11 Signs You Have A High-Functioning Sleep Disorder
If you never feel fully rested — despite being in bed for the recommended seven to nine hours per night — it may be a sign of a sleep disorder. You might have insomnia, sleep apnea, or another health issue that's keeping you from getting adequate rest.
And all of the above really can start to impact your health, beyond simply causing you to feel tired during the day. "According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, 33 percent of us don’t get a good night’s sleep, and this is a major issue for our physical and mental wellbeing," Pierrick Arnal, head of Clinical Research and the Scientific Director at Rythm, tells Bustle. "Sleep disorders can have serious impacts on health, specifically affecting areas such as memory consolidation, metabolism regulation, and even strengthening the immune system. But in addition to physical and mental health, lack of sleep can negatively impact our ability to be our best selves."
If you've been feeling bad, it's definitely worth it to look into a sleep disorder as a possible cause. "Causes of sleep disorders vary widely, from medical issues to medication," Chris Brantner, sleep expert and founder of SleepZoo, tells Bustle. "However, I'd caution that the average person has poor sleep hygiene. For many, simply improving lifestyle habits can help them deal with sleep disorders. That said, it's also worth speaking to a doctor should you have a serious condition." Here are a few signs and symptoms that may point to a sleep disorder, that you definitely shouldn't ignore.
1. You've Been Feeling Irritable Lately
If you can't seem to shake a feeling of perpetual crankiness, it may be worth looking into your quality of sleep, to see if the issue might be stemming from there. While there are so many issues that can lead to irritability — such as PMS, anxiety, and depression, just to name a few — poor sleep can do it, too.
"Sleep disorders often cause sleepiness. No surprises there. But people have difficulty connecting the dots when sleep problems show up as difficulty with attention or mood," Dr. Jeffrey Ellenbogen, a board-certified sleep specialist, neurologist, and director of The Sound Sleep Project, tells Bustle. "So the next time you’re having trouble driving without distraction, or feeling unusually irritable with a colleague, consider that the problem might be poor sleep."
2. Your Relationships Are Suffering
"We don’t often think about it, but being the kind of person others want to be around requires a healthy brain that’s firing on all cylinders," Lisa Tan, chief marketing officer of the sleep tech company Reverie, tells Bustle. So if you've been feeling unusually introverted, or you've been picking fights with others, it may be your body's way of letting you know you aren't getting enough sleep.
Conflicts might show up at work, for example, or in your friendships or relationship. "When you’re sleepy, [your brain isn't working properly]," Tan says. "Which is one reason why many studies have shown that an otherwise healthy relationship suffers badly when one partner is suffering from insomnia." If you find your relationships are being affected, and you think lack of sleep is to blame, talk to your doctor about possible solutions to help you get a better night's rest.
3. You Catch Every Cold That Goes Around
If you can't seem to enter into a building without catching a cold, or you come down with every flu that strikes your office, it may be a sign that you have impaired immune function, which can be a result of lack of sleep.
"Chronic illness can occur secondarily to inadequate sleep, as the body is not given enough time to ... regenerate," Dr. Raghu Idupuganti, an anesthesiologist at NYC Surgical Associates, tells Bustle. "Much of the body's natural healing mechanisms occur while we are sleeping, with increased benefits corresponding to increased sleep."
If you keep getting sick, and suspect that a sleep disorder might be to blame, tell your doctor right away. They can perform a sleep test, where they monitor you while you sleep, to see if this is truly the heart of the issue.
4. You Fall Asleep Way Too Easily
Do you pass out the moment you plop down into a movie theater seat, or start to feel drowsy the minute you lay eyes on your couch? If you're falling asleep the moment you become horizontal, it's a sure sign you're not getting proper sleep.
"Sure, it's not totally uncommon to take an afternoon snooze when you're watching TV or something, but if you frequently doze off throughout the day during activities, like watching TV or reading, there might be an underlying issue," Brantner says.
