Just about everyone has those nights when they struggle to get to sleep or when they have trouble staying asleep. But if you regularly suffer from sleep problems, you might be wondering if you have an actual serious sleep disorder. An estimated 50 to 70 million people in the United States have a sleep disorder. This means roughly one in five people in the United States suffer from some sort of sleep disorder.
How to Identify Common Symptoms of Sleep Disorders
While it can only be diagnosed by a qualified health care professional, recognizing some of the signs of a sleep disorder will indicate to you when you need to visit a doctor and when you can handle the problem on your own.
Excessive Daytime Tiredness
If you stayed up the last three nights binge-watching your favorite television show or if there's a new baby in your house, you likely know exactly why you're tired. If, though, you have been getting the recommended amount of sleep (seven to nine hours for adults and about eight and a half to nine and a half hours for teens), and you are still excessively tired, you may be suffering from a sleep disorder.
One potential culprit is narcolepsy. This sleep disorder affects roughly 135,000 to 200,000 people in the United States. Symptoms most often manifest themselves either in childhood or young adulthood.
Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) is the most common symptom. For someone with narcolepsy, the person may experience a regular level of alertness for most of the day and then suddenly fall asleep, generally for only a few minutes to maybe half an hour. The person wakes up feeling refreshed but may then experience more episodes of EDS throughout the day.
These sudden "sleep attacks" may happen while the person is performing everyday tasks, such as talking to friends, eating, or writing. In some cases, the person may continue the task, with an impaired ability while the person is in a sleep state. When the person awakes, they don't remember performing the task.
Sleep apnea may also be to blame for excessive daytime tiredness. People with sleep apnea struggle to breathe while they are sleeping. As the person struggles to breathe, they wake-up partially. This sleep disturbance may only last for a few seconds, but it often happens repeatedly throughout the night.
Because the sleep disturbance is so short, the person does not remember it. The disturbances in sleep, though, cause the person to not get adequate sleep. Yet, excessive tiredness, struggling to stay awake, and falling asleep throughout the day are all signs the person's sleep might not have been as restful as assumed.
Of course, insomnia may also lead to excessive tiredness. If you regularly struggle to get to sleep or to stay asleep, the lack of sleep will eventually wear on you. You may be in a perpetual groggy or tired state. At times, you may find yourself dozing off during the day since you did not get enough sleep at night.
For many people, snoring is simply a part of their lives. Yet, about half of the people who snore also suffer from sleep apnea. Yet, this does not mean every snorer needs to rush to their doctor's office right away to be treated for sleep apnea. It is important to understand when snoring might be an indicator of a sleep disorder. Some of the signs you might be suffering from sleep apnea rather than just snoring include:
- Loud, frequent snoring
- Sleep interrupted when the person stops breathing for a short time
- Gasping or choking while sleeping
- Excessive restlessness while sleeping
- Other health issues, including excessive tiredness during the day, weight gain, and memory loss
In many cases, you may not be the one to notice these signs of a potential sleep apnea problem. Your spouse, another family member, or a friend may notice them. Listen to the person, and seek help as soon as possible.
While struggling to fall asleep for a night or two or feeling really tired for a few days at a time might not be a huge issue, the longer the symptoms last, the greater the chance you are suffering from a sleep disorder. There really isn't a magical number for how long you should wait before seeking medical help concerning your sleep issue.
If the problem is disrupting your life, making you function at less than your best, then it's likely time to seek professional help. Don't put off visiting a health care provider. The sooner you make the visit, the sooner you can start dealing with your sleep disorder.
Related Health Issues
Sleep disorders are often accompanied by other health issues. This may include mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression. Some people with sleep disorders experience chronic pain, especially in the legs. Weight gain, irritability, lack of concentration, memory problems, and headaches may also accompany the other symptoms of a sleep disorder.
Tips for Those with Sleep Disorders
If you are suffering from any of these symptoms of a sleep disorder, you may want to try your own at-home solutions before visiting a doctor or along with your doctor's suggested treatment.
One of the best things you can do is to establish a sleep schedule, so you are going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time each night. When establishing this sleep schedule, make sure you are getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep. You may need to adjust your sleep schedule several times to find the one which works best for you.
- Try a relaxing activity such as reading a book.
- Use calming scents such as lavender, chamomile, or vanilla to help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Avoid watching television right before going to bed. Put electronic devices away, preferably in a different room, about half an hour before heading to bed.
- Avoid snacking just before going to bed and limit your caffeine and alcohol intake to earlier in the day.
If these changes do not improve your symptoms, be sure to visit a doctor, who can help you determine an appropriate treatment plan.Of course, a comfortable bed is also essential for anyone hoping to get a good night's sleep. Contact us to find the right mattress and bedding to fit your needs.