Common Sleep Disorders: Diagnosis and Treatment
Sleep disorders disrupt sleep and lead to daytime sleepiness and fatigue, irritability, an inability to concentrate and poor memory. People with sleep related breathing disorders are also at much higher risk for cardiovascular conditions, obesity, hypertension and diabetes. It is, therefore, very important that the sleep disorder be diagnosed and treated so that the health risk is reduced. People with these conditions should also consider having their sleep assessed so that they can be treated for any underlying sleep disorders.
If you believe you may have a sleep disorder, consult with your physician or a sleep specialist. They will complete an assessment to determine whether you have a sleep disorder and suggest options for treatment.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
This disorder is commonly associated with snoring, but the snoring is only a problem if you are sharing a bed or a room with the snorer! What the bed partner will also notice is that the snorer will gasp, choke or stop breathing when they are sleeping. The snorer will also have high levels of daytime sleepiness.
Though we often associate these symptoms with overweight men, women, children and slender adults can all suffer with this disorder.
Less severe symptoms can be managed with lifestyle modifications like losing weight or reducing alcohol consumption, but most are treated with a device that assists with breathing.
Restless Legs Syndrome
Until recently, little attention was paid to this disorder, but we now know that many people suffer with these symptoms and there can be major effects on one’s life if one is uncomfortable sitting in one place for any length of time. Both children and adults can be affected. Treatment usually involves medication or nutritional supplementation as research suggests that this disorder may be associated with an iron deficiency.
We all know someone who can’t fall asleep, wakes after sleeping several hours or who wakes very early and cannot fall back asleep. Insomnia may be a primary condition where it exists on its own or it can be a secondary condition where it is the result of pain, trauma, stress, menopause or other conditions. Insomnia is therefore much more complex to treat and requires a number of different interventions. Most people with insomnia are usually prescribed some medication to assist with sleeping, but the preferred treatment is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This is a process that helps insomniacs learn how to sleep better. Insomniacs may also benefit from nutritional supplementation, acupuncture, yoga and meditation.
Circadian Rhythm Disorders
There are a number of disorders associated with not being able to sleep or wake at the required times. For example, shiftworkers may find it difficult to sleep in the daytime or be fully alert at night. For some shiftworkers this may be an occasional annoyance, but for others, health and well-being can be compromised. For individuals thus affected, an assessment can determne if they have Shiftwork Sleep Disorder.
Others may be affected with a disorder known as Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder. These people prefer going to sleep very early, but are also awake very early and can’t fall back asleep. This disorder is common among the elderly and can be a major source of frustration. One treatment is to use light therapy to delay the bedtime. Having sufficient exposure to daylight, either by artificial or natural means is also advantageous.
There are those at the other extreme, however, who go to sleep much later and have difficulty waking in the morning for school or work. These ‘night owls’ may be diagnosed with Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder. Those with DSPD are usually very good sleepers when they are sleeping on their preferred schedules, but when attempting to go to bed earlier or get up earlier than they would prefer, they tend to become ‘de-synchronized’ and suffer some of the common symptoms of insomnia. Adolescents have a natural predisposition to be more like night owls and this can cause major school and health problems.
The key for DSPD individuals is to pay attention to their natural body rhythms and settle on a sleep-wake schedule that best meets their physiological and work/school needs. They should also endeavor to have a consistent sleep-wake schedule with perhaps one later night or later wake time on the weekend. This is not easy and requires careful schedule management. Light therapy early in the morning may be beneficial as well.
If you think you may have a sleep disorder or want help to sleep and feel better, call Associated Sleep Services (306) 975-1114.