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Not Getting Enough Sleep? 5 Common Sleep Disorders You Could Be Suffering From

Getting enough sleep is essential for a healthy lifestyle. Our time asleep is meant to allow for our bodies to rest and rejuvenate but unfortunately for some, a good sleep can be hard to come by. Sleep disorders are classified as conditions that prevent you from getting restful sleep on a regular basis and as a result may cause problems functioning during the day. As sleep affects our mood, weight, hormone levels and general wellbeing, it is important to diagnose and treat sleep disorders so that you can give your body the break it needs. Here are some of the most common sleep disorders and what to do if you’re affected by them.


  1. Insomnia

Insomnia actually refers to a class of sleep disorders and indicates a problem getting to sleep or maintaining continuous sleep. It can refer to the loss of time you are sleeping, in terms of the number of hours, or a loss of your quality of sleep, in terms of only sleep very lightly.  Acute insomnia is the most common variety and one of the biggest problems that those who suffer from restless sleep complain about. Acute insomnia is insomnia that lasts less than three months and is usually caused by an identifiable factor such as shift-work, jet-lag, stress or as a side-effect of medication. For sufferers of acute insomnia, practicing good sleep habits can help to deal with the problem. This means trying to go to bed at the same time each night, doing something relaxing before bed and avoiding stimulants. With chronic insomnia, insomnia that lasts for longer than this, it can be harder to identify the cause but it may be a result of psychiatric conditions, such as depression or anxiety, or other medical disorders. If you suffer with insomnia for longer than six months at a time it is often recommended you participate in a sleep study in order to better understand your sleep patterns and how to treat your insomnia.


  1. Parasomnias

Parasomnias are a category of sleep disorders that involve abnormal and often undesirable behaviours, emotions, movements, perceptions or experiences that occur while falling asleep, during sleep or between different sleep cycles. Some different types of parasomnias include sleepwalking, nightmares, sleep paralysis, sleep-related eating disorder, bedwetting, REM sleep behaviour disorder, sexsomnia,and sleep aggression. Although the behaviours, though bizarre, may be complex and appear very real to others, most usually remain asleep during the event and therefore have no memory that it occurred. Some parasomnias, such as sexsomnia and REM sleep behaviours (when you act out your dreams), can be quite dangerous to other people as the sufferer may be violent, aggressive or predatory without realising. Some of these parasomnias, such as sleepwalking and bedwetting, are most likely to occur in childhood while others may be related to genetics, PTSD, medications or drug and alcohol abuse. If you frequently suffer from one or more of these parasomnias, it is important to seek help from a professional, particularly if your actions could put others at risk. Treatment may focus on creating a safer sleep space, minimising symptoms and improving sleep habits.  


  1. Sleep Bruxism

Bruxism or teeth grinding refers to the involuntary habit of clenching, gnashing or grinding your teeth together.Our teeth are not designed to be in contact all the time, in fact, they are only meant to lightly touch when we chew, bite and swallow. This means teeth grinding is a parafunctional behaviour, it serves no functional purpose.Sleep bruxism is classified as a sleep-related movement disorder and for some sufferers, teeth may be in contact during sleep bruxism for up to forty minutes during an hour. For this reason, bruxism can be very destructive to the teeth, gums, jaw and mouth. Studies about the potential causes of bruxism are fairly inconclusive, although there is some research that suggests it can be linked to stress, anxiety and the use of stimulants (like caffeine, alcohol and recreational drugs).Finding a cure to bruxism, therefore, can be difficult. However, it is important to try and prevent teeth grinding due to the severe oral problems it can cause, such as cracked teeth, joint pain in your jaw, gum swelling and infections. The best way to prevent nighttime teeth grinding is to invest in a custom-fitted mouthguard. Though this won’t necessarily stop the grinding, wearing a nightguard not only protects your teeth from damage, it also prevents you from the physical act of grinding.


  1. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

If you suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea it means that during sleep your breathing stops periodically during the night for a few seconds at a time. There is a cessation or pause of airflow that is caused from a blockage in the airway. This can be due to either the throat muscles collapsing, the tongue falling back into the airway, or from having enlarged tonsils that impede airflow. Not being able to breathe causes you to momentarily wake up and this can lead to a restless, fragmented sleep. A major risk factor for OSA is your weight - those who are overweight are far more likely to suffer from sleep apnea. Due to the lack of oxygen your body receives, OSA can have serious health implications including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and depression. Treatment may include use of an oral appliance or machine to keep your airway open, weight management, lifestyle changes or surgery.


  1. Restless Leg Syndrome (RSL)

Restless Leg Syndrome is a neurological disorder characterised by an overwhelming urge and need to move one’s legs. This can be accompanied by unpleasant or painful sensations in the legs. Symptoms are most severe at night, during periods of rest and relaxation. Although it is technically a neurological disorder, it is recognised as a sleep disorder because the constant need to move one’s legs disrupts sleep and leads to poor sleep quality and exhaustion. Causes of RSL can include iron deficiency, kidney problems, diabetes, pregnancy and some medications. Treatment can include lifestyle and behaviour changes such as exercise, massaging the legs, relaxation techniques and improving your general health.