The 5 Most Common Sleeping Disorders (and What to Do about Them)

Everyone knows the turmoil of a sleepless night now and again, but there is no need to endure this torture every time the sun goes down. If any of the following sleep disorders sound familiar to you, go and have a chat with your doctor, as the majority of diagnosed cases are easily treatable, and sleeping is one of the best things you can do for your health.

Insomnia

This disorder is so common that almost everyone has encountered it at some point in their lives. But while you may be well acquainted with its symptoms (difficulty falling asleep, restless sleep quality, waking up during the night etc), medical professionals will only diagnose you with the condition once you’ve suffered with it for roughly three months. That is a long time to deal with the aftermath of being perpetually exhausted, zapped of energy, easy to irritate, and unable to concentrate, all the while frequented by headaches and depression. It’s not pretty.

The general causes of insomnia are varied and include stress, hormonal changes, breathing troubles, or even no notable reasons whatsoever. However, treating the root cause is the smartest approach, as sleeping medications are a temporary solution and should be considered a last resort. Other non-medical ideas worth exploring would be cognitive behavior therapy, hypnosis, meditation, and a complete abstinence from all alcohols and caffeine.

Sleep Apnea

One of life’s most wicked jokes is that of obstructive sleep apnea, as many sufferers may not even be aware that they have it, and the true victims of their nightly disruptions are the loved ones who sleep next to them. What happens here is that the throat relaxes, cutting off the oxygen from the respiratory system, leading to either a partial blockage (which causes snoring) or a full blockage (which causes loud gasping and choking).

Besides preventing everyone in the room from reaching a healthy depth of sleep, this disorder can also produce a painfully dry throat, headaches, and a dangerous amount of pressure on the heart. Luckily, there are options. A CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure therapy) machine keeps the passages open. Losing weight, sleeping on your side, or foam wedges can help too. And, finally, surgery is also an extreme alternative. Experiment with these suggestions, because healthy sleep equals a healthier life, and that goes for those around you too.

Restless Leg Syndrome

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RLS is when an individual experiences the overwhelming sensation that their legs (or other parts of their body) are itching, aching, tingling, or crawling beneath the skin. This leads to the uncontrollable urge to move the legs in order to get rid of these frustrating symptoms, which can disrupt the regular falling asleep process.

What causes RLS is uncertain, but there are hereditary theories, links to certain medications, and studies which suggest that women are more likely to be affected (especially when pregnant). Regardless, professionals recommend that RLS patients try and get the restlessness out of their legs before bed, by stretching, walking, and exercising regularly. There are also behavioral therapy and medicinal solutions one can discuss, whilst coffee and alcohol are obviously not doing you any favors.

Narcolepsy

This rare disorder is caused by abnormalities in the part of the brain which controls the sleep cycle, resulting in “sleep attacks” where the individual can fall asleep unexpectedly at any point of the day. Said attacks usually only last a few minutes at most, but as they could occur whilst eating, running, or even driving, they can be extremely hazardous. Sufferers may also experience what is called cataplexy, which is when their narcolepsy strikes during any intense emotional reaction, as if fainting.

Unfortunately, this condition may also affect an individual’s regular sleeping patterns too, as narcoleptics often struggle to fall asleep at night, and no amount of sleep seems to help the day spells either. Which means, as it stands, a medicinal defense is all that is currently available.

Sleepwalking, Night Terrors, and Sleep Paralysis

Whether lack of sleep, illnesses, fevers, or medications, these troubles can all result in either sleepwalking (performing tasks whilst asleep) or night terrors (bursting into screams and sudden movements whilst only half awake). Both of these disorders are more common in children but can develop in people suffering from PTSD. Speak to a professional in extreme cases, but a quiet sleeping environment and a regular cycle have been shown to help.

Another strange sleep disruption many people experience in their lives is that of sleep paralysis. This is almost the opposite of sleepwalking or night terrors, as the individual wakes up with their body in full REM mode, completely unable to move. This can be a very scary event, but usually only lasts a few seconds, and is completely harmless.

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