Sleep Disorders

Sleep is essential for normal, healthy function. However, about 40 million people in the United States suffer from chronic sleep disorders each year, and another 20 million people suffer occasional sleep problems.

Types and Causes

There are more than 100 different sleep and wake disorders. Generally classified into four categories, sleep disorders include:

  • Trouble falling and staying asleep, such as insomnia

  • Disturbed sleep, such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome

  • Excessive sleep, such as narcolepsy

  • Trouble sticking to a regular sleep schedule, usually seen in travelers or nighttime workers


Sleep disorders are very common and can result from a number of causes, including stress, illness, diet or

medication. Other causes include genetics, night-shift work, blindness, mental illness, physical illness and

aging.


Diagnosis

As with other neurological disorders, an accurate medical history is an essential component of a sleep

disorder diagnosis. People with sleep disorders should keep a daily log of activities and sleep, including both

when going to sleep and time actually asleep. Behavior during sleep, such as snoring or frequent waking, should be reported to the doctor.


Treatment

If a cause has not been identified for a particular sleep disorder, improving sleep habits is the best way to

overcome the disorder. Follow these tips for a good night’s sleep:

  • Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends.

  • Exercise daily, but not within a few hours of going to bed.

  • Avoid caffeine, cigarettes and alcohol within several hours of bedtime.

  • Try to enjoy a relaxing bedtime ritual every night before going to sleep.

  • Try to wake up to the sun by opening curtains or shades and letting in the sunlight. Or, go outside briefly. The sun helps trigger and reset the biological clock, which is the part of the brain that indicates both sleepiness and when it is time to wake up.

  • Before going to bed, make sure that the room is not too hot or too cold.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. For further information, please consult a medical professional.

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