3 Most Common Sleep Disorders – Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention

Sleep Disorders
3 Most Common Sleep Disorders – Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention
“Sleep disorder” is an umbrella term for medical conditions that disrupt your sleep. (1)
While they occur at night, sleep disorders also affect your ability to overcome life’s daily challenges.
In fact, they may even be a contributing factor to other health issues, both physical and mental.
Sleep disorders are characterized by the following:
  • Difficulty in staying or falling asleep
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Imbalances in your circadian rhythm
  • Unusual behavior which makes a healthy sleep schedule impossible
In this article, we cover the three most common sleep disorders: insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome.
We’ll take a look at their causes, symptoms, and how to prevent them altogether.
Let’s get to it!

1. Insomnia: King of Sleep Disorders

Insomnia is a very common sleep disorder that makes it difficult to stay and fall asleep. (2)
While insomniacs may even sleep the recommended 7-8 hours, they simply won’t feel fresh the next morning.
People who suffer from insomnia are usually very unhappy with their sleep.
While the issue occurs at night, the real price is paid the following day.
Insomnia has an impact on your concentration, mood, and energy levels. 
Plus, it also takes a heavy toll on your overall health and quality of life.

Causes of Insomnia

There are two types of insomnia: acute and chronic. (3)
While acute insomnia is typically caused by unusual life circumstances, chronic insomnia is linked to pre-existing medical conditions.

Causes of acute insomnia

  • Stress
  • Emotional or physical discomfort
  • Illness and medication
  • Environmental factors
  • Interference in regular sleep schedule

Causes of chronic insomnia

  • Mental problems 
  • Emotional distress
  • Pain or discomfort

Symptoms of Insomnia

  • Sleepiness during the day
  • General tiredness
  • Irritability
  • Impulsive or aggressive moods
  • Problems in falling asleep
  • Waking up often during the night
  • Wake up earlier than usual
  • Problems concentrating and remembering

Insomnia Prevention

The only really effective prevention method is maintaining good sleep hygiene. (4)
Here are a few things you can add to your sleep routine to prevent insomnia:
  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule
  • Exercise regularly
  • Make sure none of your medications cause insomnia
  • Keep your naps short (under 20-30 minutes)
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine
  • Don’t eat large meals or drink too much before bedtime
  • Create a relaxing bedroom environment
  • Find a bedtime ritual that works for you, such as a bath, meditation, music, etc.

2. Sleep Apnea: The Ultimate Sleep Disruptor

Another very prominent sleep disorder is sleep apnea. This sleep disorder becomes more common as people age. (5)
In fact, it is one of the most common sleep disorders in the United States. (6)
This condition causes momentary pauses in your breathing as you sleep, which ultimately makes you wake up multiple times throughout the night.
As a consequence, sleep apnea is often found to be a root cause of insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Causes of Sleep Apnea

There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed sleep apnea. (7)
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is characterized by airways being blocked, causing temporary breaks in people’s breathing.
Central sleep apnea (CSA) comes from an issue between the brain’s messages and your muscles which control your breathing.
Mixed sleep apnea is a combination of both OSA and CSA.
Here’s a list of possible causes of sleep apnea:
  • Unique physical features, especially the nose or throat
  • Obesity
  • Medications and other drugs
  • Genetics
  • Smoking
  • Sleeping on your back
  • Congestion in your nose
  • Hormonal issues

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

  • Pauses or breaks in your breathing rhythm
  • Headaches in the morning
  • Extreme sleepiness during the day
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulties in concentrating
  • Snoring
  • Dry mouth or even sore throat in the morning

Sleep Apnea Prevention

Here’s a list of things you can do to prevent sleep apnea:
  • Stop consuming alcohol altogether
  • Refrain from using any type of sleep medicines
  • Quit smoking if you are a smoker
  • Lose weight if you are overweight
  • Stop sleeping on your back

3. Restless Leg Syndrome: A Truly Uncomfortable Feeling

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) causes a type of leg discomfort that makes you want to move around… really, really bad! (8)
Do you know the test where doctors hit you gently on the knee with a small hammer? That’s what many people say it feels like.
It is often described as an unpleasant, tingling, and creepy feeling.
This feeling gets worse during the evening, making it difficult to stay and fall asleep. 
Worst of all, it can cause excessive daytime sleepiness.

Causes of Restless Leg Syndrome

RLS is largely caused by genetics. 
In fact, roughly 92% of people suffering from RLS have a first-degree relative who has it too.
Several medical issues are closely linked to RLS, including:
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Iron deficiency
  • Depression
  • Uremia
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Dialysis
  • Pregnancy
  • Certain medications, including a number of antidepressants

Symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome

  • Discomfort in your arms and legs
  • Recurrent urge to move your arms and legs
  • Low sleep quality
  • Difficulty in falling asleep
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Mood swings
  • Low mental performance

Restless Leg Syndrome Prevention

As it is a genetic disorder, there’s not much you can do to prevent Restless Leg Syndrome.
However, regular exercise can be a big help with managing symptoms. The more you move during the day, the less likely you’ll be to feel restless at night. 
On the flip side, stay away from caffeine and nicotine as much as possible. 
Nothing is worse than the combo of cigarettes, a caffeine crash, and lack of exercise!
Alternatively, soaking your legs and feet in a warm Epsom salt bath may help control some symptoms.

Sleep Disorders: Prevention Is Better Than Cure

Although some conditions, like RLS, are due to genetics, adopting a healthier lifestyle should still give you a better chance at a good night’s sleep. 
The four basic things you can do are:
  • Sleep at least 6-9 hours a day (everyone’s different)
  • Have a consistent sleep routine
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Add mindfulness techniques into your daily routine
Make lifestyle changes in small steps instead of trying to do it all at once. 
For sleep, start by picking a bedtime and sticking to it for a week straight. Then you can gradually add in habits like meditation, exercise, and eating habits like ditching sugar. 
Of course, it’s never a bad idea to consult a medical professional.
If you have any more questions about common sleep disorders, feel free to contact us at Complete Care Health Centers. 
We’re happy to answer any questions you may have.
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