Sleep Disorders and Sleeping Problems Most of us have experienced trouble sleeping at one time or another. This is normal and usually temporary, due to stress or other outside factors. But if sleep problems are a regular occurrence and interfere with your daily life, you may be suffering from a sleep disorder. Sleep disorders cause more than just sleepiness. The lack of quality sleep can have a negative impact on your energy, emotional balance, and health. If you’re experiencing sleeping problems, learn about the symptoms of common sleep disorders, what you can do to help yourself, and when to see a doctor. Sleep can often be a barometer of your overall health. In many cases, people in good health tend to sleep well, whereas those suffering from repeated sleeping problems might have an underlying medical or mental health problem, be it minor or serious. Sleeping well is essential to your physical health and emotional well-being. Unfortunately, even minimal sleep loss can take a toll on your mood, energy, efficiency, and ability to handle stress. Ignoring sleep problems and disorders can lead to poor health, accidents, impaired job performance, and relationship stress. If you want to feel your best, stay healthy, and perform up to your potential, sleep is a necessity, not a luxury. It’s not normal to feel sleepy during the day, to have problems getting to sleep at night, or to wake up feeling exhausted. But 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. Is it a sleep disorder? Do you. . . feel irritable or sleepy during the day? have difficulty staying awake when sitting still, watching television or reading? fall asleep or feel very tired while driving? have difficulty concentrating? often get told by others that you look tired? react slowly? have trouble controlling your emotions? feel like you have to take a nap almost every day? require caffeinated beverages to keep yourself going? If you answered yes to any of the previous questions, you may have a sleep disorder. Other common types of sleep disorders Sleep apnea, Restless legs syndrome, Narcolepsy Improve your sleep hygiene and daytime habits Regardless of your sleep problems, a consistent sleep routine and improved sleep habits will translate into better sleep over the long term. You can address many common sleep problems through lifestyle changes and improved sleep hygiene. For example, you may find that when you start exercising regularly and managing your stress more effectively, your sleep is much more refreshing. The key is to experiment. Use your sleep diary as a jumping off point. Try the following simple changes to your daytime and pre-bedtime routine: Keep a regular sleep schedule, going to sleep and getting up at the same time each day, including the weekends. Set aside enough time for sleep. Most people need at least seven to eight hours each night in order to feel good and be productive. Make sure your bedroom is dark, cool, and quiet. Cover electrical displays, use heavy curtains or shades to block light from windows, or try a sleep mask to shield your eyes. Turn off your TV, smartphone, iPad, and computer a few hours before your bedtime. The type of light these screens emit can stimulate your brain, suppress the production of melatonin, and interfere with your body’s internal clock. When to call a doctor about sleep disorders: If you’ve tried a variety of self-help sleep remedies without success, schedule an appointment with a sleep specialist or ask your family doctor for a referral to a sleep clinic, especially if: Your main sleep problem is daytime sleepiness and self-help hasn’t improved your symptoms. You or your bed partner gasps, chokes, or stops breathing during sleep. You sometimes fall asleep at inappropriate times, such as while talking, walking, or eating. At your appointment, be prepared with information about your sleep patterns and provide the doctor with as much supporting information as possible, including information from your sleep diary.