Sleep disorders explained

Often elusive, sleep disorders are complex to understand and treat. Here we explain what some of the most common and well-known sleep disorders are, their symptoms, potential causes and how people affected go about treatment.

Insomnia

One of the more common sleep disorders, symptoms of insomnia are struggling to go to sleep even though you’re tired, waking up throughout the night, lying awake at night, and being irritated or finding it hard to concentrate due to tiredness. Usually caused by stress, anxiety or depression, it can also be a result of your bedroom being too hot, cold or noisy. Sometimes there’s no obvious cause, which can make it more difficult to treat. Ensuring you have a regular sleep pattern and form good sleep habits is the best way to tackle insomnia, as treatments such as sleeping pills are only an effective short term solution.

Sleep apnoea

There are various types of sleep apnoea, namely obstructive and central sleep apnoea as well as complex sleep apnoea syndrome. Here’s the difference between them…

  • Obstructive sleep apnoea: the most common form of sleep apnoea, its caused by the throat muscles relaxing and losing your ability to breathe freely whilst you’re sleeping. This can cause someone affected to wake up briefly and may not remember doing so, but as a result, can cause excessive tiredness the following day.
  • Central sleep apnoea: less common than the former, central sleep apnoea occurs when the brain doesn’t send enough or proper signals to the muscles that control breathing whilst asleep.
  • Complex sleep apnoea syndrome: this is the least common type of sleep apnoea, and actually occurs as a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnoea.

Bruxism

Often referred to as teeth grinding, bruxism usually occurs whilst sleeping but can also occur when under stress or concentrating. Like many sleep disorders, the causes are not clear by any means, however, they have been linked to high levels of anxiety, stress or simply as a general sleep problem. In order to prevent damage to teeth, people affected by bruxism can wear a mouthguard at night.

Restless leg syndrome

People who are affected by restless leg syndrome will feel an uncomfortable feeling in their legs which can only be stopped if they move their legs. This is often referred to as a sleep problem because the sensation usually intensifies at night and can affect how the person sleeps. Unfortunately, there is no obvious explanation for restless leg syndrome, although some neurologists believe there is a link to dopamine, a hormone controlling muscle movement, and how the body handles it.

Narcolepsy

A rare condition that affects the brain’s regulation of sleep and wake patterns, narcolepsy causes a person to fall asleep uncontrollably, often at inappropriate times. A narcolepsy sufferer can have the symptoms of feeling overly tired during the day, sleep attacks, sleep paralysis and cataplexy – the temporary loss of muscle control. The exact cause of narcolepsy is unclear, however, it is often associated with the lack of hypocretin, a brain chemical that regulates wakefulness.

And there you have our blog on common sleep disorders explained. If you feel like you’re affected by any of these, it’s always best to talk to your GP or health professional about how to tackle the issue. Thank you for reading!

Chloe Baxter

Chloe Baxter

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