Sleep disorders are conditions that result in changes in the way that you sleep.
A sleep disorder can affect your overall health, safety and quality of life. Sleep deprivation can affect your ability to drive safely and increase your risk of other health problems.
Some of the signs and symptoms of sleep disorders include excessive daytime sleepiness, irregular breathing or increased movement during sleep. Other signs and symptoms include an irregular sleep and wake cycle and difficulty falling asleep.
There are many different types of sleep disorders. They're often grouped into categories that explain why they happen or how they affect you. Sleep disorders can also be grouped according to behaviors, problems with your natural sleep-wake cycles, breathing problems, difficulty sleeping or how sleepy you feel during the day.
Some common types of sleep disorders include:
Insomnia, in which you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night.
Sleep apnea, in which you experience abnormal patterns in breathing while you are asleep. There are several types of sleep apnea.
Restless legs syndrome (RLS), a type of sleep movement disorder. Restless legs syndrome, also called Willis-Ekbom disease, causes an uncomfortable sensation and an urge to move the legs while you try to fall asleep.
Narcolepsy, a condition characterized by extreme sleepiness during the day and falling asleep suddenly during the day.
Symptoms of sleep disorders include being very sleepy during the daytime and having trouble falling asleep at night. Some people may fall asleep at inappropriate times, such as while driving. Other symptoms include breathing in an unusual pattern or feeling an uncomfortable urge to move while you are trying to fall asleep. Unusual or bothersome movements or experiences during sleep are also possible. Having an irregular sleep and wake cycle is another symptom of sleep disorders.
Insomnia Myths and Facts
A Drink Will Help You Sleep
Myth. Insomnia -- chronic trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep -- can leave you desperate for a good night's rest. Think a cocktail before bed will offer relief? Think again. This myth probably persists because alcohol can help you fall asleep. But as it moves through your body it may lead to disturbed, restless sleep, or it may make you wake earlier.
Insomnia Is Strictly Mental
Myth. It's true that psychological issues can cause insomnia. As a matter of fact, stress is the No. 1 reason people report a lack of sleep. But it's not the only insomnia trigger. Many things can cause insomnia, including poor sleep hygiene, illness, drug side effects, chronic pain, restless legs syndrome, or sleep apnea.
Screen Time Helps You Wind Down
Myth. It's tempting to try to wind down by reading on the computer or watching TV before bed, but both can actually stimulate you. The light and noise of TVs and computers can be engaging and can reduce brain melatonin levels. You want your melatonin levels to increase around bedtime to help you fall asleep. Need just a little noise to help you drift off? Try listening to relaxing music or download a relaxing, sleep app.
Sleep Aids Are Risk-Free
Myth. It's true that today's sleeping pills are safer and more effective than many older drugs. But all medications have potential risks, including the risks of dependency. Always talk to your doctor before using sleeping pills. Some sleep aids can help relieve insomnia symptoms temporarily. They can't cure insomnia. Resolving underlying health issues and addressing your sleep environment is often the best approach to insomnia.
You Can Make Up For Lost Sleep
Myth. It's unlikely that you can fully catch up on sleep you've lost. Sleeping in one or two days a week or over the weekend may actually upset your natural body clock. The disruption may make it harder to get to sleep the next time. The only way to catch up on lost sleep is to get back into a regular sleep schedule.
Napping Helps Offset Insomnia
Myth. Naps affect everyone differently. For some people, a brief 10- to 20-minute nap taken midday can be refreshing. For many people with insomnia, however, a late afternoon nap can decrease the brain’s sleep drive. That can make it even harder to fall asleep at night.
You'll Learn to Need Less Sleep
Myth. Believing this myth can lead to serious consequences. Everyone is born with a set sleep need. Most adults need 7-8 hours. You can learn to get by on less sleep, but you can't train your body to need less sleep. If you're sleep deprived, it's harder to pay attention or remember things. Being chronically tired can have serious consequences, including poor work performance, an increased risk of accidents, and even poor health.
