Sleep disorders are a common issue in America, leading to millions of restless nights and tired days. As people who care deeply about the quality of sleep, the Bearaby team wanted to take a closer look at some of the top sleep disorders that are wreaking havoc on our quality of life.
From insomnia to narcolepsy, we’ve got the run-down on the five most common sleep disorders and the natural strategies that can help you reclaim your sleep.
Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder, affecting up to 1 in 3 people every night. Insomnia is regularly having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep through the night.
Symptoms of Insomnia
While it’s normal to experience trouble sleeping once in a while, people who suffer from insomnia have trouble falling asleep several times a week or even daily. Insomnia can be experienced in different ways. Some people may have trouble falling asleep in the first place, lying in bed for an hour or more before finally drifting off.
Others may fall asleep easy but wake frequently in the night and fail to go back to sleep. Those who suffer from insomnia are often tired throughout the day and experience brain fog, confusion, low productivity, depression, and increased stress.
Causes of Insomnia
The causes of insomnia can vary widely. Lifestyle factors like medications, caffeine and alcohol use, smoking, and diet all play a part. Other health conditions such as chronic pain or illness can also make it difficult to rest at night.
Mental and emotional stressors, depression, and grief are also major culprits that can cause or worsen insomnia. Anxiety is a common cause of sleepless nights, often made worse by worrying about getting enough sleep!
Natural Ways to Overcome Insomnia
Over time, insomnia can wreak havoc on your physical and mental health, so finding solutions that help you get the sleep you deserve is key. Sleep aids can be addictive and are not a long-term treatment option, so let’s look at some natural ways we can improve insomnia.
- Create a sleep schedule and stick to it.
- Limit electronics up to 2 hours before bed for chronic insomnia.
- Sleep with a cooling weighted blanket. The magic of deep touch pressure places the right amount of pressure on your body to bring on relaxing, sleep-inducing hormones that will lull you off to dreamland.
- Exercise in the morning to fight daytime fatigue and encourage nighttime tiredness.
- Use yoga, meditation, or holistic therapies to address your insomnia.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless Leg Syndrome is a frustrating and often agonizing sleep disorder, and we’ve written about it before because it causes so many people discomfort and distress around bedtime. RLS causes an uncomfortable sensation and uncontrollable urge to move the legs to relieve it. It most commonly shows up at night and while laying down, making bedtime the witching hour for RLS.
Symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome
RLS causes restless movement of the legs and feet while lying in bed or after being still for a while (such as while driving or flying). The sensations in the legs can be described as crawling, pulling, throbbing, itching, aching, crawling, tingling, and more.
Movement of the legs will help to relieve the sensations, but only temporarily. Those with RLS may also experience movement or twitching/kicking of the legs during sleep.
Causes of Restless Leg Syndrome
There is no one known cause for RLS, but doctors believe this sleep disorder may be tied to imbalances in the brain’s dopamine levels. RLS can be a hereditary condition, transferring through a specific gene. RLS can also be developed during pregnancy, but in most cases disappear after delivery. In general, however, researchers are unsure of the causes or risk factors for developing RLS.
Natural Ways to Overcome Restless Leg Syndrome
Although we don’t always know the cause for RLS, we do have solutions for overcoming this frustrating condition. Often, simple lifestyle changes and preventative measures can be enough to reduce RLS and welcome in a peaceful, still sleep.
- Talk to your doctor about vitamins and supplements to combat RLS. Iron, folic acid, magnesium, and B12 have been found to help reduce the symptoms of RLS.
- Try natural therapies like massage and acupuncture. Massaging the calves before bed can reduce sensations and twitching. Use a weighted blanket for restless legs (rls) to benefit from deep touch pressure therapy and fall asleep easier. Deep Touch Pressure therapy, which happens when you place evenly-distributed weight over your body, triggers pressure points that help in the production of some key relaxation and sleep hormones.
- Reduce stress with exercise, meditation, and yoga to reduce symptoms of RLS.
Sleep apnea is a common and sometimes dangerous sleep disorder that affects between 3-7% of Americans. While some people may think sleep apnea is simple snoring, it’s actually a more complex condition in which breathing stops and starts through the night.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Snoring is the most notable symptom of sleep apnea, as are episodes of non-breathing and gasping for air. Many people who have sleep apnea are unaware of their nighttime breathing habits. Signs you may have sleep apnea include a dry mouth, excessive fatigue despite getting enough hours of sleep, morning headaches, and difficulty focusing during the day. These are all due to the lack of oxygen to the brain and poor-quality sleep during the night.
