Sleep disorders are considered common as they affect millions of people worldwide every year, and 1.5 million people in Australia alone.
A person suffering from a sleep disorder will find that his sleeping patterns affect his daily activities, quality of life and the ability to have good mental health. These disorders can have a negatively impact personal safety and health.
There are different types of sleep disorders, some mild, and some severe. Night terror, hypersomnia, nocturia, and sleep walking are all common types of sleep disorders. Other sleep disorders include:
- Sleep paralysis: A sleep disorder characterized by hypotonia during REM sleep. It can affect both healthy and unhealthy individuals.
- Sleep apnoea: This is the most common sleep disorder. Patients suffering from sleep apnoea experience breathing pauses or very low breathing during sleep. Patients usually complain from fatigue, low concentration levels, and sleepiness during the day time. Patients are rarely aware that they are suffering from a problem; this disorder is usually discovered by others who see the patient suffering from breathing problems during sleep.
- Narcolepsy: A sleep disorder in which patients go into the REM stag of sleep within 5 minutes; a process that normally takes at least an hour. Narcolepsy patients are at risk of having sleep attacks at any time where they suddenly all asleep possibly in the middle of activities. The prevalence rate of narcolepsy is estimated to be 1-2 per 2000 in Australia.
- Rapid eye movement behaviour disorder: sleep disorder characterized by strange behaviour during sleep. Patients can jump out of bed, grab their partner or start screaming. All these strange activities occur during the REM stage of sleep.
- Restless leg syndrome: A sleep disorder characterized by the consistent movement of the patient’s leg during sleep for the purpose of avoiding pain or leg cramps. This condition affects about 1.4% of the Australian population.
- Insomnia: An insomnia patient finds that he is unable to sleep for no apparent reason.
- Hypersomnia: This disorder is the opposite of insomnia leading to excessive sleep for no obvious reason.
Sleep disorders and wellbeing
Suffering from sleep disorders affects different areas of life. Some sleep disorders like apnoea, insomnia, and restless leg syndrome have been shown to impact memory and concentration. The effects can spread to impact the patients’ psychiatric wellbeing. Psychiatric and medical conditions like alcoholism, depression, anxiety, panic attacks and schizophrenia can all result from sleep disorders.
A study conducted by the American Cancer Society in 2002 further investigated the implications of sleep disorders. The study showed that mortality rates are linked to the number of hours slept. Lowest mortality rates were in those who get 7 daily hours of sleep regularly, and the highest mortality rates were in those who slept less than 6 hours, or more than 8 hours daily. Those who sleep more than 8.5 hours every day showed a 15% increase in mortality rates. The same percentage of increase was shown in men who sleep less than 4.5 hours, and women who sleep less than 3.5 hours every day.
Links between insufficient sleep and chronic diseases have been found. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension have been suggested to be related to sleep disorders according to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC).
Treatment for sleep disorders
In the psychological assessment, diagnosis and treatment of children and adolescents, a history of variations in the usual patterns of the sleep–wake cycle is often the key to a more complete understanding of the presenting disorder. Such alterations may be either transitory phenomena or manifestations of normal phases of development. However, they may also appear as signs or symptoms of specific sleep disorders, or of certain other mental, emotional, and physical disorders of childhood. It is therefore essential to have a full understanding of sleep, sleep patterns, and all their various manifestations to diagnose and manage these disorders appropriately.
Behavioural therapies such as bedtime fading and response extinction, chronotherapy, and psychopharmacologic treatment interventions have a great effect in the treatment of different sleep disorders.
Moreover, emotive imagery has been very successful in treating children night fears and nightmares. Because insomnia in children seems to be more of a psychosocial problem based on the relationship between parent and child, treatment is best addressed primarily through psychological or behavioural means.
With $5.1 billion spent in Australia on sleep disorder treatment, it is recommended to those suffering from sleep disorder symptoms to consider the above life style changes to prevent their condition from worsening. Loss of concentration, moss changes, morning headache, snoring, menstrual irregularities, and falling asleep in the course of activities like driving are all symptoms of sleep disorders.
Have you struggled with insomnia or a sleep disorder? Share with us your tips for getting a good night’s sleep in the comment box below.
If you’re suffering from insomnia or a sleep disorder, the counsellors and psychologists at Australia Counselling can help. We have counsellors and psychologists in Perth, Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and regional areas of Australia. Visit our sleep difficulties page to see counsellors that work with this issue, or search via location,area of practice or therapeutic approach.
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