How to Get Back to Sleep
The Struggle of Insomnia
About 20% of people wake up in the middle of the night, then struggle to get back to sleep. This type of insomnia can be stressful, not to mention exhausting. Keep reading for tips to help you quickly doze off -- and steps you can take to keep these mid-sleep awakenings from happening in the first place.
Forget About the Time
As you toss and turn in the middle of the night, it’s tempting to peek at your clock. But each time you do, you’ll worry how much sleep you’ve lost and only add to your stress. That can make it even harder for you to relax and get back to sleep. Turn your clock toward the wall, put your watch in a drawer, and resist the urge to check the time on your phone.
Stay Away From Screens
The blue light from any screen, whether a tablet, phone, or laptop, signals to your brain that it’s time to wake up. Keep devices out of reach when you wake up in the middle of the night. And while you’re at it, turn off all your screens an hour before bedtime, too.
Move to Another Room
If you’ve been awake for 20 minutes or longer, you may want to get up and out of bed. Without turning on any bright lights, move to a different room. Don’t turn on the TV. Instead, do something peaceful and calming. You could take a few deep breaths or read a book. (Just don’t choose a real page-turner!) If you wait until you feel sleepy to go back to bed, you may find it easier to drift off.
Don’t Be Productive
You may be tempted to make the most of your extra time awake, but don't. The middle of the night isn’t the right time to tackle chores, get ahead at work, or be creative in the kitchen. If you do and get something out of it, you reward your brain for waking up when it shouldn't. That makes it more likely to happen again.
Get Counting -- Backwards
Is a “busy brain” the reason you’re up at night? If so, you’ll need to turn it off before you can get back to sleep. One easy way to do that: Count backwards from 100. It shifts your focus away from past regrets and future worries and forces your brain to stay in the present. Once that happens, you may feel relaxed enough to close your eyes and return to sleep.
Ease Your Muscles
Your muscles need to be at ease for you to fall asleep. If you’re tense, you might not even realize that they are, too. A technique called “progressive relaxation” can help. Start at your feet and flex all the muscles in your toes for 5 seconds, then relax. Take a slow, deep breath. Repeat these steps with your legs, backside, belly, chest, arms, and face. You’ll feel the difference.
Unwind at Bedtime
Find ways to ease your stress before you go to bed. You might want to listen to soothing music or a calming podcast. You could also do a few easy yoga poses or just sit quietly and take a few deep breaths. When you fall asleep with a quiet mind, you’re more likely to stay asleep.
Cut Back on Caffeine
Whether it’s in coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, or chocolate, caffeine triggers your brain to stay awake. And although these effects begin quickly (within an hour), they also linger in your body longer than you may realize. Half of the caffeine in your drinks is still in your system 3 to 5 hours after you drink it. To make sure your sleep doesn’t pay a price, avoid all caffeine after 1 p.m.
Aim for a Noise-Free Bedroom
While you sleep, your brain is still listening. The sounds that it hears can wake you up, even from deep sleep. This is more likely the later it gets, or if the noise signals danger, like a crying baby or a police siren. Make your bedroom as quiet as you can. Earplugs might help. A fan or white noise machine can also block sounds that can jolt you awake.
Is your bedroom too warm? Cool temperatures help your body sleep. So try to keep your sleeping space between 60 and 67 degrees. It can be a challenge to stay cool if you’re going through menopause and are prone to hot flashes and night sweats. If you are, you may also want to turn on a fan. You might also want to cover up with several light blankets instead of one heavy comforter.
Go Easy on the Alcohol
You may think a beer or glass of wine before bed helps you fall asleep. Alcohol does boost a chemical in your body that helps you sleep. But you quickly run out of this chemical. That can leave you wide awake before morning. (A drink before bed can also get you up to use the bathroom.) Cut back on the adult beverages and you’ll likely sleep more soundly.
Learn this popular practice and you’ll be able to quiet those racing, middle-of-the-night thoughts. It’s simpler than it sounds. Sit quietly and focus on your breathing. Think of a calming word or short phrase. You can also picture a place that makes you happy. If your thoughts wander off, don’t judge yourself. Simply return to your breathing and the focus you’ve chosen. The more you practice it, the easier it'll get.
