Sleep is crucial to our health. But few Americans catch enough Zzzzs.
Sleeping disorders are common — and most of us will experience one at some point in our lives, says Dr. Peter Fotinakes, of St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, CA. Let’s explore the two most common sleeping disorders — insomnia and sleep apnea — and what you can do to improve your sleeping habits and lead a healthier life.
Insomnia is difficulty falling asleep or sleeping through the night. Most of us experience insomnia at one point or another — usually around anxiety or excitement about certain life events. Women going through menopause or teenagers with hectic schedules can also experience problems sleeping. For most, these restless nights will go away with some time.
But not getting an average of 7-to-8 hours per night, for weeks or months at a time, could be chronic insomnia, which can cause emotional or physical health problems. Chronic insomnia can be characterized by fixating on the inability to fall asleep, or lying in bed with anxiety about getting enough sleep. Doctors can help those with chronic insomnia and provide concrete steps to improve their sleep.
Insomnia can also be linked to another common sleeping disorder, sleep apnea. This is a condition where a person’s airwaves are partly or fully blocked temporarily while sleeping, causing symptoms like loud snoring and short periods of not breathing. Sleep apnea is related to obesity and smoking, so losing weight and quitting smoking can relieve the symptoms. Leaving sleep apnea untreated can lead to serious complications like high blood pressure and stroke — so it’s important to talk with your doctor if you’re experiencing sleep apnea.
Even if you’re not experiencing a common sleep disorder, getting a good night’s sleep is important for everyone. We’re big on sleep, so we want to remind you to:
- Keep your bedroom dark and quiet
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine, free of distractions like TV, computer, and phone screens
- Get daily exercise, but not right before bed
- Don’t eat a big meal within hours of bedtime
- Keep a regular sleeping schedule
- Refrain from taking naps and sleeping in on weekends
For more on these common sleeping disorders and advice from Dr. Fotinakes, go here.