If you’re struggling to get a good night’s rest, you’re not alone. “Lack of sleep is a huge problem in our country,” says Jacques R. Conaway, MD, medical director of the Sleep Center at MedStar Franklin Square. “We are overworked from job and family demands. Modern society has put sleep on the back burner for many.”
Poor sleep can affect your life in many ways. Daytime sleepiness can make it difficult to concentrate at work. It may cause irritability and affect relationships. Driving while tired can cause fatal accidents.
Common Sleep Disorders
An estimated 40 million Americans suffer from chronic or intermittent sleep disorders, including:
- Insomnia, an inability to sleep or remain asleep
- Obstructive sleep apnea, in which breathing stops during sleep
- Restless legs syndrome, an uncontrollable urge to move the legs
- Periodic limb movement disorder, jerks of the arms and legs during sleep
- Narcolepsy, uncontrollable urges to sleep at inappropriate times
- Shift-work sleep disorder, a condition found in people who work night shifts when their body is telling them it’s time to sleep.
Sleep disorders are treated in several ways. Medication may be used for narcolepsy and restless legs syndrome. Obstructive sleep apnea can be treated with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device — a mask with an attached air pump that keeps the upper airway open during sleep. Surgery is an option for sleep apnea as well.
Relaxation therapy can help those with insomnia by easing tension. “People with insomnia may not realize how much stress is affecting them,” says Dr. Conaway. Changes in behavior also may help, such as keeping a regular, relaxing bedtime routine and avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine.