Health One Family Medicine

Four Common Sleep Disorders and How to Recognize Them

Did you know that about 50 to 70 million U.S. adults suffer from sleep disorders? That’s what the American Sleep Association says!

Sleep disorders are characterized by a disturbance in the amount, quality, or timing of sleep, or in behavioral or physiological conditions related to sleep.

Occasional trouble sleeping due to stress, illness, or any other factor does not qualify as a sleeping disorder โ€“ sleep disorders are more persistent rather a matter of nightly occurrence.

Medical professionals have recognized over 70 sleep disorders, all with varying symptoms and causes.

To treat a sleep disorder you first need to recognize that you have one โ€“ and sadly, many people fail to do so. Below are four common sleep disorders and ways to recognize them.

1.   Insomnia

Insomnia refers to difficulty falling or staying asleep. The possible causes include poor sleep hygiene, hormonal changes, sleep-related breathing disorders, disrupted sleep-wake schedule, medical conditions, circadian rhythm disorders, or limb movements during sleep. 

Here are some ways you can recognize this sleep disorder:

  • Inability to fall asleep even when tired
  • Inability to get enough sleep to feel refreshed and well-rested
  • Restless sleep and feeling exhausted instead of refreshed upon waking up

These symptoms lead to poor concentration and feelings of tiredness and irritability throughout the day. They may also affect the overall quality of your life and give way to other symptoms, such as headaches, gastrointestinal issues, and tense muscles.

2.   Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a condition that makes you suddenly fall asleep at any time and any place. You may even fall asleep during unusual circumstances, such as while eating or driving. Narcoleptic patients are unable to control their sleep-wake cycle.

You could have narcolepsy if:

  • You suddenly fall asleep without warning
  • You experience sleep paralysis
  • You feel sleepy throughout the day
  • You suffer from cataplexy (a condition triggered by emotions, such as anger or laughter and characterized by temporary loss of muscle control, resulting in weakness and risk of collapsing)
  • You experience hallucinations as you wake up from sleep (hypnagogic) or as you fall asleep (hypnopompic)
  • You suffer from insomnia or disturbed nighttime sleep

3.   Sleep apnea

It is a common yet serious sleep disorder characterized by repeated blockage of airway making it difficult for you to breathe. This leads to loud snoring or choking noises. You may wake up as your brain and body get oxygen deprived.

The following symptoms indicate that an individual has sleep apnea:

  • Waking up during the night with a dry or a sore throat
  • Loud snoring
  • Waking up from time to time choking or gasping
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness and irritability
  • Extreme drowsiness during the day
  • Lack of energy

4.   Restless legs syndrome

This disorder presents itself as an uncontrollable urge to move your legs when your body is at rest. You may feel uncomfortable sensations, such as itching, tingling, burning, or aching in your calves and other body parts.

You may have restless legs syndrome if:

  • You feel strong desires to move your legs
  • You feel pain or a crawling sensation in your legs
  • Your symptoms are worse at night
  • Your symptoms get worse when you are inactive
  • Your symptoms relieve upon walking, stretching, or moving

These are the most common sleep disorders and ways you can recognize them. If you experience the aforementioned symptoms, it is crucial to seek immediate professional help. While these disorders may seem bewildering, the good news is that they are treatable.