Causes of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can be either obstructive or central. In obstructive sleep apnea, the relaxation of the throat and tongue muscles cause a blockage in the throat that prevents proper breathing.
Carrying excess weight, having a narrow throat, or suffering chronic nasal congestion can lead to obstructive sleep apnea. It is most common in older males.
With central sleep apnea, the problem stems from the brain, which fails to send the proper signals to initiate regular breathing. This problem is typically more common in older males with heart disorders, history of stroke, or who are taking narcolepsy medications.
Natural Ways to Overcome Sleep Apnea
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Exercise and yoga can help strengthen your heart and prevent sleep apnea.
- Try sleeping on your side rather than on your back.
- Avoid alcohol and smoking which worsen sleep apnea.
Narcolepsy is a sleep condition resulting in overwhelming drowsiness and sudden bouts of sleep. Those who suffer from narcolepsy experience extreme fatigue and cannot always control when they fall asleep.
Symptoms of Narcolepsy
The most common symptom of narcolepsy is excessive sleepiness during the day. Cataplexy, the sudden loss of muscle tone, is seen in some people with narcolepsy, but not all. This can involve slurred sleep, a dropping of the head, or buckling of the knees and is often brought on by intense emotions like laughter or surprise. Sleep paralysis and hallucinations are common in those with narcolepsy, as are other sleep disorders like sleep apnea, insomnia, and Restless Leg Syndrome.
Causes of Narcolepsy
Researchers are still discovering why some people have narcolepsy. One important chemical that regulates REM sleep and wakefulness, hypocretin, is consistently low in individuals with narcolepsy. What causes this chemical to drop is unknown.
Natural Ways to Overcome Narcolepsy
Unfortunately, there are no known cures for narcolepsy yet, but there are several lifestyle habits that can make living with narcolepsy easier and less tiring.
- Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help to manage the symptoms of narcolepsy. Eat a healthy diet, avoid alcohol and nicotine, practice meditation, and engage in mild exercise.
- Develop a routine nap schedule to give your brain regular times for rest. Slip under your weighted blanket to achieve the best quality resets and prevent excessive fatigue.
- Consider working with a nutritionist or integrative sleep specialist to best address your unique condition.
REM Sleep Behavior Disorder
During normal REM (or dream sleep), the body is temporarily paralyzed and does not move to prevent us from acting out our dreams. REM Sleep Behavior Disorder occurs when this inhibition does not occur. Those with the disorder can physically act out the dreams they’re experiencing, which often involves vocal sounds and violent arm and leg movements.
Symptoms of REM Sleep Behavior Disorder
Movement is the most common symptom of REM Sleep Behavior Disorder. Kicking, punching, swinging, flailing, jumping, and other actions are common behaviors. Vocal noises like talking, crying, shouting, and laughing are also seen in most REM Sleep Behavior Disorders.
Causes of REM Sleep Behavior Disorder
The nerve pathways that typically prevent muscle movement during normal REM sleep stop working in those with this sleep disorder. Why this occurs is unknown, but there are some common risk factors. Men over 50 tend to experience this disorder more frequently, as do those with neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s or dementia.
Natural Ways to Overcome REM Sleep Behavior Disorder
- Melatonin is often prescribed by doctors as it can reduce dream-enactment.
- Use stress-relief techniques like meditation, exercise, massage, and weighted blankets to improve brain function.
- Make your bedroom a safe environment and remove objects that could be harmful during an episode.
Better Nights With Bearaby
We love sleep, and we want you to love your sleep, too. When you’re facing the struggles of a sleep disorder, however, sleep transitions from rest to stress.
Weighted blankets have shown to greatly improve sleep quality, reduce issues like insomnia and RLS, and even improve our moods to help fight depression and anxiety. Fall into a better sleep habit under the support of a weighted blanket.
The 5 Top Sleep Disorders – And How Weighted Blankets Help
From insomnia to narcolepsy, we’ve got the run-down on the five most common sleep disorders and the natural strategies (including weighted blankets) that can help you reclaim your sleep.
The top 5 most common sleep disorders are insomnia, RLS, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and REM sleep behavior disorder.
Many sleep disorders require the help of a sleep professional, but there are natural ways to improve our sleep and catch our Zzz’s.
Weighted blankets can help improve sleep quality and reduce the symptoms of these disorders.
Did you know?
50-70 million U.S. adults are impacted by sleep disorders.