5. Your Anxiety Has Been Off The Charts
The thing with anxiety is that it can cause sleep disorders, but it can also be made worse by them. So it really can become a question of "which came first?"
"Anxiety and sleep disorders often go hand-in-hand," GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC, tells Bustle. "A person with anxiety will have trouble sleeping, and a lack or disruption in sleep will result in anxiety.'
So it really will be important to tell your doctor, if your anxiety is worse. "If a person who does not meet criteria for an anxiety disorder feels unusually anxious and is not getting restful sleep, the anxiety could be a symptom of a sleep disorder," Guarino says.
6. You're Told You Snore
While snoring may seem harmless, it can actually be a sign of a sleep disorder known as sleep apnea. So even though it may not seem like a big deal, it's actually a health condition that may need your attention, as well as one that your doctor needs to know about.
"We all know that snoring can be disruptive to those around us. What many of us don’t realize is that it can often be an alarm for greater health concerns," Dr. Joyce Lee Iannotti, director of the sleep clinic at Banner University Medical Center Phoenix and the Neurology Institute, tells Bustle. "Habitual snorers are at risk for serious health problems, including obstructive sleep apnea, stroke, heart disease, chronic daytime fatigue, and overall poor sleep quality." While snoring doesn't guarantee that you will get these health conditions, talking to your doctor about what may be causing the snoring can prevent any health conditions from developing.
7. You Can't Seem To Concentrate
If you have a sleep disorder, you might notice that you feel super groggy in the morning — despite the fact you "slept all night." Or, you may experience brain fog, or have trouble concentrating, later on in the day.
Having trouble concentrating, "could be ADD ... but it could also be a sign that you're not getting good sleep," Brantner says. "Adequate sleep is crucial for clearing your mind and allowing you to focus." So if you feel fuzzy and out of it all the time, definitely let your doctor know.
8. You Keep Making Silly Mistakes
If you occasionally misplace your phone, send an email that doesn't make sense, or get a bit lost while you're driving around, you can chalk it up to a moment of inattention.
But if these things keep happening, they may be a sign of a sleep disorder. "Cognitive function and development are both impaired by lack of sleep," Dr. Idupuganti says. "Sleep deprivation leads to poor memory and difficulty in processing information, leaving us more likely to make errors in routine tasks."
9. You Have Other Health Concerns
Since sleep is crucial for good health, it makes sense why other illnesses may crop up when you're not getting enough of it. As Dr. Idupuganti says, "One of the well-known health risks that occurs with deficient sleep is high blood pressure," for example. "Lack of sleep also leads to increased risk of other heart-related illness, such as heart attacks and irregular heartbeats."
That's not to say that you're guaranteed to have a heart attack, just because you can't sleep at night. But it does drive home the point that sleep is important for good health. And, if you aren't getting enough of it, you'll need to tell your doctor.
10. You're Woefully Dependent On Caffeine
Many of us need a cup or two of coffee to get going in the morning, and that's OK. It's only when you need it simply to stay awake — even after you technically got enough sleep — that you may want to talk to your doctor about sleep disorders.
"Many people drink coffee in the morning, and some even in the afternoon, but if you find yourself not being able to function without a consistent caffeine, it might be the sign of a sleep issue," Brantner says.
11. You Take Forever To Fall Asleep
If you lie in bed for hours, trying to fall asleep, there's a good chance you have a sleep disorder. "Most people take on average 15 minutes to fall asleep," Brantner says. "If you're pushing 30 minutes or more each night, this may be a sign that you're dealing with insomnia." Which is something you'll definitely want to speak with a doctor about.
Sleepiness and sleep issues may not seem like a big deal, because we're all a bit tired, to one degree or another. But because sleep is so important for good health, you don't want to let this fall to the wayside. If you suspect you might have a sleep disorder, or have a few unexplainable symptoms, talk with your doctor to figure out what's up, so you can get treatment, and start sleeping well again.