Many of us live busy lifestyles, and there’s no sign of them slowing down. Because of this, it’s no surprise that American adults aren’t getting enough sleep.
In fact, the average adult tops out at fewer than
If you don’t get enough sleep, you may experience short-term consequences, such as irritability, daytime fatigue, and metabolic issues, as well as facing more long-term health consequences.
What if the issue is more than a lack of sleep? If you have additional symptoms, such as falling asleep during the day or a lack of muscle control, you may be dealing with disordered sleeping rather than sleep deprivation alone.
Here are seven signs you may need to see a sleep specialist to help find out.
Insomnia means that you have trouble falling asleep at night. You may also have problems staying asleep, meaning that you wake up frequently throughout the night. Some people with insomnia might also wake up earlier than needed in the morning and are unable to get back to sleep.
What can make insomnia so frustrating is that you’re likely tired and want to get some shut-eye. But for some reason, you just can’t seem to fall asleep.
Occasional insomnia can be annoying, but not being able to sleep once in a while isn’t usually a health concern. If you find yourself managing insomnia on a regular basis, it may be time to see a doctor. This could be a sign of chronic insomnia, which is a common type of sleep disorder.
Insomnia itself may be related to other underlying conditions, including:
- mood disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder
- chronic pain
- restless legs syndrome (RLS)
- sleep apnea
- gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Daytime sleepiness can sometimes be directly linked to nighttime insomnia. It can also be caused by other conditions that may interrupt your sleep cycles, such as sleep apnea and RLS.
Having excessive sleepiness during the day can make it hard to concentrate at work or school. It may also make certain tasks dangerous, such as operating heavy machinery.
Daytime fatigue can make you feel irritable. You may also engage in habits that will make it hard to fall asleep again at night, such as caffeine consumption and napping in the afternoon.
What sets EDS apart from daytime fatigue is its intensity, as well as its ability to occur no matter how much sleep you get the night before.
If you have EDS, you not only feel extremely sleepy during the day, but it can feel like a sudden “attack.” This means that you might feel alert one moment, and then ready to fall asleep the next.
EDS associated with narcolepsy can make you suddenly fall asleep during the day. These sleep attacks can occur in the middle of work or at school, and it can be a confusing experience. In between, you may have periods of alertness.
Sleep deprivation and sleep disorders may also present dangerous situations.
An increasingly common issue in the United States is called “drowsy driving,” where people who drive vehicles are either too sleepy to drive or they fall asleep behind the wheel.
It’s estimated that drowsy driving may cause up to
If you’ve had too many close calls from driving while sleepy, it may be time to assess whether a sleep disorder is to blame. Until your doctor helps you figure this out, it’s best to avoid driving or let someone else drive for you.
Regular, loud snoring at night is a common symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This is a dangerous sleep disorder that causes periodic pauses in breathing while you sleep because of constriction from soft tissues in your throat.
OSA is extremely common, affecting about
The problem is that you may not realize you have OSA unless someone tells you they hear you gasping or snorting for breath during your sleep.
Other signs of OSA can include:
- waking up in the middle of the night, feeling out of breath
- increased heart rate while you sleep, which can be determined with a heart monitor
- regular daytime fatigue
- depression and irritability
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is characterized by aches and pains in your lower legs, making it difficult to fall asleep at night. You may also have RLS during the day without realizing it since movement can help relieve symptoms.
RLS has been linked with a lack of dopamine in the brain and is sometimes connected to neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease. RLS can also make it hard to fall asleep at night. If you experience discomfort in your lower legs on a regular basis at night, see a doctor for treatment.
Narcolepsy is known for causing involuntary muscle paralysis while you’re awake. Known as cataplexy, this symptom can be the first to appear in up to
Another related symptom seen in narcolepsy is a phenomenon known as sleep paralysis. This causes an inability to move — or even speak — when you first fall asleep or wake up. You may even have mild hallucinations.
Unlike cataplexy, sleep paralysis usually lasts just a few seconds or minutes at a time.
In a country where sleeping too little is often the norm, some sleep disorders may cause you to sleep too much. The average sleep recommendations are
Sleeping more than this once in a while, such as on weekends or vacations, can mean you have sleep deprivation or are recovering from an illness.
However, sleeping for more than the recommended amount on a nightly basis could indicate a sleep disorder. Some people with secondary narcolepsy report sleeping more than
With more than
It’s important to discuss your symptoms with your doctor so you can begin treatment. Many sleep disorders can impact your overall health in the long term, increasing your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and mood disorders.