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What Are Some Common Sleep Disorders?

25 August 2022

Everyone experiences trouble sleeping at some time or another. Tossing and turning, trying to get comfortable, but failing to settle is horrible. Lying there, knowing you must get up in a few hours and face the day after a restless night. We've all been there. Sleeping issues can leave us feeling tired, grumpy, and lacking concentration and motivation. A poor night's sleep can also affect our physical health, dampening our immune system and leaving us susceptible to persistent infections. While stresses and worries can leave us fighting the land of nod, so can specific sleep disorders. This article will discuss five common sleep disorders and how they may be treated.

How Common are Sleep Disorders?

It is estimated that two-thirds of adults in the UK struggle to sleep, while nearly a quarter achieve less than five hours of sleep a night. While sleep problems are common, they are often easily treated. If you have difficulty sleeping, a quick visit to your doctor may help you to get to the bottom of what is causing your symptoms.

Common Sleep Disorders

1. Insomnia

If you have insomnia, you will have difficulty falling and staying asleep. You may also frequently wake through the night and struggle to go back to sleep or wake early in the morning. A disturbed night’s sleep results in tiredness, low mood and difficulty concentrating the next day. Insomnia may have an apparent cause, such as illness, stress or sadness, or there may be no obvious cause. It may last for a long time or just a matter of days. If you can identify a situational cause, then you can address this. However, chronic insomnia may require more complex treatments, such as sedative drugs or cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT).

2. Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological sleep disorder that causes excessive daytime sleepiness and bouts of falling asleep during the day. It is caused by disruption to the body’s sleep-wake cycle and can significantly affect a sufferer’s quality of life. The symptoms of narcolepsy may also include loss of muscle tone, hallucinations and sleep paralysis. While narcolepsy is incurable, plenty of treatment options are available to improve symptoms. Treatment may include medications such as central nervous system stimulants and antidepressants.

3. Sleep Apnoea

Sleep apnoea is a fairly common sleep disorder where your breathing is interrupted as you sleep. These breathing disturbances can affect the quality of your sleep and lead to a plethora of severe health consequences. Unfortunately, sleep apnoea sufferers may be unaware of their symptoms, as they occur while asleep, meaning that many cases of sleep apnoea go undiagnosed. Your sleeping partner may say you snore frequently and make choking or gasping noises throughout the night.

As with other sleeping disorders, sleep apnoea can leave you tired and irritable the next day, with little motivation. If you have sleep apnea and are overweight, your doctor will probably advise you to work on reducing your BMI. Reducing your alcohol consumption can also help to alleviate symptoms. In addition, you may be offered positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy which delivers pressurised air into your airways via a face mask. PAP therapy helps to keep your airways open throughout the night.  

4. Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless Legs Syndrome can be frustrating, making it difficult to get comfortable as we settle down to sleep. It causes an intense urge to move your legs around when resting and an intense ‘creeping’ sensation through the feet and legs. As the symptoms of restless legs syndrome are usually worse in the evening, it can have a very disruptive effect on sleep. Restless legs syndrome can vary in severity and drastically affect the quality of life.

The cause of restless legs syndrome is unknown; however, several different treatment options are available. Your doctor may provide information about healthy sleep, such as avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the evening, following a regular sleep routine and setting up a comfortable sleep space. Try to take regular exercise throughout the day to help with symptoms. In severe cases, your doctor may prescribe you some medication to regulate your dopamine and iron levels.

5. REM Sleep Behaviour Disorder

Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep Behaviour Disorder is a sleep condition that causes you to physically and vocally enact your vivid dreams. This can involve sudden vocal sounds and unexpected, and often, violent leg and arm movements while in the REM stage of sleep. When addressing the symptoms of REM sleep behaviour disorder, your doctor may recommend modifications to make your sleeping area safer, for example, adding bed guards or placing some padded pillows or cushions on the floor at the edge of your bed. In addition, several medications can be prescribed to patients with REM sleep behaviour disorder.

Final Thoughts: What Should You Do If You Suspect You Have A Sleeping Disorder?

If you suspect that you may have a sleeping disorder, your first port of call should be your doctor. Sleeping issues can be highly disruptive, leaving you frustrated and fed up. The good news is that plenty of treatment options are available. While these may not be the quick fix you are hoping for, with a bit of patience and help from your doctor, you can once again enjoy a restful night’s sleep.