Unfortunately, for many people in the UK getting a good night’s sleep is not as easy as it sounds. This can be due to one of a number of sleep disorders, ranging from something as common as insomnia to rarer issues like night terrors and sleep apnea. Often these episodes of poor sleep can be mercifully short, but for some people such disorders can last for many years and have a devastating effect on their lives. Here we look at the most common sleep disorders and how you can avoid them.
Causes: Some medications, alcohol consumption or illnesses, as well as prolonged periods of poor quality sleep.
Symptoms: Walking around whilst asleep. It can sometimes be simply walking across the room or it could be more extreme and dangerous like heading down the stairs or out of the house. Some sleepwalkers even try to do everyday tasks in their sleep, like make a sandwich or brush their teeth.
Treatment: A comfortable, quiet sleeping environment coupled with a regular sleep routine is often the most effective way to avoid bouts of sleepwalking. It’s also worth cutting down on caffeine and alcohol, especially in the evenings before bed.
Causes: Certain medications, as well as drug or alcohol use. Additionally, you’re more likely to suffer insomnia if you’re stressed, depressed, anxious, or simply have a lot on your mind.
Symptoms: Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Whilst everyone struggles to sleep occasionally, insomnia is a chronic issue rather than acute. It’s usually defined as being unable to sleep properly for three months or more.
Treatment: Your doctor may recommend certain medications or cognitive behavioural therapy. You might also find a nice relaxing bath (surrounded by candles) before bed can help you unwind as can reading a book. Avoid screens though as bright light from phones, laptops and tablets is likely to make your insomnia worse.
- Restless Leg Syndrome
Causes: Sleep researchers are still not exactly sure what causes RLS, but many believe it’s hereditary. Some medications have also been shown to increase the chances of suffering with it, and it’s fairly common in pregnancy too.
Symptoms: RLS is characterised by an irresistible urge to stretch out or move your limbs and this can be your arms as well as your legs. Restless Leg Syndrome often occurs when you’re feeling particularly tired, for example late in the evening and when you’re in bed trying to sleep.
Treatment: Regular exercise can help as well as reducing your intake of alcohol and caffeine. Medication may be prescribed in severe cases.
- Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Causes: A partial or complete blockage in the throat. Snoring is very common, if pretty annoying for anyone sharing your bed. But sleep apnea is not so common and can be the sign of a more serious underlying problem which requires a visit to your doctor.
Symptoms: Drowsiness, lack of motivation, a dry throat in the morning and headaches. Sleep apnea is usually characterised by excessively loud snoring that may mean you stop breathing several times a night. Obviously this isn’t good as you can end up unintentionally starving yourself of oxygen.
Treatment: Snoring and sleep apnea are most common in people who are overweight so a healthier eating regime and steady exercise may well help. Your doctor may also recommend using a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, which helps to provide a steady stream of air and keep your throat open as you sleep.
- Bruxism (more commonly known as grinding your teeth)
Causes: This is most often caused by stress and anxiety.
Symptoms: Suffers of bruxism often have a sore jaw or a headache when they wake up. Sometimes teeth can also be ground down over time, or damaged, requiring a trip to the dentist.
Treatment: Try to relax yourself before bed and address any issues in your daily life which are causing stress. A mouth guard worn at night may also help so speak to your dentist to see if this is an option.
If any of these sound familiar and are causing you a problem, there are many different treatments out there that you may find helpful. Some of these are simple, over-the-counter remedies whilst others require a GP prescription or a visit to your dentist. One size doesn’t fit all, so it’s well worth persevering.