Sleep disorder or sleep problem can be of several types. They are known as insomnia, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Other less prevalent problems of sleep disorder include Circadian Rhythm Disorders, snoring, night terrors or nightmares etc.
Sleep disorders or problem while sleeping are a group of conditions that frequently affects and impacts the ability of a person to sleep well on a regular basis. Sleep disorders are becoming increasingly common nowadays and can be caused due to many reasons, of which health problem and over stress are common. Depending on the type of sleep disorder, people may face difficulties with the time of falling asleep and because of lack of sufficient sleep my also feel extremely tired throughout the day. The lack of sleep can, thus, have a negative impact on energy, mood, concentration, and overall health.
In most cases, sleep disorders are caused due to an underlying health problem. But, there can also be other reasons which cause sleep disorders. They are allergies and respiratory problems which make it difficult to breathe at night or while lying flat, nocturia (urinating at night), chronic pain and illness, any kind of stress, anxiety, tension etc.
The main types of sleep disorders are insomnia, sleep apnea, parasomnias, restless leg syndrome, etc. Insomnia is the inability of a person to fall asleep or to remain asleep. It can be caused due to jet lag, stress and anxiety, hormones, or digestive problems and can become very annoying and irritating to the person. It can cause depression, lack of concentration, weight gain etc. Sleep apnea is mainly characterized by pauses in breathing while sleeping. This is a very serious medical condition where the body takes in less oxygen than minimum. Thus, it causes the person to wake up during the night. Parasomnias are noted with the abnormal movements and behaviors during sleep which include sleep walking, nightmares, sleep talking, bed wetting etc. Restless leg syndrome (RLS) involves an overwhelming need to move the legs while sleeping.
Symptoms of sleep disorder can differ from person to person depending on the severity and type of this disorder. The most common symptoms of sleep disorders noted in people include difficulty either in falling or staying asleep, daytime fatigue, strong urge to take naps during the day (caused due to weakness), irritability or anxiety, lack of concentration and depression.
Treatment of sleep disorder depends on person to person on the type of disorder noted. It varies and may include better sleeping habits, medication or devices. Medical treatment for sleep disturbances require the person to intake sleeping pills, allergy or cold medication, melatonin supplements, necessary medications for any underlying health issues. For sleep apnea, patients may be provided with aiding breathing machines or surgical operations to get rid of the issue. Most important treatment method of sleep disorder is to change the life style and habits. Maintaining a healthy and routine life style can improve sleeping conditions.
The doctor will first perform a physical exam on the patient and gather information about the symptoms and medical history. They may also prescribe various tests to diagnose the exact cause of sleep disorder. One of these tests is polysomnography. It is a sleep study that evaluates the oxygen levels, body movements, and brain waves in order to know how they cause disturbances while sleeping. Another test is called the electroencephalogram where electrical activity in the brain is assessed and associated problems are noted. The third test is genetic blood testing which is used to diagnose narcolepsy and other underlying health conditions that might be causing sleeping problems.
The four foremost important methods of treating sleep disorder are use of medications, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), sleep hygiene and sleep routines, and relaxation and exercises. These are the most commonly opted methods. But each individual type of sleep disorder can be treated differently and have their own methods of treatment. Insomnia can be treated with change in the daily habits. These will include trying to sleep on time, avoiding caffeine and fast or junk foods, regular exercises etc. In cases of jet lag when the body timer changes, treatment depends on the specific type of circadian rhythm disorder. These may include adjustment of bedtimes and rise times, appropriately timed melatonin use, and bright light therapy. Patients with sleep apnea may be provided a CPAP or continuous positive airway pressure. A mask is worn while sleeping which helps to keep the airway more open for extra oxygen and thus facilitate better sleep. There are also several types of surgery available for sleep apnea. Cutting down on caffeine when facing sleep disorder due to restless leg syndrome may help. Sleep disorder may also be treated with medicated drugs. Prescription medicines that might help to solve the problem include carbidopa-levodopa (Sinemet), gabapentin enacarbil (Horizant), gabapentin (Neurontin), pramipexole (Mirapex), rotigotine (Neupro) etc.
People may face sleeping problems once in a while owing to certain causes. But, when sleeping disability becomes a habit and starts to occur on a regular basis, people should visit a doctor. Also, when lack of adequate sleep impacts daily life negatively with weakness, irritation and lack of concentration, people should seek medical help.
People with properly maintained sleep timings and who face no issues or problems while sleeping need not consult a doctor. When people get adequate sleep and feel fresh after a nap with great overall health, they become ineligible for the treatment of sleep disorders.
Sleeping pills used to soothe the nerves and make falling asleep easier can cause side effects if taken for a prolonged time. Over consumption of these medicines can indirectly harm the nerves and its functions. But, these side effects are rare and go away soon on its own if the medicine consumption is checked.
After medical treatment, patients should be careful about their life style habits and sleeping routines. They should try and maintain the healthy habits so that they do not suffer from sleep disorder again. Also, regular exercises and intake of medicines as prescribed can help people get comfortable sleep.
Sleep disorder can be treated easily and it does not take long to recover. Use of medications and other methods to control the signs and symptoms of sleep deprivation can bring results in the first week of treatment itself. People start showing improvement right from the first or second week of treatment. People who undergo operation or use machines for sleep disorder condition can also recover very soon.
The cost of sleep disorder is not very expensive. It can easily be treated with medicines and change in the life style habit. For people with insomnia and restless leg syndrome, treatment cost may range from Rs 200- Rs 800, inclusive of the consultation fees of the doctor. People with sleep apnea will require a great cost for the machines or surgical operations. Surgical operations or machine may cost around Rs 60,000- Rs 80,000.
Treatment of sleep disorders caused due to stress anxiety or work load involve no such standardized methods of treatment. These mainly include changes in the lifestyle and improvement of living conditions. Sleep disorder caused because of these can recur anytime these factors come into play. But, for cases like sleep apnea, where surgical treatment method is an option, or machines can be used, then, the treatment can become permanently effective.