If you have trouble getting to sleep or sleeping through the night, if you wake up too early or have a hard time waking up at all, or if you are overly tired during the day, you may have one of the following sleep problems.
Typically, people sleep at night — thanks not only to the conventions of the 9-to-5 workday, but also to the close interaction between our natural sleep and alertness rhythms, which are driven by an internal “clock.” Circadian rhythm disorders include jet lag, adjustments to shift work, delayed sleep phase syndrome (you fall asleep and wake up too late), and advanced sleep phase syndrome (you fall asleep and wake up too early).
People who have insomnia don’t feel as if they get enough sleep at night. They may have trouble falling asleep or may wake up frequently during the night or early in the morning. Insomnia is a problem if it affects your daytime activities. Insomnia has many possible causes, including stress, anxiety, depression, poor sleep habits, circadian rhythm disorders (such as jet lag), and taking certain medications.
Many adults snore. The noise is produced when the air you inhale rattles over the relaxed tissues of the throat. Snoring can be a problem simply because of the noise it causes. It may also be a marker of a more serious sleep problem called sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea occurs when the upper airway becomes completely or partially blocked, interrupting regular breathing for short periods of time — which then wakes you up. It can cause severe daytime sleepiness. If left untreated, severe sleep apnea may be associated withhigh blood pressure and the risk of stroke and heart attack.
Narcolepsy is a brain disorder that causes excessive daytime sleepiness. There is sometimes a genetic component, but most patients have no family history of the problem. Though dramatic and uncontrolled “sleep attacks” have been the best-known feature of narcolepsy, in reality many patients do not have sleep attacks. Instead, they experience constant sleepiness during the day.
In people who have restless legs syndrome, discomfort in the legs and feet peaks during the evening and night. They feel an urge to move their legs and feet to get temporary relief, often with excessive, rhythmic, or cyclic leg movements during sleep. This can delay sleep onset and cause brief awakening during sleep. Restless legs syndromeis a common problem among middle-aged and older adults.
Insomnia may be temporary and stem from a simple cause, such as jet lag. Short-term insomnia may also be caused by an illness, a stressful event, or drinking too much coffee, for example. Manymedications have insomnia as a side effect.
Long-term insomnia may be caused by stress, depression, or anxiety. People can also become conditioned to insomnia: They associatebedtime with difficulty, expect to have trouble sleeping (and thus do), and become irritable (which can cause more insomnia). This cycle can be maintained for several years.
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