We've always heard that a person needs a minimum of 6 - 8 hours of sleep a day. Sleep is essential for our body's survival and good health, however, its benefits are not completely understood. Mostly people sleep at night, however, people on night duties and shifts have to work after the sun sets and go to bed at sunrise. Sleep is not just a 'time out' from daily life, instead is an active state which is crucial for renewal of our physical and mental health. Getting inadequate sleep can cause accidents, affects one's health, relationships and concentration power. Not getting sleep once in a while is a common phenomenon, however, when this situation occurs on a regular basis, it is termed as sleep disorder. There are different types of sleep disorders that can occur in people.
A sleep disorder is a disturbance that affects a person's ability to fall asleep, remain sleeping or staying awake. It even leads to abnormal behavior like sleepwalking and night terrors. You may have a sleep disorder if you feel sleepy or edgy during the day, have difficulty concentrating, having a tired look all day, etc.
What's ironic about this disorder is that 90% of people who have sleep apnea, are unaware of the fact that they have it. This condition is characterized by a disruption of breathing while sleeping. Though the person chokes and gasps for air scores of times throughout the night, he or she will have no memory of gasping for breath. Mostly bed partners are the ones who happen to first identify the presence of sleep apnea. This condition needs to be treated as it can conduce to serious health issues and can also be life-threatening.
The most commonly found sleep disorder in young adults is insomnia, which is characterized by the difficulties in falling asleep. Often triggered by anxiety and depression, this condition also makes it difficult for a person to remain in a state of sleep for long periods of time, thereby giving the person poor quality sleep. Short-term insomnia can be caused by stressful situations like an illness, stress at work, school, social circle or any other harrowing events occurring in one's life. Chronic insomnia on the other hand includes sleep disturbance for at least three months.
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)
This disorder is characterized by the most irresistible urge to move the legs or arms, while lying down or rest position. This inability to keep one's extremities in place without moving is due to the uncomfortable, tingling sensation in the legs and arms. The person moves his or her leg because the movement eases the tingling sensation. However, the relief is only temporary. So why is this disorder termed sleep disorder? It's because the tingling sensation constantly irritates the person and hinders him or her from having good sleep. Another condition called periodic limb movements disorder (PLMD) bears semblance to restless leg syndrome. It involves involuntary rhythmic limb movements while sleeping or while awake.
This type of sleep disorder is characterized by unexplained drowsiness, despite adequate amounts of sleep at night. People with this neurological disorder encounter vivid dreams and sleep paralysis. Moreover, they also experience situations of sudden weakness, wherein they collapse at moments of strong emotion, known as cataplexy. People with narcolepsy fall asleep suddenly without any kind of warning. Though the exact cause of this disorder is still unknown, it is believed that people with this condition lack a brain chemical called hypocretin, whose function is sleep and wakefulness regulation. This is a dangerous condition as these people can fall asleep anytime while performing activities like driving, walking, working, etc. which makes living a normal life difficult.
Jet lag, working in shifts, bad sleeping habits, etc. can also lead to sleep disorders. Types of sleep disorders in children are sleepwalking and night terrors. Dealing with sleep disorders independently will be something like dealing with the symptoms, but ignoring the underlying malaise. Sleep disorders are indicators that there is some underlying emotional challenge that the person has encountered, which is far too overwhelming for him or her to handle. Just providing medication to get rid of the disorder will only drive away the smoke, but the cause of the smoke needs to be identified and dealt with. People with sleep disorders need to confide in trustworthy people and share their overwhelming situations. They need acceptance and love, with the help of which they can get the confidence to face life. No pit is too deep that God is not deeper still, so fear not!