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Sleep disorders

Sleep disorders and what you can do about them

Sleep disorders can be extremely detrimental to your health. Do you find it hard to fall asleep? Or perhaps you sleep all through the night, but wake up still exhausted as if you had no rest at all?

Well, you may be suffering from a sleep disorder. The good news is that there are many ways to combat all types of sleep problems and to ensure that you get to a point where you are getting enough rest. 

A sleep disorder is a condition that not only affects whether or not you are able to fall asleep but also the quality of the sleep that you get, which could arguably be much more important.

How much sleep do you need a night?

The average person should get around 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep each night. This is a rough estimate for a full-grown adult. Children and teens still have developing brains and need at least 12 hours. These numbers have been debated by experts for centuries and many agree that children who sleep for a minimum of the required hours are more refreshed and focused, especially at school. 

Realistically, most adults function on around 6 hours of sleep a day (Monday to Friday). Through no fault of their own, the fast-paced nature of modern society and of demanding jobs sometimes means that sleep has to take a backseat to productivity. 

Sleep disorders are understandable, but they aren’t ideal. 

It is completely normal to occasionally experience difficulties sleeping. Regularly experiencing problems in falling asleep at night and to wake up feeling exhausted, or to feel sleepy during the day is not. In the long run, chronic sleep loss can wreak havoc on your mental and physical health.

A lack of sleep can have a negative effect on your mood, energy, efficiency and ability to handle stress, says Help Guide. Ignoring sleep problems and disorders can damage your physical health and lead to weight gain, car accidents, impaired job performance, memory problems and strained relationships. 

Quality sleep is an important part of a healthy, balanced life and if you want to feel your best, stay healthy and perform to your potential, you need to start regarding quality sleep as a necessity, not a luxury.

Sleep isn’t just the period during which your body shuts off to rest, but when you sleep (and sleep well) your brain does a sort of biological maintenance that keeps your body running in top condition. It is a regenerative process in which your cells are repaired and your mind configures the events of the day. 

Without enough hours of restorative sleep, you won’t be able to work, learn, create and communicate at a level even close to your true potential. If you regularly skimp on “service”, you are heading for a major mental and physical breakdown, the Help Guide site continues.

What are the different sleep disorders and how can they be combated?

The three most commons sleep disorders are narcolepsy, insomnia and sleep apnoea.


Probably the most well-known and common disorder, insomnia is the inability to fall asleep without sleep-inducing medication. Even with the use of strong drugs, some people find it difficult to drift off to sleep. This could be for a myriad of reasons. 

The condition can be short term (acute) or can last a long time (chronic). However, many people do not know that it is also classified as the inability to remain asleep, which is possibly the most frustrating part for sufferers. It is an intermittent disorder, and many people go years without experiencing bouts of insomnia. The condition is usually triggered by mental stress. 

Web MD explains that acute insomnia lasts from one night to a few weeks. Insomnia is chronic when it happens at least three nights a week for three months or more.

Primary insomnia is the main symptom and isn’t linked to any other health disorder or problem.

Secondary insomnia sufferers have insomnia as a side-effect of a different condition such as asthma, depression, arthritis, cancer, or heartburn,  pain, medication, or substance abuse.


Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder characterized by excessive sleepiness, sleep paralysis, hallucinations, and in some cases episodes of cataplexy (partial or total loss of muscle control, often triggered by a strong emotion such as laughter).

People with narcolepsy involuntarily fall asleep during normal activities and are left feeling confused, tired as if they have missed chunks of their day.

In narcolepsy, the normal boundary between awake and asleep is blurred, so characteristics of sleeping can occur while a person is awake, explains Sleep Foundation

The main concern is cataplexy. 

Cataplexy is the muscle paralysis of REM sleep, but it occurs during waking hours. It causes sudden loss of muscle tone that leads to a slack jaw, or weakness of the arms, legs or trunk, the site continues. People with narcolepsy can also experience dream-like hallucinations and paralysis as they fall asleep or wake up, as well as disrupted night-time sleep and vivid nightmares.

The way to combat narcolepsy is with a mixture of medications and lifestyle changes. These changes include counselling through educational networks and support groups, avoiding heavy meals and alcohol and maintaining a regular sleep schedule. 

Sleep apnoea

Sleep apnoea is a chronic condition characterised by loud snoring and shallow breaths during sleep. In extreme cases, people experience ‘breathing pauses”, in which they can stop breathing for 10 seconds or more, even up to a minute. Some people have experienced even longer pauses.

Types of sleep apnoea include obstructive sleep apnoea, central sleep apnoea and complex sleep apnoea. Obstructive sleep apnoea is the most common type of sleep apnoea. It is when the soft tissue in the back of the throat relaxes during sleep and blocks the airway. This causes loud snoring that can be disruptive to people in the household, but hardly disturbs the sufferer. 

Central sleep apnoea is a much less common type of sleep apnoea that involves the central nervous system,. It occurs when the brain fails to send signals to the muscles that control breathing. People with central sleep apnoea seldom snore, while those suffering from complex sleep apnoea have a combination of obstructive sleep apnoea and central sleep apnoea.

Sleep apnoea sufferers are usually obese, heavy smokers or people suffering from an underlying condition.

All of these disorders require a diagnosis from a medical professional.

Having a medical insurance cover like Affinity Health can make sure to assist with the cost of diagnosis and get you on the way to a well-rested, healthy life. 


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