a significant improvement. The rewards can be seen within days.

The type of treatment isn’t the only thing that can vary greatly from one patient to the next. Durations are also heavily influenced by circumstances, including the individual’s response to the treatment.

If you have problems sleeping at night, take this sleep quiz for a customized sleep improvement plan. 

Fix My Sleep Quiz

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