Warning Signs of a Sleep Disorder

Written by the Healthline Editorial Team | Published on September 8, 2014
Medically Reviewed by Brenda B. Spriggs, MD, MPH, MBA on September 8, 2014

Could You Have a Sleep Disorder?

Most people have trouble falling asleep at some point in their lives. But chronic sleep problems and ongoing daytime fatigue could point to a more serious sleep disorder.

The first step to understanding the source of your sleep problems is to start a sleep journal. Every day, record how many hours you slept the night before, the quality of the sleep, and any other factors that could have affected your sleep. This may include alcohol and caffeine consumption, exercise, and naps. Also, record how you felt in the morning after awaking and throughout the day.

After a few weeks, examine your sleep journal closely for any behavior patterns. The journal should reveal any habits that could be interfering with your sleep. You can then make  adjustments and cut out any activity that might have interfered with a sound night’s sleep.  If you improve your sleep and are still experiencing sleep problems, check your journal for the following warning signs and talk to your doctor.

Types of Sleep Disorders

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sleep-related difficulties or sleep disorders affect many people. Talk to your doctor if you think you may be suffering from a sleep disorder.

Insomnia

This is defined as an inability to fall asleep or stay asleep that results in functional impairment throughout the following day.

Narcolepsy

This is excessive daytime sleepiness combined with sudden muscle weakness. Episodes of narcolepsy are sometimes called “sleep attacks” and can occur at any time and in unusual circumstances.

Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is an unpleasant creeping sensation that can cause aches and pains in the legs that make it difficult to fall asleep.

Sleep Apnea

This is defined as interrupted sleep caused by periodic gasping or snorting noises, or the momentary suspension of breathing.

Sleep Disorder Warning Signs

The following may be warning signs of a sleep disorder. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns:

  • Consistently taking more than 30 minutes to fall asleep.
  • Perpetual fatigue and irritability during the day, even after getting seven or eight hours of sleep a night.
  • Waking up several times in the middle of the night and remaining awake, sometimes for hours.
  • Frequent and long naps during the day.
  • Difficulty concentrating at work or school.
  • Falling asleep at inappropriate times, mostly when sitting still while watching television or reading.
  • Waking up too early in the morning.
  • Loud snoring, breathing, or gasping noises while you sleep.
  • An irresistible urge to move your legs, or a tingling or crawling feeling in the legs, particularly at bedtime.
  • Requiring a stimulant such as caffeine to keep you awake during the day.
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