A sleep disorder is a condition that frequently impacts your ability to get enough quality sleep. While it’s normal to occasionally experience difficulties sleeping, it’s not normal to regularly have problems getting to sleep at night, to wake up feeling exhausted, or to feel sleepy during the day.
Frequently having trouble sleeping can be a frustrating and debilitating experience. You sleep badly at night which leaves you feeling dead-tired in the morning and whatever energy you have quickly drains away throughout the day. But then, no matter how exhausted you feel at night, you still have trouble sleeping. And so the cycle begins again taking a serious, energy, efficiency, and ability to handle stress. Ignoring sleep problems and disorders can damage your physical health and lead to weight gain, accidents, impaired job performance, memory problems, and put a strain on your relationships. If you want to feel your best, stay healthy, and perform up to your potential, quality sleep is a necessity, not a luxury.
Even if you have struggled with sleep problems for so long that it seems normal, you can still learn to sleep better. You can start by tracking your symptoms and sleep patterns, and then making healthy changes to your daytime habits and bedtime routine.
Symptoms Sleep Disorder
- Feel irritable or sleepy during the day?
- Have difficulty staying awake when sitting still, watching television or reading?
- Fall asleep or feel very tired while driving?
- Have difficulty concentrating?
- Often get told by others that you look tired?
- Have trouble controlling your emotions?
- Feel like you have to take a nap almost every day?
- Require caffeinated beverages to keep you going?
Types of common sleep disorders and problems
PHOTO insomnia, the inability to get to sleep or sleep well at night, can be caused by stress, jet lag, a health condition, the medications you take, or even the amount of coffee you drink. Insomnia can also be caused by othersleep disorders or mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. Whatever the cause of your insomnia, improving your sleep hygiene, revising your daytime habits, and learning to relax will help cure most cases of insomnia without relying on sleep specialists or turning to prescription or over-the-counter sleeping pills.
Sleep Apnea is a common (and treatable) sleep disorder in which your breathing temporarily stops during sleep, awakening you frequently. If you have sleep Apnea you may not remember these awakenings, but you’ll likely feel exhausted during the day, irritable and depressed, or see a decrease in your productivity. Sleep Apnea is a serious and potentially life-threatening sleep disorder.
Self-help for sleep disorders
Improve your daytime habit
Regardless of your sleep problems, consistent sleep routine and improved daytime habits will translate into better sleep over the long term.Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Support your biological clock by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, including weekends.
Get regular exercise. Regular exercise can improve the symptoms of many sleep disorders and problems. Aim for 30 minutes or more of activity on most days - but not too close to bedtime.
Avoid naps. Napping during the day can make it more difficult to sleep at night. If you have to take a nap, limit it to 30 minutes before 3 p.m.
Limit caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. Stop drinking caffeinated beverages at least eight hours before bed. Like caffeine, nicotine is a stimulant, and while alcohol can make you sleepy, it interferes with the quality of your sleep and can exacerbate sleep disorder symptoms.
Avoid late meals within two hours of bed. Heavy, rich foods can take a lot of work for your stomach to digest and spicy or acidic foods can cause heartburn.
Get help with stress management. If the stress of managing work, family, or school is keeping you awake at night, learning how to handle stress in a productive way and to maintain a calm, positive outlook can help you sleep better at night.
Develop a relaxing bedtime routine
It’s not just what you do during the day that affects the quality of your sleep, but also those things you do to prepare your mind and body for sleep.
Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and cool. Use a sound machine or earplugs to hide outside noise, a fan to keep the room cool, and blackout curtains or a sleep mask to block out light.
Avoid stimulating activity and stressful situations before bedtime. This includes vigorous exercise, important discussions or arguments, or catching up on work. Instead, focus on quiet, soothing activities, such as reading or listening to soft music, while keeping lights low.
Turn off screens one hour before bedtime. The light emitted from TV, tablets, smartphones, and computers suppresses your body’s production of melatonin and can severely disrupt your sleep. Try listening to an audiobook, podcast, or reading by a soft light instead.
Go to the bathroom (several times). Waking up to go to the bathroom becomes a bigger problem as we age. But by not drinking anything an hour before sleep and going to the bathroom several times as you get ready for bed, you’ll tend to wake up less during the night.
When to call a doctor If you’ve tried a variety of self-help remedies without success, schedule an appointment with a sleep specialist or ask your family doctor for a referral to a sleep clinic, especially if:
- Your main sleep problem is daytime sleepiness and self-help hasn’t improved your symptoms.
- You or your bed partner gasps, chokes, or stops breathing during sleep.
- You sometimes fall asleep at inappropriate times, such as while talking, walking, or eating.
Provide your best doctor with as much supporting information as possible, including information from your sleep diary.
What to expect at a sleep clinic or centre
A specialist will observe your sleep patterns, brain waves, heart rate, rapid eye movements and more using monitoring devices attached to your body. While sleeping with a bunch of wires attached to you might seem difficult, most patients find they get used to it quickly.
The sleep specialist will then design a treatment program if necessary. A sleep centre can also provide you with equipment to monitor your activities (awake and asleep) at home.