Getting enough good quality sleep every day is as essential for our health and well-being as the air we breathe and the food we eat. On average, adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep every day to maintain an optimum cognitive functioning level.
However, 50 to 70 million Americans of all ages and socioeconomic classes suffer from different sleep disorders each year. What is even more shocking is that despite the staggering number of Americans suffering from sleep-related issues, the overwhelming majority of them remain undiagnosed and suffer in silence.
While it is not uncommon for an individual to face occasional hassles in falling and staying asleep, you shouldn’t ignore the issue if a sleep disorder’s symptoms continue to occur more than thrice a week for three months.
Are you really getting enough sleep every night. or are you one of those Americans who are suffering from sleep deprivation and sleep disorders? Thankfully, once diagnosed, most sleep disorders can be managed by making simple lifestyle changes and/or using medication or devices.
Here are seven types of sleeping disorders and their respective treatments:
Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by persistent difficulties in falling and staying asleep. The condition can be short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic). Insomnia can be caused by stress, environmental factors, or changes to your sleep schedule. Underlying health conditions like mental health issues, hormonal issues, use of stimulants like caffeine, excessive alcohol consumption, etc. can lead to secondary insomnia.
Treatment: Changing your sleep habits and addressing underlying secondary causes of insomnia can help restore restful sleep. Prescription medicines, sleep aids, and cognitive behavioral therapy are some other ways of managing insomnia.
Parasomnias are disruptive sleep disorders that cause abnormal behaviors while falling asleep, sleeping, or waking up. These disorders make it difficult for the sufferer to get restful sleep and may also disrupt other people’s sleep in the house. Sleepwalking, sleep-talking, confusional arousal, REM sleep behavior disorder, and night terrors are common parasomnias.
Treatment: Your doctor would recommend a treatment regime depending on the type and severity. Medications like topiramate, antidepressants, dopamine agonists, and melatonin may be prescribed in some cases. Since parasomnia is often related to mental health concerns, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used in treating it.
3. Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes an involuntary cessation of breath that occurs while the patient is asleep. There are in fact, three types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed, the most common one being obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is potentially serious and can have life-threatening7 consequences if left untreated. A common sleep disorder, it is seen more frequently among men
Treatment: While mild sleep apnea can be managed with lifestyle changes, more severe cases are treated using devices like a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, nerve stimulation devices, and Mandibular advancement device (MAD).
A neurological disorder which affects one’s ability to wake and sleep, narcolepsy is characterized by excessive sleepiness, sleep paralysis, and hallucinations. Although this sleep disorder is not uncommon, many people suffer from the symptoms for years before getting diagnosed properly. Those with a family history of narcolepsy are 20 to 40 times more likely to get it.
Treatment: While there’s currently no cure for narcolepsy, the condition can be managed with medications and behavioral treatments. Dealing with this sleep disorder can be isolating, and finding a support group for people with narcolepsy can help you cope better.
5. Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders
Circadian rhythm disorders are sleep disorders that involve problems with your circadian rhythm, your body’s internal “clock” that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. These disorders are mainly caused by shift work, pregnancy, time zone changes, medications, mental health issues, and menopause. Jet lag, shift work sleep disorder, and irregular sleep-wake rhythm disorder are common circadian rhythm sleep disorders.
Treatment: The treatments for circadian rhythm disorders depend on the specific condition. Your doctor may prescribe bright light therapy, sleep hygiene, chronotherapy, medications, or lifestyle changes to treat your disorder.
6. Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)
Also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a nervous system disorder that causes an overpowering urge to move your legs. It’s considered a sleep disorder as it usually happens when the patient is sleeping or resting. It’s more common in women and middle-aged people. People with severe RLS symptoms are more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases, such as coronary heart disease or stroke.
Treatment: Massaging your legs or taking a short walk during an episode brings immediate but temporary relief. If an underlying deficiency causes your RLS, then taking the requisite supplements helps. In some severe cases, the doctor may prescribe dopamine agonists or recommend a short-term course of sleeping pills that contain temazepam or loprazolam.
7. Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder (DSPS) and Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome (ASPS)
Delayed sleep phase disorder (DSPS) is a common sleep disorder in which the patient cannot fall asleep before the early morning hours. A person having DSPS prefers a late bedtime and gets up late in the morning or noon. They often suffer from excessive sleepiness and fatigue. On the other hand, advanced sleep phase syndrome (ASPS) is characterized by advanced sleep onsets and early rising times. People with ASPS go to bed between 6-9 pm and wake up between 2-5 am. Often, those with ASPS are misdiagnosed as their unusual sleeping pattern is assumed to be a sign of either insomnia or depression. This disorder is more common in older adults and seniors.
Treatment: Bright light therapy and chronotherapy are popular treatments for DSPS. Improving sleep hygiene and avoiding caffeine and alcohol right before bedtime can also help. Your doctor might prescribe melatonin to control your sleep-wake cycle. The treatments for ASPS are similar.
While long-term sleep deprivation can lead to serious health consequences, it is important to remember that most sleep disorders are treatable. Adopting an active lifestyle, avoiding excessive consumption of alcohol and caffeine, staying hydrated, and including various fresh fruits and vegetables in your daily diet can help you develop healthy sleep habits and protect you from serious sleep disorders.