By Dr. Divya Mandial | 28th Feb 2023
Sleep is an essential biological activity our body requires to cope with mental health, sustain memory and perform routine activities. Our body needs at least 7 hours of sleep daily for proper functioning. However, our sleeping hours have been affected drastically by day-to-day stress, hectic schedules, and, most importantly, our lifestyle.
Sleep deprivation for a long time can lead to impaired attention and concentration, impaired quality of life, increased rates of absenteeism with reduced productivity, and accidents at work, at home, or on the road. At the same time, the severe consequences of sleep deprivation include increased morbidity and mortality from increasing accidents, heart failure, hypertension, obesity, type 2 diabetes, stroke, memory impairment, and even depression.
Besides, if your sleeping pattern is disturbed for quite some time, this can indicate a sleep disorder. Therefore, timely diagnosis of unusual sleep pattern is essential to prevent the risk of health comorbidities. There are more than 80 different types of sleep disorders. These are the group of conditions that affects our ability to sleep well in routine.
Insomnia is a sleep disorder marked by difficulty initiating sleep and maintenance. More than one-third of adults experience this sleep disorder at some point. Poor sleep for at least three nights in a week that last for more than three months, along with other symptoms such as sleepiness, and impaired attention, during day time, collectively result in fatigue, mood disturbances, and reduced productivity.
Besides, about 40% of insomnia cases can become more chronic and persistent.
Inculcating good sleep habits such as keeping regular wake times, using the bed to sleep, avoiding afternoon caffeine, limiting alcohol intake, and avoiding daytime napping can be helpful strategies to treat insomnia.
Besides, medications, including hypnotics, antidepressants, melatonin agonists, and orexin antagonists, are recommended by doctors to treat insomnia.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a pause of airflow for at least 10 seconds during sleep. It is a severe condition in which the oxygen supply in the body declines for a while—snoring, apneas and gasping upon awakening mark this sleeping disorder. Other obstructive sleep apnea symptoms include morning headache, attention deficits, mood disturbance, nocturia, and night sweats. When left untreated, obstructive sleep apnoea can increase the risk of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and other cardiovascular problems.
If your sleep apnea is mild, it can be treated with weight loss and avoiding the supine (face-up) position while sleeping. But if your sleep apnea is severe, your doctor may recommend positive airway pressure therapy to improve your sleep pattern. Besides, surgical methods such as soft palate, nasal, and maxillomandibular surgery are second-line treatment options available to treat sleep apnea.
One of the most common sleep disorders, Restless legs syndrome, affects about 15% of adults. This disorder is more experienced by women than men, and the risk of this disorder increases with age.
This disorder is marked by indescribable uncomfortable sensations that make you move limbs while at rest. These uneasy sensations include creeping, crawling, tingling, or shock-like feelings that discomfort your sleep.
Treatment of restless legs syndrome starts with a low dose of dopamine-agonists (Pramipexole 0.125- 0.25 mg and Ropinirole 0.25-0.5 mg), Gabapentin enacarbil, and Fe supplementation.
Narcolepsy is marked by daytime drowsiness, your urge to sleep, sudden attacks of sleep during the day, and fragmented sleep at night. It is also characterised by sleep paralysis and hypnagogic hallucinations.
In many cases, Narcolepsy is followed by cataplexy. It is the temporary and unexpected loss of muscle control triggered by positive emotions, such as laughing or telling a joke.
Narcolepsy can be managed with lifestyle modifications and medications. The medications for Narcolepsy include alerting agents such as armodafinil (Nuvigil), modafinil (Provigil), and methylphenidate (Ritalin). Besides, Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, Tricyclic antidepressants, Oxybates, Pitolisant, and Solriamfetol are also used for the treatment of Narcolepsy.
Circadian rhythm sleep disorders are a set of sleep disorders caused by continuous or occasional disruption of sleep patterns. These sleep disorders include delayed sleep−wake phase disorder, progressive sleep−wake phase disorder, jet lag, and work shift disorder.
During Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder, you wake up after 2 hours of your typical wake-up time. During Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder, you fall asleep early in the evening and wake up early morning, around 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. During Jet Lag, your body’s internal clock is disturbed after long air travel to a destination with different time zones from your home. During Shift Work disorder, your body’s natural circadian rhythm gets unbalanced due to your night shifts at work.
Circadian rhythm sleep disorders can be treated with lifestyle changes and blue light therapy.
Parasomnias is a common sleeping disorder characterised by various unusual sleeping behaviours such as nightmares, night terrors, sleepwalking, sleep talking, confused arousal, nocturnal leg cramps, irregular heart rhythms, impaired sleep-related erection, teeth grinding, and even bed wetting.
Treating parasomnias includes a few lifestyle changes such as good sleep habits, keeping room temperature cool, limiting the use of alcohol, and avoiding caffeine and strenuous exercise before bedtime.
Besides, the medications such as Benzodiazepines, Antidepressants are also recommended by doctors to manage sleep behaviours.
A disturbed sleeping pattern for a long time indicates a sleep disorder. The common sleep disorders are insomnia, Obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome, Restless leg syndrome, Narcolepsy, circadian rhythm sleep disorders, and parasomnias. These disorders affect our ability to sleep well, memorise, concentrate and perform daily activities. Therefore, it’s essential to get these unusual sleep patterns diagnosed and treated promptly to prevent health comorbidities.
Disclaimer: The information given in this article is true to our best knowledge. Still, we recommend you consult your doctor before taking any medications or therapies for sleep disorders mentioned in this article.
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