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Sleep Disruption

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All of us experience sleep disturbances sometime or the other in our lives. It could be caused by jet lag or digestive problems, but an occasional sleep disturbance is quite different from sleep disorders caused by conditions that affect our ability to sleep well on a regular basis.


Sleep could be disrupted due to a health problem or too much stress, but sleep disruption is becoming increasingly common. More than 75% of Americans between ages 20 and 59 report to having sleeping difficulties fairly regularly.


While good sleep is absolutely necessary for optimal health, common sleep disorders include snoring, sleep apnea, insomnia, sleep deprivation, and restless legs syndrome. Sleep disruption does affect hormone levels, mood and weight.


Sleep disorder types

It is not uncommon to occasionally experience sleeping problems due to stress, hectic schedules and other work pressures. But when such issues begin to occur on a regular basis, and interfere with your daily life, then they indicate sleeping disorder.


Sleep disorder could be a symptom or result of another medical or mental health condition such as:


Sleep apnea is a condition when your breath can become very shallow or even stop during sleep. It can happen many a night in some people.


When the upper airway during shut eye become completely or partially blocked, then it is obstructive sleep apnea. While you may not sleep well, you probably will not be aware that this is happening to you. Since there is reduced flow of oxygen to vital organs, irregular heart rhythms can occur.


Central sleep apnea is disrupted breathing during sleep because of the way the brain functions.


Insomnia is sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty in falling or staying asleep.


Hypersomnia is daytime sleepiness or excessive sleepiness due to which you have trouble staying awake during the day. Hypersomnia patients can fall asleep at any time, and the danger here is, it can happen even at work or while driving.


Parasomnias are disruptive sleep disorders that occur during arousals from REM (rapid eye movements) or non REM. Such parasomnias include nightmares, night terrors, sleep walking, confusional arousals and many others. The paralysis that normally occurs during REM sleep is incomplete or absent allowing the person to ‘act out’ their dreams.


Circadian rhythm sleep disorders are disruptions in a person’s circadian rhythm or internal clock that regulates the 24-hour cycle of biological processes in animals and plants.


Non 24-hour sleep-wake disorder is a specific kind of circadian rhythm disorder that is particularly common among blind people.


Periodic limb movement disorder is characterized by rhythmic movements of the limbs during sleep.


Shift work sleep disorder is trouble sleeping because you work nights or rotating shifts.


Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder that causes overwhelming daytime drowsiness.


Restless leg syndrome is an overwhelming need to move the legs. Sometimes, this urge is accompanied by a tingling sensation in the legs.


Depending on the type of sleep disorder, you may have difficulty in falling asleep and hence are likely to be extremely tired throughout the day. Lack of sleep does impact negatively on energy, mood, concentration and overall health and wellness.


Sleep disruption symptoms

Symptoms can vary depending upon the severity of the disorder and the condition from which the disorder has stemmed. The general symptoms of sleep disruption include:


  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep

  • Daytime fatigue

  • Strong urges to take naps during the day

  • Inability or anxiety

  • Lack of concentration

  • Depression

  • Irritability

  • Weight gain

  • Impaired performance at work or school

Causes

Sleep disruption could occur due to many underlying conditions, diseases, and disorders, prominent reasons being:


Allergies and respiratory problems such as cold, allergies and upper respiratory infections can make breathing challenging at night. The inability to breathe through your nose can also cause sleeping difficulties.


Nocturia or frequent urination may disrupt sleep by causing you to wake up during nights. Frequent urination may result from hormonal imbalance and disease of the urinary tract.


Chronic or constant pain can make it difficult to fall asleep. You could even wake up after you have just fallen asleep. Arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, inflammatory bowel disease, persistent headaches and continuous lower back pain are some causes for chronic pain. Sometimes, chronic pain might be exacerbated by sleeping disorders such as fibromyalgia linked to sleeping problems.


Psychiatric factors such as stress and anxiety often have a negative impact on sleep quality and nightmares, sleep talking, or sleep walking may also disrupt your sleep.


Other factors that can cause sleep problems are:

Physical, such as ulcers

Medical, such as asthma and

Sometimes environmental factors, such as alcohol.


Short term insomnia can be caused by life stresses such as job loss or change, death of a loved one or moving or environmental factors such as light, noise or extreme temperatures.


Researchers have found a genetic basis for narcolepsy that affects the control of sleep and wakefulness.


Many medicines interfere with sleep such as antidepressants, steroids, and allergy and cold products which can induce bouts of insomnia.


And above half of the adults above the age of 65 have some sort of sleep disruption. It may be due to aging, or a result of medicines that older people commonly use.


Diagnosis

First and foremost, a physical examination is performed by the doctor to gather information about the symptoms and medical history. Diagnostic tests that can be crucial in determining the right course of treatment for sleep disorders are recommended.


  • Polysomnography, which is a study of sleep to evaluate oxygen levels, body movements and brain waves to determine how they disrupt sleep, is done.

  • Electroencephalogram, which assesses electrical activity in the brain and detects any potential problems associated with this activity, is prescribed.

  • Genetic blood testing, a blood test done to diagnose narcolepsy and other underlying health conditions that might cause sleeping disorders is performed.

Treatment

Treatments, of course, vary depending upon the underlying cause and the type of disruption. Mostly, it is a combination of medical treatments and lifestyle changes. When sleep disorder is a symptom of another medical health condition then it will go away once treatment is given for the underlying cause.


Medical treatments include:


  • Sleeping pills

  • Melatonin supplements for insomnia

  • Allergy and cold medication

  • Medications for any underlying health issues

  • Breathing device or surgery, usually for sleep apnea

  • Dental guard, usually for teeth grinding.

Lifestyle changes and adjustments can greatly improve your quality of sleep, especially when done with medical treatments. Consider,

Using including more vegetables and fish and reducing sugar intake

Exercising to reduce stress and anxiety

Creating and sticking to a regular sleeping schedule

Drinking less water before bedtime

Limiting caffeine intake, especially in the late afternoon or evening

Decreasing tobacco and alcohol use

Going to bed and waking up at the same time daily can also significantly improve your sleep quality. Though you might be tempted to sleep in on weekends, it can make it more difficult to wake up and fall asleep during the workweek.


It is imperative to undergo diagnosis and treatment right away if sleep disorder is suspected. If left untreated, the negative effects of sleep disorders can lead to further health complications which can in turn affect your performance at work, cause strain in relationships and also impair your ability to perform daily activities. And sticking to a treatment plan and regularly communicating with the doctor can eventually help find way to better sleep.


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