We’ve all been there; lying awake, staring at the ceiling as we fret about how many hours we have until the alarm goes off, but what causes these sleepless nights? You might be surprised to hear that there are over 70 common sleeping disorders in the UK, many of which can be long-term problems for sufferers. Even worse, many sufferers suffer in silence every night, which is not at all ideal for your health as lack of sleep can seriously affect your day-to-day lives. In fact, when you consistently get a poor night’s sleep you run the risk of increased blood pressure, heart disease, feeling dumber/forgetful, suffer premature ageing and it could make you gain weight. Although most bad night’s sleeps can be cured by a better mattress or sleeping habits, there might be medical reason as to why you can’t get a good sleep at night.
The four most common sleep disorders in the UK at the moment are:
Most people have heard of insomnia, which is recognised by the symptoms of not being able to get to sleep at night, waking up during the night and waking up too early in the morning. It can occur at any age, but is particularly common in the elderly and can lead to depression. It can also be associated with people suffering from anxiety.
Treatment for insomnia can include medication, certain herbal medicines and improving your sleep routine such as avoiding caffeine, alcohol and technology before bed.
Sleep apnoea is a very serious sleeping disorder that can often be thought of as just bad snoring. However, a sleep apnoea sufferer will stop breathing for a short amount of time due to a build-up of carbon dioxide in the blood. This will cause the person to come out of deep sleep into either a lighter sleep or completely wake-up.
Common risk factors for sleep apnoea include being male, overweight, over 40, sinus problems and having a large neck. Treatment includes lifestyle changes or having to wear a medical device to improve airways.
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
Particularly common in older people, RLS disorder sufferers will feel a tingling in their legs and/or feet which can only be relieved by moving the legs. RLS is associated with an involuntary movement of the legs known as periodic leg movements in sleep (PLMS), which is distressing to sufferers and in severe cases can interrupt a person’s daily activities.
RLS can be treated through exercise, quitting smoking and by adopting a better bed routine. This can include following a strict bedtime ritual and avoiding alcohol and caffeine before bed.
Narcolepsy is a relatively rare brain disorder that causes people to fall asleep at inappropriate times and affects around 25,000 people in the UK. This is because the brain is unable to regulate the body’s sleeping and waking patterns normally, this results in the sufferer to feel very tired during the day, fall asleep suddenly without warning and sleep paralysis.
Although narcolepsy shouldn’t cause any long-term physical problems for the sufferer it is, however, embarrassing and stressful. It can impact your daily life quite significantly and can be difficult to cope with on an emotional level.
If you think you might be suffering from a sleeping disorder you should contact your local GP as quickly as possible. Although your GP won’t be able to diagnose you on the spot, they will be able to refer you to a sleep specialist.
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