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.
Delayed sleep phase disorder is a condition where your biological clock is significantly delayed. As a result, you go to sleep and wake up much later than other people. This is more than just a preference for staying up late or being a night owl, but rather a disorder that makes it difficult for you to keep normal hours—to make it to morning classes, get the kids to school on time, or keep a 9-to-5 job.
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.
What to do: If you suspect you have a circadian rhythm disorder, take steps to get your body onto a regular sleep schedule. Choose a bedtime and wake-up time that work for you, and follow the same routine each day, even on weekends. This can be tough for those who have to get up early during the week but like to stay up later on weekends, but do your best to craft a compromise between your work week and weekend habits. The important thing is to avoid the trap of sleeping from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. during the week, then suddenly shifting to late nights and late mornings on the weekends. This will inevitably leave you with insomnia on Sunday night, which in turn sets you up to start the week exhausted on Monday morning.
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