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Tossing and Turning: The Impact of Sleep Disorders

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Do you have permanent eye bags under your eyes, after you joined med school? Can you not sleep however much you try? Constant exhaustion? Randomly sleeping in the middle of the day?

If these situations have been constant and have been causing a major hindrance in your life, you might be looking at something bigger than “routine problems”. Sleep disorders are illnesses that impair a person’s ability to operate normally when they are awake by affecting the quantity, timing, or quality of their sleep. These conditions can impair the quality of life and exacerbate existing medical conditions.

While we cannot give you a medical diagnosis, we can help you figure out if your condition requires medical attention.

So let’s take a look at some common sleep disorders, their symptoms and the options for treatment available.

Insomnia

Insomnia is a condition where you have trouble falling asleep. The percentage of people who have insomnia, which is a recognised medical problem, is around 10% worldwide. Jet lag, stress and anxiety, hormones, or digestive issues are some of the possible causes. Chronic insomnia is defined as having symptoms for at least three weeks in a row. The condition is regarded as acute, or short-term, insomnia based on these criteria.

Your general health and quality of life may suffer from insomnia, which may lead to:

  1. depression
  2. trouble focusing
  3. Agitation
  4. Weight gain
  5. Impact on work and academic performance

Treatment Options for chronic insomnia: 

When discussing treatment, if the insomnia is acute, you may get advised to improve your sleep hygiene, but if it’s chronic, a different and more focused intervention might be required, which includes:

  1. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
  2. Medications

Sleep Apnea

When someone’s breathing is disrupted while they are sleeping, they may have a potentially dangerous sleep condition called sleep apnea. When they are sleeping, those who have untreated sleep apnea repeatedly cease breathing.

There are two types of sleep apnea:

  1. Obstructive sleep apnea is more common and is caused by the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapsing during sleep. This causes heavy snoring, fatigue, restlessness, gasping for air etc.
  2. Central Sleep Apnea, is a condition in which your brain forgets to tell you to breathe while you sleep.

Treatment:

There are several treatments available for sleep apnea, both surgical and non surgical. The non-surgical ones include – positive air pressure devices and oral appliances.

Restless Leg Syndrome

RLS is a sleep disorder that results in an intense, frequently uncontrollable desire to move the legs. Resting, such as lying down in bed, or sitting for a long time, like while travelling or in a theatre, causes this sensation. RLS frequently manifests in the evening, making it challenging to get to sleep and remain asleep. Problems with daily sleepiness, irritability, and concentration may be related to it.

Treatment:

Common treatment options for restless leg syndrome include a combination of at-home remedies and medical processes. Some of them are listed below :

  1. Maintaining a good sleep routine
  2. Massage
  3. Pneumatic pressure therapy
  4. Foot wraps and Vibrating pads
  5. Usage of medical devices that provide external stimulation

Narcolepsy

Despite getting an adequate quantity of sleep, individuals with narcolepsy experience excessive daytime fatigue. This can result in “sleep attacks” that usually last a few minutes, where the urge to sleep becomes irresistible.

Some common symptoms of narcolepsy include:

  1. Excessive daytime sleepiness
  2. Sleep paralysis
  3. Hallucinations
  4. Disruptive nighttime sleep

Treatment:

Treatments of narcolepsy consist of a mix of behavioural and medication approaches. The goal is to reduce the symptoms and improve the quality of life of the patient since Narcolepsy is not curable.

These are only a few of the many disorders that occur related to sleep. If you or anyone you know has been exhibiting these symptoms and has been suffering, consulting the doctor should be of utmost priority. A key takeaway, about sleep disorders, is that while treating them, medications or intense interventions might be required but they cannot be fully cured or treated without making lifestyle changes.

Good sleep is directly related to exercise and nutrition. Take charge of your sleep health.

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