Sleep Disorder

What is Sleep Disorder?

A sleep disorder is any condition that impedes an individual’s ability to get a full restful night’s sleep. Regardless of the specific factors that are causing it, sleep disorders disrupt the cycles of REM and non-REM sleep. These repeated interruptions prevent the mind and body from rebooting properly during the night and can lead to several complications.

Among the more common sleep problems are insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and restless leg syndrome. Circadian rhythm disorders are common for travelers with jet lag and those who do shift work. People who are blind may find their body’s internal clock falling out of sync with the normal day-night cycle, which can lead to a condition known as non-24.

What are the Symptoms of Sleep Disorder?

Most sleep disorders have specific features that identify them during diagnosis. However, a patient may experience any number of symptoms, including:

  • Trouble getting to sleep
  • Trouble staying asleep
  • Regularly waking up too early
  • Difficulty waking up at all
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Snoring or interrupted breathing
  • Nightmares or night terrors
  • Sleepwalking
  • Teeth grinding
  • Trouble concentrating while awake

Several sleep disorders have been identified as contributors to other health problems as well, including depression, anxiety, stress, stroke, high blood pressure, lung problems, and heart failure. So those who suspect they are dealing with a sleep disorder should schedule an appointment with their doctor.

Sleep Disorder Causes

The two most common causes of sleep disorder are central and obstructive sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea takes place with the interruption of our breathing when the brain fails to instruct the muscles to breathe. Obstructive sleep apnea happens when the airways are blocked and you struggle to breathe, triggering coughing or snoring – in actuality, your body is gasping for air.

Circadian rhythm disorder is a sleep disorder that has to do with our bodily functions. In this case, our body clocks are effectively switched off, due to internal changes or external factors like different time zones or regions where the midnight sun occurs during a 24-hour period. Bright lights in a bedroom can have a similar effect on sleep.

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that challenges the body to fall asleep at night. This sleep disorder may have more causes than most realize, starting with mental health risks such as mood swings, depression, and stress. Other health conditions affecting our sleep patterns include arthritis, osteoporosis, and headaches.

How is Sleep Disorder Treated?

Treatment for a sleep disorder depends on which disorder is diagnosed. For example, moving around during the day as well as lifestyle changes and medication can relieve restless leg syndrome. Changing up sleep habits, behavioral therapy, and sleeping aids do well in treating insomnia and circadian rhythm disorders. Narcolepsy can be controlled with antidepressants and stimulants, among other drugs. Sleepwalking is relatively harmless and may not need treatment unless there is concern of injury to the patient. Conditions like sleep apnea may require face or nasal masks like a CPAP or even surgery to correct the condition.

Sleep Disorder Prevention

If you are having trouble sleeping, your first course of action should be to talk with your doctor. Your doctor can help determine the cause and make the recommendations for a good night’s sleep.

A change in lifestyle choices can prevent sleep disorders. Regular exercise and a healthy diet help to nourish and relax the body so it can do what it does naturally – sleep.

Start your day with some morning sun energizing your body for the day and wrap it up with the afternoon sun. The afternoon exposure releases melatonin, a hormone produced in the brain’s pineal gland. Melatonin regulates the body’s clock, preparing it for sleep – it continues through the night and wanes as you approach morning, resynchronizing your circadian rhythm and resetting your biological clock.

Other ways to prevent sleep disorders brought on by mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression include talking to a friend or counselor about your problems, keeping a journal, practicing yoga or meditating.

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Last Reviewed:
September 14, 2016
Last Updated:
November 09, 2017
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