Stick to a Schedule
If you were up for a while during the night, you’ll likely be tired and groggy the next morning. If you can, try not to sleep in or take a nap to make up for it. It’s crucial to stick close to the same bedtime and wake-up time every day. It trains your body to know awake time vs. sleep time. Once it does, you might find yourself waking up less often.
What You Eat Affects How You Sleep
If you could pick foods that may help you get the best sleep possible, would you? And if you knew which foods may hinder your restful slumber, would you avoid them? Now's your chance to learn just that for a good night's sleep. Though the science is not solid, being mindful of what you eat and drink before bed may help.
Reach for Tryptophan-Rich Foods
We've all heard of warm milk's ability to send us off to dreamland. Do you know why it's true? Dairy foods contain tryptophan, which is a sleep-promoting substance. Other good sources include nuts and seeds, bananas, honey, and eggs.
Indulge Your Carb Craving (a Little Bit)
Carbohydrate-rich foods may help. So a few good late-night snacks might include a bowl of cereal and milk, nuts and crackers, or bread and cheese.
Have a Snack Before Bedtime
If you have insomnia, a little food in your stomach may help you sleep. Drinking some milk may help, too. But keep the snack small. A heavy meal will tax your digestive system, making you uncomfortable and unable to get your ZZZs.
Limit High-Fat Foods
Research shows that people who often eat these foods gain weight and their sleep cycles tend to get disrupted. Why? A heavy meal activates digestion, which can lead to nighttime trips to the bathroom.
Beware of Hidden Caffeine
It's no surprise that an evening cup of coffee might disrupt your sleep. But don't forget about less obvious caffeine sources, like chocolate, cola, and tea. Even decaf coffee has a trace of it -- but not enough to be a problem. For better sleep, cut all caffeine from your diet 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.
Skip the Nightcap
Alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, but you might not sleep well, waking up often, tossing and turning, and even having headaches, night sweats and nightmares. It can help to down a glass of water for each alcoholic drink, to dilute the alcohol's effects. But for a good night's sleep, it's better to avoid alcohol 4 to 6 hours before bedtime.
Beware of Heavy, Spicy Foods
Lying down with a full belly can make you uncomfortable, since the digestive system slows down when you sleep. It can also lead to heartburn, as can spicy cuisine. If you indulge in a heavy meal, finish it at least 4 hours before bedtime.
Cut the Fluids by 8 P.M.
Staying hydrated throughout the day is great for your body, but cut it off before bed. You don't want to have to keep getting up to go to the bathroom after you turn in.
Don't Smoke to Relax
Even if it's one of your favorite ways to unwind, smoking isn't a good idea -- night or day. Nicotine is a stimulant, with effects similar to caffeine. Avoid smoking before bedtime or if you wake up in the middle of the night. Keep trying to quit -- it's hard, but it's worth it.
Relieves sleeplessness with worries, overactive thoughts, and hypersensitivity to pain.
Relieves irritability, sleeplessness at 3 a.m., and digestive troubles associated with overindulgence in food, tobacco or alcohol.
People who need this remedy are often anxious and compulsive about small details, and have trouble sleeping if they feel that everything is not in place. They are often deeply weary and exhausted, yet feel restless physically and mentally. Sleep, when it arrives, can be anxious and disturbed, with dreams full of fear and insecurity.
This remedy is often helpful to those who feel "too tired to sleep" after long-term sleep loss—from getting up with an infant, taking care of someone who is ill, a disruptive work schedule, travel and jet lag, or chronic worry and insomnia. The person may feel weak and dizzy, with trouble thinking, and may be sleepy, irritable, or tearful.
If insomnia is caused by emotional upset (grief or loss, a disappointment in love, a shock, or even an argument) this remedy may be helpful. The person is sensitive and nervous, and may often sigh and yawn in the daytime, but find it hard to relax at night. As the person tries to fall asleep, the arms and legs may twitch or itch. If sleep arrives, it is usually light, with jerking of the legs and arms, or long and troubling nightmares.
This remedy relieves physical and intellectual fatigue due to overexertion, with sleeplessness and headaches.