Signs You Might Have a Sleep Disorder

The hours you spend in bed revitalize and restore you for the following day. However, you may be robbed of your sleep by a problem you may not recognize or realize at first. If you sleep through the night but still feel exhausted during the day, it may be an indication of a sleep problem or disorder. It is important to realize that you don’t have to live with excessive daytime sleepiness. By recognizing the signs of a potential sleep disorder, you can discuss your symptoms with a sleep specialist and find a proper treatment method.

  1. You don’t sleep well and wake up with a bad taste in your mouth.

    Having “morning mouth” could be a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or asymptomatic heartburn. GERD is a condition which includes the backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus. As the third most common gastrointestinal disorder in the U.S., GERD patients often experience nighttime heartburn which can lead to sleep problems such as insomnia, sleep apnea, daytime fatigue, and restless leg syndrome (RLS). If you don’t have obvious symptoms of heartburn, you may be unaware of the condition.

    The acid reflux causes the body to partially awaken you, making sleep fitful and uneven. GERD can sometimes cause serious complications such as inflammation of the esophagus, bleeding, or ulcers. Left untreated, it can even lead to cancer.

    Even if you’re not experiencing symptoms of heartburn, be sure to follow treatment suggestions for the condition, such as not eating at least two hours before bedtime and avoiding acid-causing foods at dinner. Don’t take medications before bedtime, such as aspirin or other painkillers, as they can be hard on the stomach and esophageal lining.

    Instead, it is recommended to try an over-the-counter antacid to battle heartburn. Losing weight can go a long way to treat heartburn and acid reflux, as well.

  2. You wake up frequently to use the bathroom and toss and turn at night.

    People with nocturia, or frequent nighttime urination, may get up from bed up to six times per night, which greatly interferes with sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, Approximately 2/3 of older adults experience frequent nighttime urination. Although the body has a natural process to concentrate urine so you can sleep without waking, the hormones responsible for controlling the ability to hold fluids for long periods of time decline in the aging process.

    If you’re experiencing this problem, there are some simple steps you can start with to combat it. Try to limit liquids at least three hours before you go to bed, including foods with high liquid content, like soup or fruit. Limit beverages which have a higher acid content and can irritate the bladder, such as coffee and tea. Avoid alcohol, which can irritate the bladder and often functions as a diuretic.

    If none of these solutions help, consider getting checked by a physician for conditions which may cause urination problems. For men, prostrate exams can rule out potentially serious conditions. Women may be affected by overactive bladder, urinary tract infections, incontinence, or cystitis.

    If you haven’t been checked for diabetes recently, see your doctor, as it can also cause frequent urination.

    Certain medications can also aggravate the problem, such as diuretics and heart medications. If all else fails, your doctor may prescribe an antidiuretic medication.

  3. You have a sore jaw that clicks or pops and your teeth are worn down.

    Medically known as bruxism, teeth grinding is a common problem that affects about 8% of adults and as many as one-third of children. It can be aggravated by factors including anxiety, stress, alcohol consumption, smoking, caffeine, or sleep problems, such as sleep apnea, snoring and daytime fatigue. Certain medications such as stimulants or amphetamines are also linked to teeth grinding.

    Bruxism interferes with sleep by the tensing of the jaw muscles preventing you from fully relaxing during bedtime.

    If you suspect you grind your teeth at night or if a bed partner has mentioned that you have, see a dentist. A dentist can look for underlying reasons why you might grind your teeth, such as improper bite alignment. A dental appliance called a night guard can prevent you from grinding your teeth and may help avoid damage to the teeth.

  4. You wake up tangled in the covers or find your blankets on the floor.

    Frequent movement at night can be a symptom of restless leg syndrome (RLS) or periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD). RLS is characterized by the overwhelming urge to move the legs and is sometimes accompanied by uncomfortable sensations. More than 80% of people who suffer from RLS also have PLMD, which involves involuntary leg twitching or jerking movements which occur repeatedly throughout the night and interfere with sleep.

    Talk to your doctor if you suspect you have RLS or PLMD. Your doctor will look for underlying conditions which may contribute to the problem, such as diabetes, arthritis, peripheral neuropathy, anemia, thyroid disease, and kidney problems. Some medications may also cause RLS as a side effect, such as antidepressants, antihistamines, or lithium.

    RLS can be treated with medications used to treat Parkinson’s disease by relieving symptoms and eliminating muscle jerks. You may experience more restful sleep as early as one week into a new medication regimen. You doctor may also prescribe a sleep aid medication to help you sleep more deeply.

  5. You wake up with terrible morning breath and a dry mouth.

    Mouth-breathing and snoring are symptoms of compromised breathing if you’re not getting enough air to fully relax. Severe, chronic snoring can also be a symptom of a more serious condition, particularly if you gasp for air at night.

    The majority of people snore occasionally, and up to 40% of people snore most nights. You can train yourself to breathe through your nose by using snore-stopping nasal strips which pull the nostrils open. Also, you can use saline nasal spray to irrigate the nasal passages. Most people snore more when they are sleeping on their backs, so a technique people usually utilize is the “tennis ball trick”. This method incorporates the tying of a tennis ball to the center of the back so you will be forced to sleep on your side, or feel uncomfortable.

    Avoiding alcohol at night can curtail snoring, since it is a sedative that relaxes the muscles of the nose, throat and airway, all which contribute to snoring. Weight loss can do wonders for eliminating snoring, as well.

    If none of these solutions provide results, see a physician who can properly test you for sleep-disordered breathing conditions. A sleep study may be required to diagnose a more serious condition such as sleep apnea.

  6. You get restless sleep, feel exhausted during the daytime and wake up in the morning with a sore throat or neck pain.

    Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a disorder where you stop breathing repeatedly at night due to a blockage of the airway. The pauses in breath last anywhere between ten seconds and a minute before you wake up to gasp or snort for air. The number of people who have undiagnosed sleep apnea is as high as 87%. One of the tell-tale signs of sleep apnea is loud, chronic snoring, but not all people with sleep apnea snore.

    OSA disturbs sleep with an inability to get a full night’s rest. When your blood oxygen levels drop, the brain sends signals for you to wake up in order to get adequate oxygen. This can happen dozens or hundreds of times each night, leaving you feeling worn-out and exhausted the next morning. OSA can also cause a range of health hazards including depression, diabetes, and brain damage.

    If you suspect you have OSA, it’s important to see a physician. You can get an accurate diagnosis through a detailed sleep study where the structure of your nose, mouth, and throat will be examined to determine where the problem lies. During the sleep study, you will be monitored for blood oxygen saturation levels, breathing, heart rate, and movements which all contribute to making a diagnosis.

    OSA is effectively treated with the use of a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device, a mask which keeps the airway from collapsing so you don’t stop breathing at night. CPAP is an extremely effective treatment for sleep apnea when used compliantly. Oral appliances might also be effective in treating sleep apnea, as well as certain surgical procedures to correct the anatomical structure of the mouth, nose, and throat.

If you are interested in finding out more about sleep disorders and treatment options, call The Los Angeles Sleep Study Institute at 1-855-690-0563 and one of our representatives will be happy to answer any of your questions.