Understanding common sleep disorders to get a good night's rest and a productive day!
I'm a light sleeper and often wake up tired every morning, just like a staggering 83% of other sleep-deprived adults worldwide! This is not because I have trouble falling asleep—I fall asleep within 10 minutes. My problem is staying asleep throughout the night. I am restless and sort of kung-fu all night long to get a good night's rest. After a quick talk with my cubicle mate, I realised that I was not the only one suffering from a sleep disorder in this big, bad world.
Understanding sleep disorders
I had a word with our HR team and decided that we would do a company-wide survey of employees to evaluate them for potential sleep disorders. Most adults who cannot sleep well regularly suffer from one or more sleep disorders—they just don't consider a sleep disorder the culprit. Many of us blame stress, work or other factors for this problem and ignore the elephant in the room until it is too late.
What are sleep disorders?
Sleep disorders are conditions that impact our ability to get a good night's sleep. These disorders are increasingly common today and can be caused by stress, health or dietary problems. Around the world, nearly 30% of adults do not get 7 hours of sleep every night. Coupled with the stresses of today's competitive lifestyle, the problem has propagated to children, with over of 70% high school children averaging less than 8 hours of sleep each night. Common sleep disorders include insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and narcolepsy.
What are the various types of sleep disorders?
There are many types of Sleep disorders, many of which are caused by underlying health issues. The most common types of sleep disorders include:
Insomnia is the inability to sleep or remain asleep. Insomnia can be caused by jet lag, anxiety, stress, digestive problems or hormonal imbalances. A lot of adults experience insomnia at some point in their lives. Insomnia can be chronic, intermittent, or transient. Insomnia is known to be a precursor for many health conditions, which include:
Impaired performance at work or academics
Sleep apnea is characterised by pauses in breathing while sleeping. This impacts the ability of your body to get enough oxygen and results in you gasping for breath while sleeping. The most common tell-tale sign of sleep apnea is snoring. Sleep apnea is a precursor for potentially life-threatening conditions such as type II diabetes and heart disease.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless leg syndrome is characterized by an overwhelming need to move your legs accompanied by a tingling or "pins and needles" sensation. RLS is associated with Parkinson's disease and ADHD. The Symptoms of RLS can occur during the day or while you're asleep.
Narcolepsy results in extreme daytime sleepiness and can cause sufferers to fall asleep spontaneously at any time. These sleep attacks can occur at any time and can also lead to sleep paralysis, in which you are unable to move right after waking up. Narcolepsy is often associated with disorders such as multiple sclerosis or MS.
Is a sleep disorder dangerous?
Sleep disorders can affect your overall health, quality of life and even your well-being. Most sleep disorders impact your ability to concentrate on your job and daily activities, including driving and operating machinery.
When you're sleep deprived, you can easily get into a traffic accident, get injured at the workplace or even put your own safety at risk at any time. Although all this might not happen to you, sleep disorders can also give way to potentially life-threatening conditions such as type II diabetes and heart disease. This is why sleep disorders must be diagnosed and treated before they become major problems.
How do I know that I have a sleep disorder?
If you can't fall asleep, stay asleep, wake up tired every day, have foggy memory, find it difficult to concentrate or have frequent mood swings, you may have a sleep disorder. Other tell-tale signs of sleep disorders include unusual breathing patterns, urge to nap during the daytime, anxiety, depression, snoring and involuntary jerks while sleeping.
How are sleep disorders diagnosed?
Medical professionals diagnose sleep disorders through many techniques. Common sleep diagnosis methods include:
Evaluation through questionnaires and physical examinations where doctors gather information about your existing health conditions and their potential impact on your sleep cycle. We used this method to analyse whether our colleagues suffered from a sleep disorder.
PSG or Polysomnography: Also known as a sleep study, this test evaluates your blood oxygen levels, body movements and brain waves to see how they disrupt your sleep cycle. Sleep studies can be done at sleep clinics or at home. This is the most common test for sleep apnea.
EEG or Electroencephalogram: This test analyses your brain activity and detects any problems associated with this activity. EEGs are a part of PSGs.
MSLT or Multiple sleep latency test: This test is a daytime sleep study used along with PSGs to diagnose sleep disorders such as narcolepsy.
How are sleep disorders treated?
Doctors often prescribe lifestyle changes for sleep disorders. However, most of these disorders can have varied treatment regimens depending on their underlying cause. Doctors may prescribe pills, supplements, CPAP therapy, dental guards and dietary and lifestyle changes to alleviate the condition.
Sleep disorders are one of the most ignored conditions worldwide as most people treat them as trivial. However, this is far from the truth. Sleep disorders can lead to life-threatening diseases and must not be ignored. Visiting a doctor for a sleep study and sticking to your treatment plan are essentials that are necessary for a healthy, happy life!