Sleep-wake disorders are marked by disturbances in sleep patterns. They may impact physical, mental, and emotional health. External factors can cause sleep disorders. These may include anxiety, depression, trauma, or a life transition.
General symptoms of sleep disorders include:
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Daytime fatigue
- Strong urge to take naps during the day
- Unusual breathing patterns
- Unusual or unpleasant urges to move while falling asleep
- Unusual movement or other experiences while asleep
- Unintentional changes to your sleep/wake schedule
- Irritability or anxiety
- Impaired performance at work or school
- Lack of concentration
- Weight gain
Causes of sleep problems
- Physical disturbances (for example, chronic pain from arthritis, headaches, fibromyalgia)
- Medical issues (for example, sleep apnea)
- Psychiatric disorders (for example, depression and anxiety disorders)
- Environmental issues (for example, it’s too bright, your partner snores)
- Genetics: Researchers have found a genetic basis for narcolepsy, a neurological disorder of sleep regulation that affects the control of sleep and wakefulness.
- Night shift work: People who work at night often experience sleep disorders, because they cannot sleep when they start to feel drowsy. Their activities run contrary to their biological clocks.
- Medications: Many drugs can interfere with sleep, such as certain antidepressants, blood pressure medication, and over-the-counter cold medicine.
Therapies for Sleep Disorders
- Keeping a sleep diary. Doing so can help identify harmful sleep patterns. It may pinpoint triggers of disturbed sleep.
- Sleep restriction therapy. This treatment may be especially effective for insomnia. It restricts naps and early bedtimes. This may help the person in treatment fall asleep at the right time and get quality sleep.
- Stimulus control instructions. This method examines a person’s sleep habits. It aims to uncover actions that are preventing good sleep.
- Sleep hygiene education. This is often used after sleeping patterns are analyzed. It is a form of training. People in treatment develop a list of things they should and should not do before bed. The list is tailored to their personal needs.
- Relapse prevention. Sleep conditions may recur in the future. Relapse prevention seeks to help those in treatment prepare for the potential of future sleep trouble. It helps people develop methods to address concerns before they become overwhelming.
- Phototherapy. Timed light exposure can help reset internal body clocks. It is used to treat non-24 hour sleep/wake disorder.
- Dark therapy. Restricting light in the evening can help prevent delays to the circadian clock. This is especially true for blue-green light from screens. Limiting exposure to this light before bed may help people get to sleep earlier. This therapy is often combined with light therapy. That is, exposure to bright light when one first wakes up.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). A certain type of CBT may help treat insomnia. It is called CBT-I. This form of CBT attempts to change sleep habits and sleep schedules. It works on resolving misconceptions that may cause difficulty sleeping. Keeping a sleep diary is often a large part of the process.