If you consistently feel fatigued despite your best efforts to prioritize sleep, it may be time to examine your nighttime routines in great detail. Do you simply need to get more sleep, or might there be something more serious going on? According to Cleveland Clinic, nearly 70 million Americans are thought to be affected by one of the many serious disorders that interfere with regular sleep patterns.
Types of sleep disorders
Although there are more than 80 different types of sleep disorders, these are the main ones:
- Sleep Apnea
- Restless Leg Syndrome
The most prevalent and simple to recognize is insomnia, which is characterized by the inability to get to sleep or stay asleep, according to Raj Dasgupta, M.D., a doctor at USC’s division of pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine. So if you have insomnia, you probably already know it. According to the Mayo Clinic, many adults go through short-term insomnia (lasting for days or weeks) at some point in their lives, which is typically brought on by stress or a traumatic experience. You should think about consulting a doctor if sleeplessness is making it difficult for you to function during the day.
The other three diseases have distinctive symptoms, although they are more difficult to identify. Hence, we arrive at…
Could you have a sleep disorder?
To find out if you’ve ever had symptoms of narcolepsy, sleep apnea, or restless leg syndrome, complete the interactive questions below.
The information that follows is not meant to be used as a diagnostic tool. However, it could make it easier to discuss your issues with your doctor.
If you can identify with a majority of these situations, you may be experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness, one of the “big five” symptoms of narcolepsy, according to the Adult Narcolepsy Symptom Screener developed by Dr. Dasgupta. The last four symptoms consist of:
- Poor sleep during the night
- Cataplexy (sudden, uncontrollable muscle weakness or paralysis while awake, triggered by strong emotion such as excitement or anger)
- Sleep paralysis (temporarily being unable to move or speak while falling asleep or waking up)
- Visual hallucinations while falling asleep
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke describes narcolepsy as a neurological condition that prevents the brain from effectively controlling the body’s sleep-wake cycles. High levels of daytime sleepiness are a symptom of the illness, and those who have it may unintentionally nod off while doing something like chatting or driving. Weakness or lack of muscle control, as well as sleep paralysis—the inability to move or talk even when partially awake—can also occasionally happen.
Obstructive sleep apnea
According to Cleveland Clinic, at least three yes answers to the aforementioned questions indicate a high risk of obstructive sleep apnea. According to Dr. Dasgupta, the disorder affects almost 30 million Americans, making it the most prevalent form of sleep apnea. It happens when the soft tissue in the throat’s back relaxes and obstructs the flow of air.
People who have sleep apnea experience brief interruptions in their breathing while they are asleep, which partially awakens them as they struggle to breathe. The majority of these episodes last 10 seconds or longer and occur all through the night.
Restless leg syndrome (RLS)
The symptoms of restless leg syndrome are exactly what they sound like: those who have it frequently have an intense urge to move their legs, usually at night. RLS technically isn’t a sleep disorder because the symptoms happen while you’re awake, but Dr. Dasgupta and other sleep doctors classify it as one because it can cause insomnia and consequent daytime sleepiness.
When to talk to a doctor about sleep issues?
Consider how you conduct yourself during the day. You should be concerned about what happens at night, Dr. Dasgupta says, “when [daytime sleepiness] affects your job, school day, relationships, or social interactions.”
According to him, having poor sleep quality has an impact on every part of your body, so it’s critical to prioritize getting enough restful sleep at night. Generally speaking, sleep difficulties can result in memory loss, bad judgment, mistakes at work, and injury.
Consult your doctor if you think you might be showing signs of a sleep disorder.