Severe tossing and turning could be a sign of Restless Leg Syndrome, a neurologic sensorimotor disorder characterized by an overwhelming urge to move the legs when they’re at rest. It affects nearly 10 percent of adults and often goes undetected or is misdiagnosed, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Fifty percent of cases are genetic. The exact cause is unknown, but some forms of the disorder have been linked to underlying conditions like kidney failure, pregnancy or iron deficiency anemia.
Snoring is the primary cause of sleep deprivation for approximately 90 million adults, according to the National Sleep Foundation. It occurs when you breathe and the walls of your throat vibrate. When you sleep, the muscles in your throat relax, your tongue falls backward and your throat becomes narrow, intensifying the sound of the vibrations. Snoring becomes more common with age because throat muscles naturally relax. It’s linked to daytime dysfunction and cardiovascular disease.
Snoring can be treated several ways. Lifestyle modifications such as losing weight, avoiding sleeping on your back and not drinking alcohol can help. Nasal dilators and oral appliances designed by experienced dentists are also beneficial. In some cases, surgery that targets the back of the throat and roof of the mouth may be necessary.
If you find yourself gasping for air in the middle of the night or snoring heavily, you could have sleep apnea, a disorder marked by interrupted breathing during sleep. There are two types: Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat fail to keep your airways open; central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to control your breathing properly. Both can wake you 50 to 60 times an hour—without you even realizing it—leaving you overly tired the next day, says Dr. David Volpi. Sleep apnea is extremely dangerous and could lead to heart attack, congestive heart failure, cardiac arrhythmia, stroke or depression if left untreated.
If you are overweight, dropping pounds can help cure sleep apnea. Avoiding alcohol, quitting smoking and sleeping on your side instead of your back may also lead to improvements. Asides from lifestyle changes, the most effective treatment for sleep apnea is using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device that fits over your nose and/or mouth and blows air into your airway while you sleep. Talk to your doctor about whether you should get tested for sleep apena at a sleep center and what your treatment options are.
If you have difficulty breathing at night, allergies may be to blame. When allergens such as dust mites, pollen, mold and pet dander trigger a chemical in the body, nasal passages can become congested, disrupting sleep.
Stress is often the cause of teeth grinding. Try to minimize tension through exercise, meditation or by writing down your worries before bed. Otherwise a soft plastic oral appliance can be worn at night to prevent it.
Constantly waking up during the night to go to the bathroom is a common cause of sleep loss among older people. As we age our bodies produce less of the anti-diuretic hormone that enables us to retain fluid. One or two trips to the bathroom a night is considered normal, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Any more may be a sign that you suffer from another medical condition such as a urological infection, a tumor of the bladder or prostate, or disorders affecting sphincter control.
Easy ways to help control frequent urination at night is to limit your intake of liquid before you go to bed—especially alcohol, coffee and tea. Medication can also help in more severe situations. Talk to your doctor for a treatment plan that’s right for you.
Do you talk—or walk—in your sleep? Only sometimes? It may be because you're stressed, depressed, have a fever, are sleep deprived, have been experiencing daytime drowsiness or drank alcohol. Sleep talking is a rare occurrence for most people, and is usually harmless but can be embarrassing.
Do you go to bed earlier and wake up earlier than you used to? Changes in sleep cycles are common as we age. They occur because we tend to spend less time in the deeper stages of sleep and more time in the lighter stages. If you find yourself waking up extremely early and it having an effect on your day, talk to your doctor for ways to alter your sleep cycle.
If you're extremely tired during the day despite getting a full night’s sleep, you may have a condition called idiopathic hypersomnia. The exact cause is unknown and can be associated with a number of other sleep disorders.
Talk to your doctor about stimulant medications that can help minimize the effects of idiopathic hypersomnia. Other treatment methods include maintaining a regular sleep schedule and taking naps whenever possible.
Can’t sleep? Insomnia is a symptom of other disorders, which makes it hard to pinpoint the exact cause. It can stem from stress, anxiety, depression, pain, medications, sleep disorders or poor sleep habits. Environment and health habits also play a role. Insomnia can have an effect on your daily activities and can lead to depression and contribute to illness.
Natural ways to cure insomnia include making dietary changes, exercising, maintaining a regular sleep schedule and partaking in relaxing bedtime rituals. Click here for a list of more natural sleep aids. If you’re still having trouble, see your doctor for other options that may include medication.