7 Different Types Of Common Sleeping Disorders That Could Negatively Affect Your Health
When people think about sleep problems, they normally think about those oh-so-common can’t fall asleep/can’t stay asleep issues we all deal with from time to time.
But there are many different unique sleep disorders that affect this vitally important aspect of our health – from oversleeping to under-sleeping and from disrupted sleep to breathing problems.
This is an overview of some of the most common types of sleep disorders.
Of course, this list is not exhaustive and there can be variations among all the disorders I’m about to mention.
But this should give you a good overview of the different types of sleeping disorders that could affect you or somebody close to you.
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Common Types of Sleep Disorders
Let’s start out with something you’ve probably already dealt with in your life.
Insomnia is when you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. About half of the adult population will suffer from insomnia here and there throughout their life. Many times this comes from stress or poor sleeping habits (like never going to bed at the same time, watching TV in bed, drinking caffeine, etc.)
But around 10% of the population has chronic insomnia. There are many different causes – everything from medications and other health problems to aging.
Insomniacs normally feel sleepy during the day; they rarely feel rested. So it’s not something you just want to ignore. Your doctor may recommend change in habits or medications – they may even suggest therapy. Choosing an all-natural sleep aid can be helpful too.
Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder.
When you have narcolepsy, you often have uncontrollable moments of falling asleep – even in the daytime. During the day, you will often be “excessively” sleepy – to the point of having difficulty working.
Cataplexy often goes hand and hand with narcolepsy. This is when you suddenly experience muscle weakness – or even paralysis – during the day. Other symptoms of narcolepsy include hallucinations and sleep paralysis.
There are many different medications used to improve the lives of those with narcolepsy. Some lifestyle changes can help too: naps, exercise, and no alcohol can be beneficial.
Parasomnia is a catch-all term for any strange thing that happens to you while you sleep (other than sleep apnea). This can include:
- Sleepwalking: Could be literal walking or (gibberish) talking, cooking, driving, or even acts of violence
- Nightmares: Scary dreams bad enough to disrupt sleep
- Sleep terrors: Intense fear/screaming while still asleep, often people will “bolt upright” and even punch or swing at the air; may not recognize their surroundings or another person in bed
- Sexsomnia: When someone acts out sexual behavior while still sleeping
- REM Sleep Behavior Disorder: Acting out your dreams
For some people, parasomnia is an occasional annoyance. For others, it is terribly detrimental.
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Doctors will most likely run many sleep tests to get to the root cause of your parasomnia.
Depending upon your specific diagnosis, you may be put on a medication or encouraged to de-stress.
4. Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a condition where your breathing becomes interrupted when you sleep. It not only prevents you from a restful night sleep, it can actually be quite dangerous since the necessary oxygen may not be getting to your brain.
To understand exactly how this sleep disorder works, check out this short video. The graphics explain exactly how the breath gets cut off.
There is also a much less common form of sleep apnea called Central Sleep Apnea. In this case, your airway isn’t actually blocked. The issue is in the brain. It does not “tell” your body to keep breathing while you sleep.
5. Shift Work Disorder
Our sleep and wakefulness is ruled by our circadian rhythms, think of it as your internal clock.
When people work jobs that go against the conventional periods of sleep and wakefulness (like those on a graveyard shift, or even those on a swing shift), their ability to sleep gets all messed up. They are often sleepy when awake and wide awake when they want to sleep.
To help, try doing things like:
- Getting total black-out curtains in your room
- Using a sound machine to block out noise from neighbors or lawn care crew
- Making a new “bedtime” and stick to it every single day – even if bedtime is 10am.
6. Jet Lag Disorder
Most people have experienced this temporary sleep disorder whenever they have traveled outside of their time zone. For example, if it’s 10pm back home but only 2pm on your vacation, your inner body clock will still tell you it’s time for bed.
For most people this is a rare vacation-only issue. For those who travel a lot for work, it can become more complicated and difficult to deal with. Here are some jet lag remedies:
- Use the plane ride to adjust: Try to sleep if it’s nighttime in your destination, try to stay awake if it is daytime
- Supplement: Using natural supplements like melatonin, magnesium, valerian root, etc. right before the new bedtime can help you sleep
7. Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless leg syndrome is exactly what it sounds like – you will be overcome by an irresistible urge to move your legs. Though you could experience this anytime of the day, it is often much more of a problem for people at night.
This video shares some of the science behind this strange sensation, as well as how it can be remedied:
Think You Might Have A Sleep Disorder?
If you have the occasional difficulty falling or staying asleep, you probably don’t have a disorder. That’s just a part of life and stress and environmental factors (like living in a noisy neighborhood or sleeping next to a snorer).
If this is you, taking an all-natural sleep aid may be all you need.
But if you are dealing with real sleep disturbances or if any of these sleeping disorders sound like something you experience, you should make an appointment with your doctor. There are many different sleep studies you can take to help you find a diagnosis.
Then with a clear diagnosis, you can learn about all your options for getting the right amount of sleep to feel happy and healthy.