If you're doing funky things in the night (perhaps a partner can vouch for this!), you might have a sleep disorder you're not totally aware of. Or, if you have difficulties falling or staying asleep, as well, there could be more to it than just having a few stressful thoughts on your mind.
The best way to diagnose a disorder is to have a partner watch you sleep or to videotape yourself. Then, bring it to a doctor for a second look. Unless treated, sleep disorders could be problematic for your health and wellbeing, over time. Here are a few sleep disorders to watch out for.
While most people think of insomnia as the inability to get to sleep, it can also be the inability to stay asleep. "There are many causes of insomnia ranging from pain, stress, anxiety, or poor sleep habits. For many people, simply adopting good sleep hygiene can have a vast improvement on insomnia," says Chris Brantner, a certified Sleep Science Coach.
In other cases, more complex treatments and even medication may prove necessary, he says, so see a doctor if you're concerned and can't find relief. "The tricky thing about insomnia is that it's often hard to determine the root, as symptoms and problems often have a cyclical relationship. For example, is stress causing the sleep disruption, or is lack of sleep causing the stress?" he says. A therapist could help you answer these questions for yourself, too.
One of the most common sleep disorders, snoring affects around 40% of men and 20% of women, he says. "Common causes include aging, weight gain, nasal issues, and more. It can also worsen with alcohol use," he says.
There are various snoring treatments you can try, ranging from nasal strips and sinus rinses to anti-snoring mouthpieces. The key is to determine the cause of snoring and then find the treatment that matches, he explains.
Many, but not all, snorers deal with sleep apnea, he says. "Basically, it's the inability to breathe freely while sleeping, which causes gasping and repeated arousals during the night, which lead to sleep disruption and exhaustion," he explains.
While most people who have sleep apnea also snore, it doesn't necessarily mean you have sleep apnea if you're a snorer, he says. Common treatments include weight loss, cutting down on alcohol intake, and CPAP machines.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless legs syndrome is a condition involving uncomfortable feelings in the legs that only stops with leg movement, he says. The condition tends to be worse at bedtime and in the early morning hours.
"Doctors aren't completely sure what causes it, but they have identified various triggers. For example, getting out of a normal sleep/wake schedule can increase the odds of restless legs syndrome," he says. To treat the condition, start with implementing a good bedtime routine. Some think it can be linked to low iron levels, as well, so you might want to try iron supplements, after getting an OK from your doctor.
If you are clenching or grinding your teeth in the night, you might have bruxism. "While it's not solely a sleep disorder, sleeping is one of the most common times to experience bruxism - and a time where you can't consciously avoid it. This can lead to TMJ, receding gums, and other oral issues," he says. Yikes.
A few symptoms to look out for include jaw pain in the mornings, receding gums, and damaged teeth, he says. The easiest way to treat it is to get a custom mouthguard to use while you sleep, which can stop you from grinding.