By Dr. Divya Mandial | 4th Sep 2023
Sleep is a biological and essential process in our body that allows our body and mind to rest and recharge. It is a state of reduced consciousness characterised by a lower level of brain activity, slowed breathing, and decreased muscle activity. Our body undergoes various vital processes during sleep that help keep us physically and mentally fit. An adult between 18 to 64 years needs 7-9 hours of sleep for sustained health. However, our irregular sleep schedule, excessive caffeine, alcohol consumption, lack of physical activity, and excess screen time before bedtime have disrupted our sleep quality and we develop various types of sleep disorders.
When our brain fails to get adequate and restful sleep, we might suffer from sleep disorders. The condition can range from mild disturbances to severe and chronic problems that significantly degrade the quality of life.
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. The most common types of sleep disorders are as follows:
Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterised by difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or not being able to fall back asleep after waking up too early. It can be short-term or long-term, lasting for months or even years. More than one-third of adults experience this sleep disorder at some point.
Here are some common strategies you must consider to treat insomnia:
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterised by repeated pauses in breathing during sleep. These pauses can last several seconds or minutes and occur throughout the night. Sleep apnea occurs due to partial or complete obstruction of the upper airway, which can decrease oxygen levels in the blood and cause the person to wake up to resume breathing. Loud snoring, frequent urination, morning headaches, and excessive daytime sleepiness is the other noticeable symptoms of sleep apnea.
Here are some common strategies you must consider to treat Sleep apnea:
If your sleep apnea is severe, your doctor may recommend continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP) to improve your sleep pattern. CPAP is the treatment option for moderate to severe sleep apnea. For this therapy, you should wear a mask while asleep. The mask is connected to a machine that delivers a continuous air stream to keep the airway open during sleep.
Surgery is rarely performed for sleep apnea to remove excess tissue from the throat or correct structural abnormalities in the airway. Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), Genioglossus advancement, and nasal and maxillomandibular advancements are the surgical options for treating sleep apnea.
Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder characterised by excessive daytime sleepiness and fragmented sleep at night. You can also experience cataplexy (a sudden loss of muscle tone), sleep paralysis, and vivid hallucinations when falling asleep or waking up. It may be caused by a deficiency of the brain chemical hypocretin, which helps regulate wakefulness and sleep. While there is no cure for Narcolepsy, these treatment strategies can help manage the symptoms of Narcolepsy.
Stimulant medications: Stimulants reduce excessive daytime sleepiness by promoting wakefulness. The stimulant medications prescribed in Nacrolepsy include:
It helps improve nighttime sleep and reduces loss of muscle control and sleep paralysis in Nacrolepsy.
Antidepressant medications: Antidepressants also help reduce cataplexy and sleep paralysis. The antidepressant medications prescribed in Nacrolepsy include:
One of the most common sleep disorder, Restless legs syndrome, affects about 15% of adults. It is more experienced by women than men, and the risk of this disorder increases with age.
RLS is marked by uncomfortable sensations that make you move limbs at rest or sleep. You can experience creeping, crawling, tingling, or shock-like feelings that disrupt your sleep. Regular physical activity, taking hot showers before and getting a massage at bedtime can improve your sleep. Besides, cutting down on caffeine and alcohol can improve the symptoms. You can also start taking iron supplements to ease the symptoms of RLS due to iron deficiency.
Dopamine Agonists: These work by increasing dopamine levels in the brain, which can help alleviate RLS. The dopamine agonists prescribed for RLS include:
Anticonvulsants: These medications calm down the nervous system, which promotes good sleep. The anticonvulsants prescribed for Restless Leg Syndrome include:
Benzodiazepines: These are not used as a first-line treatment for restless leg syndrome. However, these medications can help promote relaxation, reduce anxiety, and sleep. Diazepam and Clonazepam are the Benzodiazepines prescribed to treat RLS.
Shift work sleep disorder is usually experienced by those who work in nontraditional shifts, i.e., outside the regular 9:00 am to 5:00 pm shift. The body’s natural biological sleep cycle is disrupted, which leads to shortened and hampered sleep and excessive sleepiness while awake at work. Here are some strategies to cope with shift work sleep disorder.
