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How to treat 4 common sleep disorders

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It’s normal to experience difficulty sleeping from time to time. For example, if you’re stressed at work or perhaps dealing with the loss of a loved one, you may find it difficult to let your mind and body relax. Another thing that can make it challenging for you to sleep well is traveling, due to a change in your usual sleep environment; jet lag also messes with your circadian rhythm.

Fortunately, these types of sleep issues aren’t permanent. It can pass after a few days or so, without long-lasting effects on your health. You can also buy sleep aids from an online drugstore if you’re finding it difficult to sleep, or want to improve the quality of your sleep.

However, if you’re finding it almost impossible to sleep or to stay asleep to the point that you aren’t able to function properly when awake, you may have a sleep disorder. A sleep disorder is a condition that affects one’s quality, duration, or timing of sleep. This results in sleep deprivation, which can increase your risk of developing other health problems and also degrade your daily quality of life.

There are more than 100 types of sleep disorders currently documented. Most of them can be characterized by one or more of the following: 

  • having trouble falling asleep or remaining asleep

  • having difficulty staying awake during the day or still feeling tired, even if you’ve slept enough the night before

  • having difficulty performing daytime activities

That said, here are some of the most common sleep disorders and how they’re often managed or treated:

Sleep Apnea

One of the most common sleep disorders is sleep apnea, which is a breathing disorder caused by a blockage in the upper airway. Its most common symptom is snoring.

There are two types of sleep apnea: OSA or obstructive sleep apnea and CSA or central sleep apnea. OSA is caused by a physical obstruction in the upper airway, like large tonsils or fat deposits around the neck. The latter is the reason why those who are obese are also at risk of having sleep apnea. Sometimes, a condition that affects the facial structure may also result in OSA. One of the most common examples of this is a cleft palate.

Meanwhile, CSA is caused by the brain’s inability or reduced capability to send signals to the muscles that control breathing. This is the more common sleep apnea experienced by those who have suffered a stroke or any other problems that affect the brain stem.

To treat obstructive sleep apnea, doctors usually prescribe %u200B%u200Bcontinuous positive air pressure (CPAP) therapy. This is also effective for central sleep apnea patients, although bi-level positive air pressure (BiPAP) therapy is also a viable treatment.

Insomnia

If you’re having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, you may have insomnia. Some insomnia sufferers can fall asleep easily enough, however, and the problem is that their sleep quality is poor. As such, they end up feeling fatigued when they wake up.

It’s also important to note that insomnia can occur on its own or come with an existing health condition. Like sleep apnea, there are also two kinds or categories of insomnia: acute and chronic. The former is short-term or temporary, often caused by an illness, stress, or environmental factors. The latter, on the other hand, is long-term and may even be permanent. This is caused by conditions like depression, chronic stress, or illnesses that cause body pain.

Most treatments for insomnia include creating an environment that’s conducive to sleeping, cognitive behavioral therapy, and medication. Depending on the severity of the condition, over-the-counter sleep aids may work; otherwise, your doctor may prescribe eszopiclone, ramelteon, zaleplon, or zolpidem.

Narcolepsy

People suffering from narcolepsy, a neurological disorder, experience problems with sleep regulation. During the day, they have episodes of falling asleep uncontrollably. They also experience excessive sleepiness, as well as occasional, sudden muscle weakness when they laugh or feel similarly strong emotions.

Most narcoleptics experience symptoms around the age of 16, although some signs manifest later during early adulthood. However, most cases of narcolepsy go undiagnosed because of low awareness. If you are diagnosed with this condition, you may be prescribed drugs such as stimulants, SSRIs, SNRIs, and tricyclic antidepressants. All of these help alleviate one or more symptoms of narcolepsy. 

Restless Legs Syndrome

RLS or restless leg syndrome, also called Willis-Ekbom Disease, is both a movement disorder and a sleep disorder. It can be described by uncomfortable sensations in the legs that result in uncontrollable urges to move them. Often, the symptoms occur in the afternoon or evening and get worse when at rest (e.g., sitting or lying down). This makes it difficult for those with RLS to get some sleep.

Once diagnosed with RLS, you may be prescribed any of the following medications: iron supplements; anti-seizure drugs like gabapentin, gabapentin enacarbil, or pregabalin; or benzodiazepines. Lifestyle changes, such as avoiding alcohol and tobacco, as well as moderate exercise, regularly massaging the legs, and maintaining a regular sleep schedule are also recommended.

Getting enough sleep is crucial to one’s good health. Thus, if you’re experiencing any symptoms of sleep disorders for a prolonged period, visit your doctor ASAP to get a diagnosis and treatment.


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