Everyone should be able to get a good night’s sleep on a regular basis, Pelayo says. And if you’re not, it’s important to be aware of the several sleep disorders that might be interfering with your rest.
Here are definitions of some of the more common sleep disorders and how to recognize you may have one: (17)
Insomnia Insomnia is characterized by having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Cases can be short term, such as those due to a stressful event, like a job change or jet lag; or long term, meaning the sleep trouble lasts for three months or longer, which is known as chronic insomnia. (18)
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) Obstructive sleep apnea, sometimes also referred to as just “sleep apnea,” is a disorder where someone’s airway becomes partially or completely blocked during sleep, which repeatedly wakes that person up during sleep and stops them from getting the deep, restorative sleep they need. People who are obese, have a small jaw or a large overbite, and use alcohol before bed are all at a higher risk of having sleep apnea.
Snoring and waking up not feeling rested, particularly after spending a full night asleep, are signs you might have sleep apnea and should get checked out by your doctor. Left untreated, sleep apnea can cause big problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, memory problems, and higher accident risk.
Narcolepsy Narcolepsy is a disorder of the central nervous system that causes the brain to not be able to properly regulate cycles of sleep and being awake. (19) People with the disorder can experience the sudden, sometimes uncontrollable, need to fall asleep throughout the day, as well as trouble staying asleep at night.
Syndrome (RLS) RLS is a disorder that causes uncomfortable sensations in the legs and an irresistible urge to move them. (20) Symptoms are most likely to occur when you’re sitting, resting, inactive for a while, or sleeping. The condition is categorized as a neurological sensory disorder because the symptoms come from the brain — though it is also classified as a sleep disorder. It can cause exhaustion and daytime sleepiness that affect mood, concentration, learning, and relationships.
Parasomnias A parasomnia is term used to refer to a number of disorders associated with abnormal behaviors that happen during sleep. Parasomnias include sleepwalking, sleep-related eating disorder, sleep terrors, bedwetting, sexsomnia, and others. In some cases, improving sleep habits can help treat parasomnias and in other cases treatment from a sleep medicine doctor may be needed. You should definitely seek treatment if abnormal behavior associated with sleep is causing harm to yourself or others, or if the behavior is frequent or escalating. (21)
None of these problems should be left unaddressed, Pelayo says. If you suspect you may have one of these conditions it’s important to get it checked out and treated.