Sleep disorders affect millions of Canadians. Insomnia alone is estimated to affect one in four Canadians, or 25 percent of the population. The US Centers for Disease Control has declared a lack of sleep the next health crisis.
It’s one thing to have a restless night, but another thing entirely to lose sleep on almost a nightly basis. If you’re one of the millions of people who are having trouble getting a good night’s sleep, you might wonder if you have a sleep disorder.
What are the different kinds of sleep disorders?
Sleep disorders fall into three major categories: lack of sleep, disturbed sleep, and excessive sleep. Within each major category, there are a number of different types of sleep disorders, such as insomnia, restless leg syndrome, and sleep apnea.
1. Lack of Sleep Is the Most Common of the Different Types of Sleep Disorders
When someone says “sleep disorder,” you probably think of insomnia. That’s because it’s familiar and common. Many people suffer bouts of insomnia, particularly if they feel stressed or anxious. Over time, the problem may go away, especially after the period of stress passes.
For others, however, insomnia is chronic. They may find it difficult to go to sleep or to stay asleep when they finally do get to sleep. Chronic insomnia interrupts daily life, as people feel tired and do not perform as well. A lack of sleep affects judgment, reaction time, hand-eye coordination, memory, and more.
People may also worry about not getting enough sleep, which can perpetuate the problem. Diet, stress, emotions, and other factors can contribute to insomnia.
Short-term insomnia is best treated with proper sleep hygiene, mindfulness, and an improved bedtime routine. The majority of sleep problems can be resolved with proper habits. Physicians try not to resort to treating insomnia with sleeping pills as they are known to have negative long-term effects, but these medications are often used in more resistant cases.
2. Disturbed Sleep Comes in Many Forms
Disturbed sleep is often not one of the things people think of when they discuss types of sleep disorders. There are many things that can lead to disturbed sleep, some of which have underlying causes.
Sleep apnea occurs when the patient stops breathing during the night. This usually happens in short bouts, often a few seconds. It can happen because of a blocked windpipe or a neurological disorder.
Disruption to the REM stage of the sleep cycle is another type of sleep disorder. People with various types of REM sleep disorders may act out their dreams and injure themselves. Other people may experience too many REM cycles, leading to a reduction in the quality of their sleep.
Restless leg syndrome also results in disturbed sleep. Patients involuntarily move their arms or legs, and every movement could wake the patient.
3. Excessive Sleep Is Also a Medical Condition
Narcolepsy is probably the best-known excessive sleep condition, but many people wouldn’t name it among types of sleep disorders.
Narcolepsy occurs when a patient falls asleep uncontrollably, even when they should be awake and not feeling drowsy. Some studies suggest narcolepsy may have something to do with an abnormal sleep cycle, in which REM stage sleep happens without the other sleep stages first occurring.
Cataplexy often goes hand in hand with narcolepsy. Some patients experience sleep paralysis, while others may have hypnagogic hallucinations.
How Can You Treat Sleep Disorders?
The type of treatment you’ll be given for a sleep disorder depends on the type of disorder and the severity of your symptoms. For insomniacs, for example, proper sleep hygiene is the best treatment, but sleeping pills or a treatment like medical cannabis may be advisable.
For someone with severe sleep apnea, however, other treatments may be available. Surgery can sometimes improve sleep apnea. For milder cases, however, medical cannabis might be a recommended treatment.
If you suspect you have a sleep disorder, talk to your doctor. Treatment options are available to help you get better sleep.