The medication for sleep disorders helps improve alertness and reduce sleepiness during working hours, but these should only be used under strict medical guidance.
Sleepwalking or somnambulism is a common sleeping disorder in children during which they may sit up, walk around or engage in other activities during the night without realising it. It usually starts an hour or two after sleeping. Sleepwalk in children disappears on its own till puberty, or it may sometimes last longer. You can implement these strategies to prevent your child from sleepwalking.
The frequency and severity of sleepwalking episodes in adults can also be prevented with the above strategies. Adults can also take Clonazepam tablets to reduce sleepwalking episodes.
Sleep talking, or somniloquy, is a sleep disorder that involves talking during sleep. It is primarily seen in men and children. They are unaware of the conversations they have in sleep talking. They may mumble, speak complete sentences or even make conversations in different voices and languages. It is generally a harmless condition and doesn’t require treatment. The following strategies can help you cope with sleep talking.
Sleep terrors, or night terrors, are the types of sleep disorders that terrify you and wake you with a scream. It usually occurs in the initial sleep phase and lasts for several minutes. You might return to your natural sleep after completely waking up from a bad dream. While sleep terror is common in children of three to seven, 1 to 4 % of adults also experience it. Maintaining your child’s sleep pattern, limiting their screen time and avoiding caffeine products before bedtime can help resolve sleep problems.
You must have heard clenching or grinding the teeth in children during sleep. Teeth grinding, or bruxism is a common sleep disorder in children. It is harmless for children. It also affects about 10% of adults. You are more susceptible to teeth grinding if you smoke cigarettes or deal with sleep apnea, stress, and anxiety. The following considerations can help you cope with teeth grinding.
It becomes challenging for sleep disorder patients to cope with routine activities. They often experience daytime fatigue and sleepiness, making concentrating and performing routine tasks difficult. Their memory impairs with time, and it becomes difficult for them to concentrate, leading to decreased productivity at work. Those with different types of sleep disorders are also at high risk of developing depression, anxiety or other psychiatric disorders.
Types of Sleep disorders like sleep apnea and insomnia also increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, stroke, and heart attacks. The hormonal changes due to sleep problems can cause abnormal weight gain. The adverse consequences of sleep problems negatively impact the quality of life, relationships, and health.
The lifestyle modifications such as establishing a regular sleep schedule, creating a relaxing bedtime routine, and avoiding large meals, before bedtime can help regularise their sleep cycle to avoid the types of sleep disorders. Besides, limiting caffeine and alcohol intake at bedtime is very helpful in boosting the natural sleep cycle and keeping your mental health in order.
You are more susceptible to sleep issues when you are:
Along with lifestyle modifications, certain therapies specific to the types of sleep disorders can improve your sleep quality.
Sleep hygiene is the set of behavioural and environmental recommendations intended to manage sleep issues. Good sleep hygiene includes the following considerations.
Following these practices in your daily routine can improve your sleep hygiene and promote healthy sleep. However, if you continue to have sleep problems, it’s best to consult your doctor’s healthcare for any underlying types of sleep disorders that require treatment.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Sleep anxiety, or bedtime anxiety, is a type of anxiety that makes sleep difficult due to racing thoughts or intense anxiety about the prospect of not being able to sleep. It makes you feel worries, fear, or distress about sleep.
Not all types of sleep disorders can be cured. However, most types of sleep disorders can be managed by practising good sleep hygiene. In contrast, severe sleep disorders need therapies and medications to be treated.
Sleep disorders are not necessarily mental illnesses but can worsen mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression.
You must avoid caffeine and alcohol at bedtime and exercise regularly to get undisrupted sleep. You can sip a cup of chamomile tea to induce better sleep. Also, you must create a comfortable sleep environment in your room.
Disclaimer: The information given in this article is true to our best knowledge. Still, we recommend that you consult your doctor before taking any medication for the Sleep Disorders mentioned in this article.
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