Although many individuals will occasionally experience difficulty falling asleep, the issue is often resolved by altering one’s nighttime ritual. However, chronic sleep disturbances unfortunately affect a large portion of the population and could be symptoms of a more serious problem. Dr. Avi Weisfogel, CEO of the International Academy of Sleep and sleep expert, weighs in on potential sleep disorders and various warning signs that you may suffer from one.
What Are Sleep Disorders?
Also known as somnipathy, sleep disorders are syndromes that disturb amount and/or quality of sleep as well as behaviors associated with sleep.
Dr. Avi Weisfogel specifies that symptoms can only be classified as a disorder if they cause persistent, significant problems in a patient’s life. Some examples of common sleep disorders are insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and narcolepsy, which Dr. Weisfogel outlines on his website.
Categories of Sleep Disorders
Although there are currently 70 recognized sleep disorders, they can be categorized into 6 groups:
- Sleep-related breathing disorders
- Central disorders of hypersomnolence
- Circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders
- Sleep-related movement disorders
How to Tell If You Have a Sleep Disorder
Below are common symptoms of people suffering from sleep disorders:
- Waking up regularly during the night
- Consistent trouble falling asleep
- Waking up tired
- Perpetual daytime fatigue despite getting enough sleep (7 to 8 hours per night)
- Difficulty concentrating during the day
- Falling asleep at inappropriate times
- Gasping or interrupted breathing while sleeping
If you notice you have some of these symptoms on a regular basis, you may have a sleeping disorder.
Tracking Your Sleep
If you think you may be suffering from a sleep disorder, the first step is to understand where your symptoms are coming from so that you are better equipped when it is time to consult an expert. Dr. Avi Weisfogel suggests keeping a sleep journal to record your statistics. Take notes every morning and write down:
- Hours you slept that night
- Quality of your sleep
During the day, be sure to note down anything that could interfere with your following night of sleep, such as:
- Prescription Drugs
- Anxiety or stressful situations
Once you have a few weeks of data, try finding patterns in your sleep journal by comparing the quality of sleep with the previous day’s activities. If you find a correlation, try cutting out activities that seem to be affecting your sleeping – for example, if you notice that your quality of sleep decreases on days you consume caffeine, try cutting out caffeine before jumping to conclusions.
Consult Your Doctor
If the problem persists, consult your doctor and bring your sleep journal with you. Your doctor may ask about any stress or lifestyle disruptions that could be causing the issue, so be ready to answer these questions.
At this point, your doctor may suggest more advanced tests to diagnose the correct disorder you may have. Dr. Avi Weisfogel advises you to seek out a specialist in sleep disorders for optimal treatment.