Sleep Disorders:

conditions that affect sleep quality, timing, or duration and impact a person’s ability to properly function while they are awake.

If you've ever crammed for a test, had a baby, or taken a red eye flight, you've felt how important sleep is. Sure, you were physically tired, maybe to the point of feeling like you're dragging, but you probably also noticed it was harder to think and regulate your emotions.

When you sleep, it's not just your body that gets to recover. Your brain also recovers. It integrates the new data it collected during the day, filtering out what's important and what's not. Nerve cells reorganize, which improves your body's internal communication. The amygdala, hippocampus, striatum, insula, and medial prefrontal cortex – areas that regulate emotion – work overtime to ensure you don't ruin your relationships, lose your job, or get in fights with strangers because you snap at everyone you encounter.

More than a third of adults in the United States do not get the sleep they need. Disordered sleep increases your risk of accidents and can lead to other health problems, such as high blood pressure, weight gain, and insulin resistance. It can also exacerbate mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression, and in some cases, like bipolar disorder or postpartum depression, trigger psychosis.

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What causes sleep disorders?

Sleep disorders are often caused by underlying health problems, such as allergies, frequent nighttime urination, chronic pain, respiratory issues, and stress. If you experience nightmares, sleep talking, or sleep walking, your sleep could also suffer. Lifestyle factors like drugs and alcohol use or rotating work shifts can also precipitate sleep disorders. It can be difficult to identify a single cause of sleep disorders, as many conditions and diseases have a cumulative effect on sleep.

What are the types of sleep disorders?

Research has identified more than 100 types of sleep disorders categorized depending on causes, symptoms, and effects. The most common sleep disorders are insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, parasomnias, and narcolepsy. Excessive sleepiness is also considered a sleep disorder, usually related to chronic sleep deprivation.

What are symptoms of a sleep disorder?

Symptoms for sleep disorders can vary, as they depend on the type and severity of the disorder. However, most sleep disorders have at least one of the following characteristics:

  • trouble falling or remaining asleep
  • difficulty staying awake during the day
  • circadian rhythm imbalances that disturb normal sleep schedules

For some people, it's the concern from a loved one that signals a symptom of sleep disorders. Maybe a concerned spouse notes periods of apnea or excessive movement during the night. Maybe a family member hears someone wandering through the house or talking, only to discover a sleep disorder in real time. Symptoms may not be blatantly obvious, so even subtle ones shouldn't be ignored.

How are sleep disorders treated?

Treating sleep disorders depends on the type of disorder it is. Since underlying causes are big contributors to sleep issues, it's important to address those first. Medications such as sleeping pills or melatonin, dental guards, and breathing devices may be necessary to improve sleep health. In addition, lifestyle changes that reduce stress, incorporate healthy foods, limit caffeine, and honor regular sleep schedules can be of great benefit. Therapy can be helpful when it comes to making these types of lifestyle changes.

Sleep disorders can take a while to develop, and they can also take a while to treat. It's easy to get frustrated when you can't get the sleep you need, but with the help of a bonmente mental health professional, a good night's sleep is closer than you think.