Could I Have A Sleep Disorder?
Common Sleep Disorders
Sleep-Related Sleep Disorders
Most people with a sleep-related breathing disorder are the last to find out that they have one. If your partner nudges you in the night to stop your snoring or if you’re waking up still groggy after a full eight hours, it could be a sign that you’re experiencing a problem with your breathing while you sleep. Here are some of the most common sleep-related breathing disorders:
What causes it: There are two main types of insomnia: acute insomnia and chronic insomnia. Acute insomnia is usually short-lived and triggered by a specific stressor or trauma, or it can be related to a change in your normal routines, such as the birth of a new child or a shift in your regular work schedule. Chronic insomnia, on the other hand, is typically diagnosed when you have trouble sleeping for more than a month or so.
Common symptoms: Insomnia can look different from person to person. Some have trouble falling asleep, others have trouble staying asleep, while still others have the issue of waking up too early. If you consistently feel tired when you wake up, that might be a signal that you’re experiencing some form of insomnia.
Treatment options: While insomnia is inconvenient, the good news is that it’s treatable. Acute insomnia typically solves itself once your body and mind have adjusted to the disruption to your normal routines. When it comes to chronic insomnia, your sleep specialist will want to look at the possible medical conditions that could be contributing to your difficulty sleeping.
What causes it: Sleep apnea occurs when you experience short pauses in your breathing while asleep. This airflow restriction causes you to wake up, although it’s possible to experience this and not be consciously aware of it.
There are several different kinds of sleep apnea, but the most common is obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where your airway becomes blocked for short periods of time repeatedly during sleeping. Often, this is caused when tissues in the back of your throat can collapse into your airway, or when your tongue falls back towards your throat, partially obstructing your airway.
Common symptoms: Sleep apnea can happen repeatedly throughout the night, leaving you feeling drowsy or achy in the morning, even if you feel like you slept through the night and got a full night’s sleep. People with obstructive sleep apnea will often gasp or choke in their sleep.
Treatment options: Sleep apnea is linked to elevated risks for high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and depression. Due to this, it’s important that anyone who believes they may believe they have sleep apnea to schedule a sleep test to diagnose and treat it. In many cases, an oral appliance or CPAP machine are prescribed as solutions to sleep apnea. After receiving a sleep study at our facility, our sleep specialists can identify any sleep-related breathing disorders you’re experiencing and recommend safe and effective treatments tailored to you to get you back to a great night’s sleep.
What causes it: Snoring happens when you’re having to exert more effort to breathe while you’re sleeping. After you drift off, the muscles in your throat and tongue relax and can start to narrow the space for air to pass through as you breathe in. The result is loud breathing while you sleep.
Common symptoms: Snoring can look different for everyone. This could be something as minor as a slight hum or rumble, to a low whistle, to short bursts of snorts, to long, loud labored breathing.
Treatment options: Snoring can often be a sign of an underlying medical issue that’s affecting the quality of your sleep. It can also be a side effect of another sleep disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea. A sleep consultation is the fastest way to diagnosing the root cause of your snoring and how to treat it.
Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome
What causes it: Upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS) is typically defined as when you’re having to work harder to breathe while sleeping. UARS is often defined as the middle point between snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.
Common symptoms: Upper airway resistance syndrome shares the same symptoms as snoring, with the addition of affects that are felt after a night’s sleep. People suffering from UARS wake up feeling unrefreshed and experience fatigue throughout the day; they may also wake up multiple times throughout the night due to difficulty breathing.
Treatment options: Treatment for UARS involves receiving a sleep test to identify the specific underlying conditions at play. Underlying conditions such as seasonal allergies and sleeping positions putting excess strain on your respiratory systems can play a part in UARS. In other cases, it can be a sign of a more serious underlying medical condition. Oftentimes oral appliances and CPAP machines can be helpful in reducing or eliminating the symptoms altogether.
Parasomnia is a catch-all term for a sleep event that causes unusual behavior while you’re not fully conscious. If you move, talk, get up or experience frequent nightmares that feel vividly real, you’re experiencing parasomnia and all that night-time activity will leave you feeling excessively sleepy during the day. There are multiple types of parasomnias, but the most common ones are sleepwalking, sleeptalking, night terrors, sleep paralysis, and bedwetting.
