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 syndrome is a common problem among middle-aged and older adults.
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.
Another systematic review noted 7-16% of young adults suffer from delayed sleep phase disorder. This disorder reaches peak prevalence when people are in their 20s. Between 20 and 26% of adolescents report a sleep onset latency of >30 minutes. Also, 7-36% have difficulty initiating sleep. Asian teens tend to have a higher prevalence of all of these adverse sleep outcomes than their North American and European counterparts.
A systematic review found that traumatic childhood experiences (such as family conflict or sexual trauma) significantly increases the risk for a number of sleep disorders in adulthood, including sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and insomnia. It is currently unclear whether or not moderate alcohol consumption increases the risk of obstructive sleep apnea.
What to do: This condition requires evaluation by an otolaryngologist, who can look at your nose, mouth, and throat to see what's interrupting your breathing and how to repair that process. You'll also need a sleep test in which your oxygen levels are measured. Often, the first treatment doctors will recommend is a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device, a specially designed nasal mask that blows air directly into your airways. Studies have shown CPAP masks to be extremely effective in treating sleep apnea. However, many people don't like wearing them -- and, of course, it doesn't work if you don't wear it.
Women often experience sleepless nights and daytime fatigue in the first and third trimesters of their pregnancy. During the first trimester, frequent trips to the bathroom and morning sickness may disrupt sleep. Later in pregnancy, vivid dreams and physical discomfort may prevent deep sleep. After delivery, the new baby's care or the mother's postpartum depression may interrupt sleep.
Narcolepsy is characterized by “sleep attacks” that occur during the day. This means that you will suddenly feel extremely tired and fall asleep without warning. The disorder can also cause sleep paralysis, which may make you physically unable to move right after waking up. Although narcolepsy may occur on its own, it is also associated with certain neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis.
Even if you’ve struggled with sleep problems for so long that it seems normal, you can still learn to sleep better. You can start by tracking your symptoms and sleep patterns, and then making healthy changes to your daytime habits and bedtime routine. If self-help doesn’t do the trick, you can turn to sleep specialists who are trained in sleep medicine. Together, you can identify the underlying causes of your sleeping problem and find ways to improve your sleep and quality of life.
Keep a pen and paper next to your bed. If you're often kept awake by racing thoughts and worries and you tend to make to-do lists in your head, keep a pen or pencil and a small pad of paper handy and write them down. As you put each item down on paper, imagine yourself setting aside that concern. (Again, use a book light; don't turn on the overhead or a bright bedside light to write.)