Maybe that 5th cup of coffee is a sign of a bigger problem?

Let’s face it, most of us will commonly hit an afternoon slump where coffee or some tasty caffeinated beverage helps get us over the hump.  And, there are times in our lives where we constantly feel tired due to working late nights, caring for a newborn, cramming for finals or a multitude of other activities. BUT, if you are noticing more times than not, your overwhelming feeling of tiredness is not going away, or you have abnormal sleep patterns or consistently lack sleep, you might be dealing with a sleep disorder.

The CDC estimates that more than 1/3rd American adults don’t get the sleep they need.

What are the warning signs of a sleep disorder?

  • Constant fatigue and irritability, even after getting 7 – 8 hours of sleep a night
  • Difficulty concentrating throughout the day
  • Drinking caffeine (or taking other stimulants) to keep you awake during the day
  • Taking more than 30 minutes to fall asleep regularly
  • Waking up multiple times in the middle of the night with difficulty falling back to sleep
  • Loud snoring, breathing or gasping noises while you sleep
  • Frequent napping
  • Falling asleep at inappropriate times
  • Waking up unusually early
  • Experiencing an irresistible urge to move your legs or a tingling or crawling feeling in the legs, around bedtime

What should I do if I think I have a sleep disorder?

If you can identify with some or many of the items listed above, start journaling and becoming aware of your experiences.  Keep a log of everything you are going through and then schedule an appointment to see your doctor.  The more you can arm yourself with information, the better your doctor can work with you to diagnose your problem.  Depending on your situation, a sleep study might also be necessary.  These studies are done through sleep labs which observe your heart, brain and breathing functions during sleep.  They can help determine if you are suffering from a sleep disorder.

A staggering 40 million people are estimated to suffer from some sort of long-term sleep disorder as reported by the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

What are the most common sleep disorders?

Believe it or not, but there are over 70 different sleep disorders!  Luckily, they are grouped into three categories: lack of sleep, disturbed sleep, and excessive sleep.  The most common disorders are:

  • Insomnia – difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, waking early, fatigue
  • Sleep Apnea – breathing is interrupted and temporarily stops during sleep; heavy snoring can be a sign of this
  • Restless Leg Syndrome – Occurs during resting periods like sleep or sitting for a long period of time with lack of movement; legs have irresistible urge to move, can be accompanied by tingling
  • Narcolepsy – Uncontrollable episodes of falling asleep during the day and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Suffering from a sleep disorder can really put your health at risk.  Being well rested helps support your body’s ability to fight sickness, promote healthy cell growth, think clearly, physically function effectively and overall alertness.  It is important to not ignore your tiredness.  Untreated sleep disorders can lead to more serious health issues like high blood pressure, depression, stroke, and heart attacks.

Remember, knowledge is power and for most sleep disorders, they can be easily managed once they are properly diagnosed.