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If you’ve lain awake in bed through all hours of the night and morning, you may have asked yourself, “Do I have a sleep disorder?” Everyone has a few restless nights or fatigue-filled days here and there, but it shouldn’t be an everyday issue. Consistent lack of sleep, or oversleeping, might be a sign you have a sleep disorder.
Keep reading to learn about 6 common sleep disorders and their symptoms.
1. Sleep-wake Disorders
Sleep-wake disorders are a category of sleep disorders that affect the body’s circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is described as our body’s internal clock that keeps track of our sleep and wake cycle. It’s regulated by environmental factors like lightness and darkness.
This article describes two of the most common sleep-wake disorders are jet lag disorder and shift work disorder, both of which happen when someone’s normal sleep schedule is interrupted due to travel or change of time zones and working night time shifts.
Getting our circadian rhythms “back on track” isn’t easy, but by avoiding artificial lights around bedtime and maintaining a normal sleep schedule, you can improve your quality of sleep and life.
Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders. In fact, it’s estimated one-third of people experience symptoms of insomnia in their lifetime. Insomnia is characterized by:
- Difficulty going to sleep or staying asleep at night
- Spending long periods of time awake in bed
- Waking multiple times throughout the night
- Waking up earlier than anticipated or desired
- Feeling fatigue, irritability, and impaired function in the daytime
While there is no single known cause for insomnia, other problems such as depression and anxiety, or medications may induce insomnia is some people. Insomnia has a profound effect on one’s ability to function during the day and increases the risk for conditions like high blood pressure and heart problems. Treatments such as medication or even therapy are effective for insomnia.
Hypersomnolence, also known as hypersomnia, is essentially the opposite of insomnia.
While insomnia causes restlessness, hypersomnolence causes excessive daytime sleepiness or oversleeping. A person with hypersomnolence may feel the need to nap multiple times in the day, especially at an inconvenient time, like during work, while eating, or during a conversation.
No matter how long the naps are, they don’t offer relief from the constant fatigue. Other symptoms include:
- Impaired daytime functioning
- Mood swings or irritability
- Low energy and fatigue
- Brain fog or memory issues
It can be mistaken for other sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy, but there are some differences. Stimulant medications may be used to treat hypersomnolence.
Narcolepsy is a type of chronic sleep condition that is very disruptive to day-to-day life.
It is characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness and falling asleep during inappropriate times, like hypersomnia, however, some with narcolepsy also experience cataplexy: a sudden loss of muscle tone. Narcolepsy is broken down into two different types.
Narcolepsy With Cataplexy (Type 1)
People with type one narcolepsy experience cataplexy that is triggered by strong or overwhelming emotions. During a moment of excitement, annoyance, surprise, etc. a person will, without warning, lose muscle tone and become weak in the face, arms, legs, and torso. The person in an episode of cataplexy is awake and aware, but cannot move.
These episodes usually last for one or two minutes. Some people fall asleep following an episode.
Narcolepsy Without Cataplexy (Type 2)
Type 2 narcolepsy is different from type one as cataplexy is not a symptom. Type two narcoleptics still experience daytime sleepiness but the symptoms are often not as severe. They are prone to sleep paralysis, hypnopompic and hypogenic delusions, and insomnia.
In contrast to people with hypersomnolence, narcoleptics typically feel well-rested initially after waking. Lifestyle changes and medications such as stimulants could control symptoms of narcolepsy but there is no cure for the condition.
5. Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is more than just snoring—it means you stop breathing during your sleep. It’s a serious and potentially dangerous type of sleep disorder and you should see a doctor about if you suspect you have sleep apnea. The most common sign of sleep apnea is loud snoring.
You may not know if you store if you sleep alone, so here are some other symptoms of sleep apnea to look out for:
- Trouble staying asleep
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Dry mouth and/throat in the morning
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood swings
A sleep study is necessary to diagnose sleep apnea. During a sleep study, your brain waves, muscles, eye movements, heart rhythm, and breathing will be monitored. Treatments for sleep apnea, depending on the type and reason for the condition, include lifestyle changes, sleep position changes, and use of a CPAP machine.
6. Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), also known as Willis-Ekbom Disease, is a type of sleep and movement disorder that causes the uncomfortable and irritating impulse to move the legs at night, or sometimes during the later afternoon and evening. The symptoms are worse at bedtime when the person is trying to sleep.
The sensations, which some have described as feeling like bugs crawling up and down their legs, or soda running through their veins, make sleeping or staying still difficult as getting up or moving around is the only way to relieve the symptoms. These feelings also happen if someone has been sitting for long periods of time.
RLS has a direct and significant impact on the quality of life because of how much it interferes with falling and staying asleep. It causes excessive daytime sleepiness, mood, executive functioning, and relationships. Treatments for RLS include lifestyle changes, management of any co-occurring conditions, iron supplements, and medications typically used for people with Parkinson’s and seizure disorders.
Your Question, “Do I Have a Sleep Disorder?” Answered
While a sleep disorder must be diagnosed by a medical professional, we hope this article helped answer your question, “Do I have a sleep disorder?” You don’t have to live with sleepless nights or daytime fatigue anymore. Sleeping disorders such as sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome (RLS), narcolepsy are some common causes of excessive sleep in elderly.
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