What causes it: Sleepwalking can have a variety of causes, ranging from stress and anxiety, to interruptions to your normal routines, to unintended side effects of new medications. In some cases, it can also be triggered by other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea. Sleepwalking can happen at any age, but is much more common in young children who are still establishing their sleep patterns.
Common symptoms: Behavior can range from simply walking aimlessly around the room to more complex activities like routinely performing familiar household chores or frantically trying to escape from a bad dream. In most cases, the sleepwalker doesn’t remember anything from the episode, so it may take input from a partner or family member to realize that you’re getting up out of bed at night.
Treatment options: Treatments for sleepwalking vary based on the underlying cause. For some, simply re-establishing their regular routines solves the issue. For others, cutting back on liquids and stimulants before bed works, as well as eliminating background noise and keeping the bedroom at a comfortable temperature.
What causes it: Many people talk in their sleep on occasion, but sleeptalking that is frequent, loud, or emotionally charged can be a sign that something more significant is going on. Sleeptalking often happens while you’re experiencing another sleep event, such as sleepwalking or having an intense dream or nightmare.
Common symptoms: Sleeptalking usually occurs in short bursts, and can range from something as simple as moving your lips in your sleep, to muttering intelligible phrases, to speaking clearly in full sentences.
Treatment options: Most of the time, sleeptalking does not require any treatment, due to its brevity and minimal impact on your sleep schedule. However, for those that share a bed with a partner, sleeptalking can cause their sleep to be interrupted. In these cases, establishing healthy bedtime and sleep routines can often help to minimize or eliminate sleeptalking.
What causes it: Night terrors cause you to experience intense feelings of fear and panic while you’re still asleep. These episodes are different from nightmares — sleep studies show that they typically happen during non-REM sleep and with little dream activity. Children experience night terrors more commonly than adults, but in either case, they’re often linked to disrupted or inadequate sleep (such as obstructive sleep apnea), as well as underlying mental health conditions.
Common symptoms: When experiencing a night terror, a person usually becomes very agitated, experiences a significant increase in their heart rate, and sometimes even screaming or crying in distress. Once you’ve awoken from a night terror, you might feel confused or embarrassed, and sometimes it can take a while for the anxious feelings to pass.
Treatment options: As with many other parasomnias, night terrors are often treated by addressing the underlying causes. For some, that means working to reduce your stress and anxiety levels before settling in for bed to give you a more peaceful night’s sleep. If the night terrors are caused by another sleep disorder, treating that often resolves both issues. If an unresolved trauma is believed to be the root cause, seeing a therapist or counselor can be very beneficial to alleviating the night terrors.
What causes it: Sleep paralysis is a temporary loss of motor function that often occurs when you’re transitioning into or out of sleep. It’s very common to experience this a handful of times during your adult life, especially during times when your sleep routines have been disrupted.
Common symptoms: Sleep paralysis causes you to be unable to move or speak for a short amount of time (typically one to two minutes), but you’re usually alert during the episode and can clearly remember it once it’s ended. Some people describe other symptoms like feeling weighed down or experiencing anxiety; in rare cases, people experience hallucinations or intense wakeful dreams during the sleep paralysis episode.
Treatment options: Sleep paralysis is resolved by targeting whatever is causing it to occur. Sleep deprivation is a common cause of sleep paralysis, as are unexpected changes to your sleep schedule. New medications or underlying mental problems can be the cause as well, so it’s important to talk with your doctor about any possible side effects your new regimen could have on your sleep schedule. Additionally, people with narcolepsy often experience sleep paralysis that resolves once the narcolepsy has been addressed.
What causes it: Most parents of small children will have at least a few middle-of-the-night awakenings from a child who has wet the bed. Bedwetting is not always a parasomnia since it takes children several years to develop enough, physically and cognitively, to stay dry through a full night of sleep. However, if a child older than 5 years old suddenly starts wetting the bed more than once a week, it’s likely an indicator that they’re experiencing a medical condition or mental health issue that needs to be evaluated. In some cases, undiagnosed sleep apnea can be the root cause, with bedwetting resulting as a side effect.
Treatment options: Many children outgrow bedwetting as a natural part of their development. If it persists, some causes could be an inability to recognize when they have a full bladder or drink a large amount of fluids right before bedtime. Other instances of bedwetting have been solved by treating underlying hormonal imbalances, while still others have been linked to health issues such as diabetes or problems within the urinary tract.
