Sleep is the most natural thing in the world. But for over 70 million Americans, getting to sleep and staying asleep is a huge challenge thanks to a few extremely common sleep disorders. Here are a few of the most common problems that prevent Americans from getting the eight hours of sleep they need each night.
Insomnia, which is characterized by problems with falling asleep, staying asleep, and having “refreshing” sleep, affects up to 50 percent of American adults with some frequency. While many adults suffer from occasional sleeplessness, acute insomnia occurs when you spend more than three nights a week unable to get to sleep at a reasonable hour.
Bruxism, or tooth grinding, can be a response to stress in many adults and children. When we sleep, our jaws clench and grind together, creating jaw pain and often grinding down teeth to the point of misalignment.
When our brains lose a chemical called Hypocretin, we lose the ability to self-regulate sleeping and waking cycles, leading to disruptions that can cause us to fall asleep at any time, including during dangerous situations such as driving or operating machinery. This is known as narcolepsy, and it affects about 1 in 2000 people worldwide.
- Restless Leg Syndrome
For adults and children who deal with nerve problems or issues with dopamine production, a condition can occur where a person’s legs feel tight, cramped, or in pain, resulting in a need to constantly keep moving. Since the condition worsens at night, it can often interfere with a person’s ability to fall asleep.
- REM Sleep Behavior Disorder
REM, or Rapid Eye Movement, occurs when our bodies are experiencing the deepest, most restorative period of the sleep cycle. For individuals afflicted by REM Sleep Behavior Disorder, instead of going through the normal paralysis brought on by this period of deep sleep, they feel the need to physically “act out” what’s happening during their dreams. This can lead to an incomplete sleep cycle, creating restlessness and physical danger, as well as other problems resulting from the lack of reparative sleep that helps our bodies deal with trauma.
While snoring is seen as a common non-issue among deep sleepers, it’s actually a potentially harmful problem that happens when our airways are obstructed during sleep. Snoring can also lead to a more dangerous condition like sleep apnea.
- Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea occurs when our bodies are cut off from airflow during sleep for sessions of about 10 seconds at a time, causing the body to awaken abruptly and disturbing the body’s ability to go through normal sleep cycles. In addition to being a dangerous condition linked to heart disease and stroke, it also makes afflicted individuals unable to get the full amount of restorative sleep they need each night.
While many films and TV shows make fun of sleepwalkers, the actual condition is no laughing matter. Sleepwalking doesn’t just involve walking around during the deepest period of sleep. It usually involves the sleepwalker participating in unusual, potentially dangerous actions, and remembering nothing of this upon waking. If unsupervised, sleepwalkers can risk putting themselves in harm’s way each night.
- Night Terrors
For victims of trauma or PTSD, it’s not uncommon to experience highly visual and visceral nightmares so powerful that they pull you out of a deep sleep each night. Although night terrors are technically a way to process trauma, they actually get in the way of our bodies processing that trauma mentally through deep, restorative sleep by waking us up frequently.
- Sleep Hypoventilation
Like sleep apnea, sleep hypoventilation is a type of disordered breathing that occurs during sleep, leading to a dangerous increase in the blood’s carbon dioxide levels. If left untreated, the disorder can lead to a host of more serious problems.