Everyone loves to get a good night’s rest. The whole next day seems to go better and our attitude is more positive. The problem is there are many obstacles to obtaining peaceful rest at night. Are you afraid that you may have a sleep disorder? There are plenty of them out there – let’s look at the symptoms of five of the most common conditions that keep us from being well-rested.
Let’s begin with the most common sleeping problem that we face – insomnia. At least one night this week, more than half of America won’t be able to fall asleep. That translates into a lot of snooze alarms being hit repeatedly when the insomnia sufferer finally gets some shuteye just before the initial alarm goes off.
Stress is one of the leading causes of insomnia, as people report not being able to fall asleep due to their thoughts racing. The condition is considered chronic if it lasts more than three months. Does this condition affect you? Having a regular sleep schedule may be the key to obtaining a good night’s sleep on a regular basis.
On the other end of the spectrum we have narcolepsy. Narcolepsy sufferers can get a great night’s sleep and still have sudden and unexplained bouts of drowsiness during the day. This can lead to an individual falling asleep at random times, perhaps for a few minutes, or maybe for several hours. While asleep, someone with narcolepsy may experience very vivid dreams – they may also suffer from sleep paralysis (when the body is temporarily unable to move upon waking).
One key to falling asleep is being able to get comfortable and lie still, but for those who have restless leg syndrome (RLS) this is a virtual impossibility. RLS causes leg discomfort that can only be relieved by moving the leg – it can range from a tingly feeling like electricity passing through the leg, to a creeping feeling as though something was on your leg. Even if you’ve never suffered from this condition, you can no doubt imagine how difficult those feelings would make it to get any kind of rest.
Sleep Apnea is one of the more serious sleep disorders and has been cited as a precursor to various heart conditions. Sleep apnea causes temporarily cessation of breathing while asleep, interrupting the sleep cycle by forcing said individual to gasp for air. Many patients may not even know this is occurring because they never completely awake – they simply get up in the morning without feeling rested and without knowing why.
It is estimated that as many as 20 million Americans suffer with this condition, making it second only to insomnia in occurrence. A partner is more likely to notice the condition, since the patient will snore (often loudly) and frequently gasp during their sleep. Gender and weight both seem to play some role, with overweight males suffering from the condition more frequently than other groups.
Night terrors and sleepwalking are the only sleep disorders that are more common in children than grownups. Sleepwalkers get up and move around while not fully achieving a state of wakefulness. Night terrors are far more than nightmares, and result in crippling fear, a lot of sweating, and trembling – yet you won’t remember having a night terror like you might with a nightmare. Often a sufferer is inconsolable upon awakening, but does not know the reason why they are experiencing the extreme terror.
By Eric Cohen, MD