Excessive Daytime Sleepiness/Narcolespy
What causes it: Hypersomnolence is the clinical term used to define excessive daytime sleepiness; in other words, noticeable fatigue or lack of energy even after a full night’s sleep. This feeling of constantly being tired can be a drain on your physical, mental, and emotional health if left untreated. A more acute version of excessive daytime sleepiness is narcolepsy, which is characterized by specific episodes of intense urges to sleep, often called “sleep attacks.” This occurs when the body suddenly transitions to REM sleep without the typical non-REM sleep lead up, causing you to to fall asleep seemingly out of nowhere.
Common symptoms: Many people experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness describe feeling like they just can’t pull themselves out of bed, or that they’re in a brain fog for most of the day. People with narcolepsy may find themselves nodding off mid-sentence or in the middle of an activity. Narcolepsy can also cause loss of muscle control during an episode, slurring of speech, drooping eyelids, or collapsing completely.
Treatment options: For excessive daytime sleepiness, a consult with one of our sleep specialists can help you to discover whether your chronic fatigue has any underlying causes, such as a medical condition or a lifestyle factor. Narcolepsy can be diagnosed with sleep testing and new therapeutic drugs can make a significant difference in reducing daytime episodes and nighttime sleep disturbances.
Shift Work Sleep Disorder
What causes it: When our sleep routines get disrupted, it can sometimes take time for our Circadian rhythm to recover. If your work requires you to pull shifts overnight or early in the morning, either daily or occasionally, you can experience shift work sleep disorder. When we must work during hours that are typically reserved for sleep, and vice versa, our body clock can get confused. This can be further aggravated when your sleep time has to move to hours when the daylight is bright and your body’s melatonin production is naturally slower.
Common symptoms: Shift work sleep disorder makes it difficult for you to concentrate on your tasks, even if they’re ones you know by heart. It can also result in feelings of depression or moodiness. Depending on how severe your case is, it can lead to accidents on the job if you are not able to remember or perform necessary safety practices.
Treatment options: The best treatment for shift work sleep disorder is to adjust your work schedule to normal daytime hours, but that unfortunately is not always an option. In these cases, it can be treated by maintaining your usual bedtime routines before going to sleep, even if you’re going to sleep during the day, and trying to get a consistent amount of sleep each day. Reducing loud noises, outside light, and staring at electronic screens before sleep can help you fall asleep faster and achieve more restful sleep.
Sleep-Related Movement Disorders
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
What causes it: The cause of RLS is still a relative mystery, but it is thought to be linked to an imbalance of the brain’s production of dopamine. There are some studies that have found some proof that suggests RLS can be passed down genetically, but the ultimate root cause of RLS is still unknown.
Common symptoms: RLS is typically described as a twitching, tingling, itching, aching or crawling sensation in one or both legs that creates an irresistible need to move them. Symptoms can range from uncomfortable or annoying to painful, and they usually begin after lying down at bedtime. The physical sensations make it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep and sometimes getting up to move around is the fastest way to experience some relief. This means that sufferers of RLS are usually getting much less sleep than they really need to function well during the day.
Treatment options: Getting out of bed and moving around is often a quick fix to experiencing some relief from RLS symptoms, but this can make getting back to sleep more difficult. The best thing to do if you are suffering from restless leg syndrome is to schedule a sleep consultation, as this can help inform a treatment regimen tailored for you to help you get relief from the symptoms.
Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)
What causes it: Bruxism, or teeth grinding, is so common that experts estimate up to 30% of adults and 40% of children experience it. There are many different causes of tooth grinding, from stress to medications to alcohol and nicotine use. Our sleep specialists can work with you to help identify the underlying causes of your teeth grinding habit.
Common symptoms: If you wake up with a sore face or jaw, can’t open your mouth completely, or have chronic morning headaches, you’re probably grinding your teeth at night. Tooth grinding wears down your tooth enamel, making you more prone to chipping or cracking them. It also puts additional strain on your jaw muscles, resulting in pain and tension.
Treatment options: Bruxism is easily treated with custom oral appliances that modern technology has made more comfortable and unobtrusive than ever before. Our sleep specialists will help you look at many different options that can provide you with immediate relief.
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