It’s daytime and if you’re too tired to read this or do anything else, pay careful attention to your sleep, or to the lack of it. You may be suffering from a sleep disorder.
Types of sleep disorders and symptoms
- Insomnia – inability to sleep at the desired time.
- Circadian rhythm disorder – a family of sleep disorders affecting, among other things, the timing of sleep. It can be caused by shift work or jet lag, among other causes. Some of the symptoms include difficulty in falling or staying asleep, depression, insomnia, fatigue or fluctuations in energy and moods.
- Hypersomnia – sleeping too much, which can be due to poor sleep at night, or caused by another condition called narcolepsy, which is a neurological condition.
- Sleep apnoea – pauses in breathing during sleep. Two of the most common symptoms are loud snoring and excessive daytime tiredness.
Causes of sleep disorders
Sleep disorders may be caused by biological, psychological or environmental factors.
- Biological factors include hormonal changes and medical conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, back problems and neck problems. Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease are also a potential cause for sleep disorders. Taking too much alcohol or caffeinated drinks can also lead to overstimulation or excessive brain activity and hence difficulty in falling asleep.
- Psychological or mental health problems which can contribute to sleep disorders include depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Very often, life events such as work stress, relationship problems and financial worries can lead to negative thoughts and excessive anxiety, causing one to have difficulty in falling asleep.
- The physical environment plays a big part in determining whether we are able to get a good night’s rest. Environmental factors such as distraction from too much light, and can cause a person to have a difficult time falling asleep. Room temperature that is too hot or too cold, or a mattress or pillow that is too hard or too soft, can disrupt sleep and cause one to feel tired and irritable the next day.
Seeking medical intervention for sleep disorders
Sleep disorders can be very disruptive to a person’s life and work as he or she may feel tired and is unable to concentrate during the day. It is especially unsafe if one is driving or operating machinery.
For those suffering from conditions like obstructive sleep apnoea, specific therapy may include positive airway pressure therapy (pressurised air delivered via a mask) or upper airway surgery.
If a sleep problem causes you distress or impairs your level of functioning in the daytime, seek help early. Appropriate treatment can improve your quality of life and prevent the problem from worsening.
Everyday tips towards sound sleep
1) Have regular bedtimes and wake times and avoid late nights to have sufficient sleep every day.
2) Try to relax at least one hour before sleeping and avoid mentally stimulating tasks, or drinking alcohol and caffeine before bedtime.
3) Create a dark, cool and quiet conducive environment to have sound sleep.
4) Exercise regularly and have nutritious meals to enhance restful sleep.