The Sleep Disorders Hall of Fame

Sleep apnea, insom­nia, and nar­colep­sy can have a severe impact on your life.

Whether you’re 6 days old or 60 years old, you need to sleep. While how much sleep you need changes over the course of your life (new­borns are known to sleep all day, while adults need just 7 to 9 hours of shut-eye each night), sleep remains a con­stant in your life. 

Day to day, you may face minor dis­tur­bances in your sleep, such as after a par­tic­u­lar­ly stress­ful day or dur­ing an ill­ness. But if you strug­gle with sleep every night, you might have a sleep dis­or­der. These con­di­tions can keep you from get­ting the rest you need to keep your brain and body healthy. For chil­dren and teens, sleep prob­lems can also impact their growth and development. 

If you have a sleep dis­or­der, it can be minor­ly or major­ly dis­rup­tive to your sleep. No mat­ter your lev­el of dis­com­fort, there are solu­tions. Here are some sleep dis­or­ders that have earned a posi­tion in the sleep dis­or­der hall of fame — and how to know if one of them is keep­ing you up at night. 

Can’t Fall Asleep? Might Be Insomnia. 

You count sheep, med­i­tate before bed, and cut out caf­feine, but you’re still lying for hours try­ing to fall asleep at night. Or, if you do man­age to fall asleep, you’re up sev­er­al hours ear­ly and can’t get back to sleep. To top it all off, your lack of sleep has you falling asleep at your desk or kitchen table through­out the day. 

Sound famil­iar? You might be suf­fer­ing from insom­nia, which is when you can’t fall or stay asleep. Insom­nia has earned its place in the sleep dis­or­ders hall of fame because about 10% of the world has this sleep condition. 

In addi­tion to trou­ble sleep­ing, you might have day­time effects, like fatigue, slowed reac­tion times, con­fu­sion, or mood swings. For your sleep trou­bles to be con­sid­ered insom­nia, they must: 

  • Occur at least 3 times a week 
  • For at least 3 months 
  • Not be a result of oth­er cir­cum­stances, like med­ica­tions, sub­stance use, or major life tran­si­tions, such as work sched­ule changes 
  • Not be explained by oth­er med­ical con­di­tions, med­ica­tions, or sub­stance use

Insom­nia can be caused by a num­ber of fac­tors, such as fam­i­ly his­to­ry, dif­fer­ences in brain activ­i­ty, and med­ical con­di­tions, like acid reflux and Parkinson’s disease. 

Treat­ing insom­nia can include changes to your lifestyle, med­ica­tion, men­tal health­care, or a com­bi­na­tion of all these approaches. 

Snor­ing a Lot? Might Be Sleep Apnea. 

If your part­ner has com­plained about your snor­ing, you wake up with a dry mouth, or you expe­ri­ence unex­plained day­time sleepi­ness, you might be won­der­ing what’s going on. The cul­prit could be our next sleep dis­or­der hall of fame mem­ber — sleep apnea

Earn­ing its place in the hall of fame because it affects up to 10% of the world’s pop­u­la­tion, sleep apnea is when your breath­ing stops and starts repeat­ed­ly as you sleep. 

Snor­ing, episodes of stop­ping and start­ing breath­ing, and gasp­ing for air while asleep are the main symp­toms, and they’re often report­ed by some­one who’s near you when you sleep. Oth­er symp­toms include: 

  • Headaches in the morning 
  • Trou­ble con­cen­trat­ing when awake 
  • Dif­fi­cul­ty stay­ing asleep 
  • Irri­tabil­i­ty

If these symp­toms sound famil­iar, make an appoint­ment with a Duly Sleep Med­i­cine spe­cial­ist to deter­mine if you have sleep apnea or anoth­er sleep disorder. 

Sleep apnea can affect any­one, but there are fac­tors that make you more like­ly to expe­ri­ence it, such as obe­si­ty, thick­er neck cir­cum­fer­ence, old­er age, and fam­i­ly his­to­ry of sleep apnea. 

Treat­ment for sleep apnea can include lifestyle changes (such as los­ing weight), using a con­tin­u­ous pos­i­tive air­way pres­sure (CPAP) machine, or sur­gi­cal implants

Falling Asleep Dur­ing the Day? Might Be Narcolepsy. 

Being tired after a long day is one thing, but falling asleep through­out the day with­out any warn­ing is a dif­fer­ent sto­ry. If you’ve fall­en asleep while work­ing, talk­ing with friends, dri­ving, or any oth­er sud­den cir­cum­stance, nar­colep­sy might be to blame. 

Nar­colep­sy is a sleep dis­or­der that’s earned its place in the hall of fame not because of its fre­quen­cy but because of its seri­ous­ness. While only up to 200,000 peo­ple in the US have nar­colep­sy, it can be unsafe if not man­aged. This is because nar­colep­sy caus­es extreme drowsi­ness through­out the day, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to stay awake or caus­ing you to fall asleep with­out warn­ing. If you’re dri­ving or doing some­thing else that requires your atten­tion, nar­colep­sy can be dangerous. 

Oth­er signs of nar­colep­sy include sud­den mus­cle tone loss (called cat­a­plexy), sleep paral­y­sis (when you can’t speak or move while falling asleep or when wak­ing up), and hal­lu­ci­na­tions. Some­times, peo­ple with nar­colep­sy also have oth­er sleep dis­or­ders, like sleep apnea or insomnia. 

The pre­cise cause of nar­colep­sy isn’t known. In some peo­ple, it may be relat­ed to the chem­i­cals in your brain. Genet­ics may also play a role in your like­li­hood of hav­ing narcolepsy. 

While there isn’t a cure for nar­colep­sy, lifestyle changes and med­ica­tion can help you man­age symp­toms and avoid poten­tial­ly dan­ger­ous situations. 

Get­ting Relief from Sleep Disorders 

Sleep is a crit­i­cal part of your health. It helps you recov­er from one day and pre­pare for the next. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, if you have one of these hall-of-fame sleep dis­or­ders, it can have a seri­ous impact on your day-to-day life. 

To diag­nose sleep dis­or­ders, Duly offers the mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary Sleep Cen­ter of Duly Health and Care. We use the most recent tech­nol­o­gy to iden­ti­fy and treat sleep dis­or­ders to help ease symp­toms and get you a good night’s sleep.

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  • I like to treat patients as individuals and enjoy developing longstanding relationships with them. I feel communication, patient education and an ongoing dialogue between the physician, patients and their families are key to providing good care.