Missing out on sleep for a night or two is likely not worrisome (you just might be especially tired for that week); however, if you're finding it hard to fall or stay asleep on a regular basis, you might be showing signs of a sleep disorder. Having a sleep disorder can hinder your body's ability to function during the day, to stay mentally and physically alert, and to regulate your mood, due to fluctuations in hormones.
As a certified health coach, I work with clients on finding outlets for greater sleep, such as relaxation techniques, meditation and mindfulness practices, and nutritional help. While eating well, managing stress, and getting some exercise in during the week can keep your circadian rhythms and sleep cycle steady, it's not always that simple, and a sleep disorder can definitely interfere with your health efforts. Getting enough shut-eye during the week is so important for staying healthy and balanced, so if you're showing any symptoms of a sleep condition, it might be worth speaking with a professional. Here are 11 signs that you might have a sleep disorder and need to figure out better methods to secure enough zzz's and to keep your body running smoothly.
1. You're Eating The Wrong Foods At Night
According to Neil Grimmer, founder of Habit, over email with Bustle, if you're eating the wrong foods at night, you're more likely to have a rough night. For instance, greasy, processed foods, heavy meals, and alcohol can all interfere. Yet, if you eat the right nutrients, you'll be able to sleep more soundly. Grimmer recommends foods high in tryptophan (like turkey), as the nutrient can improve sleep and prevent depression.
2. You're Sleeping Fewer Than 4 Hours A Night
"If you sleep less that 4 hours per night, it's a sign you have a sleep disorder. We need at least 8 hours per night," advises health expert and author of "The Earth Diet" Liana Werner-Gray, over email with Bustle. "When we are sleep deprived it throws our entire lives out of whack, we start fights with our loved ones, we feel heightened life pressures, and we crave junk foods like fast foods and really sugary foods," adds Werner-Gray. On a similar note, according to Dan Adler, Founder & CEO of WinkBeds over email with Bustle, sleeping inconsistently is also a sign. "Some nights you can only stay asleep for a few hours and other nights you can't help but sleep for over 10 hours. The body is meant to sleep for around the same amount of time every night. If this is not happening, there may be an underlying issue," says Adler.
2. You're Grinding Your Teeth
"The condition of grinding your teeth in your sleep (known as sleep bruxism) is considered a sleep-related movement disorder, a class of conditions that occur near or during sleep and affect the quality of your shut-eye. Nighttime bruxism, characterized by unconscious gnashing and clenching of the teeth, afflicts 8% of adults and can also have repercussions on your waking life," advises Martin Rawls-Meehan, CEO and Co-Founder of sleep technology company, Reverie® over email with Bustle. "It can lead to tension headaches, damaged teeth, disorders in the tempromandibular joints (TMJs), and receding gum lines. Not to mention all the side effects that come with inadequate sleep. The cause is likely different from person to person; abnormal tooth alignment; acid reflux into the esophagus; and use of certain anti-depressants or stimulants like coffee, alcohol, tobacco, and some illegal drugs," adds Rawls-Meehan.
3. You're Not Able To Sleep In Different Places
"When you aren't able to relax or sleep in hotels, new beds or airplanes," says Werner-Gray, it could mean that you're suffering from a sleep disorder. "This is a sign of an anxiety type sleep disorder. Work on allowing yourself to relax and being able to sleep under any conditions. Sleep is so important," advises Werner-Gray.
4. You're Having Intense Cravings
When you don't sleep enough, your hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin, become unbalanced, and your appetite can increase, explains Werner-Gray. "If you are constantly tired throughout the day and craving sugary foods, fast foods and refined carbs, this is a sign your body is in desperate need for energy, the energy that you are supposed to get from sleeping," explains Werner-Gray.
5. You're Snoring Too Much
If you're snoring too much, you might have a sleep disorder known as sleep apnea, advises Rawls-Meehan. "Research also suggests that those with other sleep disorders like sleep apnea or snoring are more likely to suffer from teeth grinding. In fact, one study showed that sleep apnea is the highest risk factor for bruxism in the general population," adds Rawls-Meehan.
6. You're Not Able To Think Properly
"If you experience constant brain fog, it's a sign of a sleeping disorder and the brains way of telling you it needs more rest and sleep, so it can be recharged and focused on tasks when it needs to be," advises Werner-Gray. If you're losing your mental focus and cognitive function, it could definitely be related to lack of sleep.
7. You Wake Up Not Refreshed
If you wake up and still feel tired, you might be showing signs of a sleep disorder, advises Alessandro Babini, CEO and founder of Humon Hex, over email with Bustle. "The main sign is to wake up tired and unrefreshed. For athletes this particularly important as it is linked to recovery of the muscles after a workout. Working with athletes on a daily basis, has helped us realize the importance of post workout recovery. That's why the Humon Hex captures instant recovery by looking at the changes in oxygen saturation directly inside the muscle and helps the athletes understand when they are properly recovered and ready to go again," Babini explains.
8. You Have Scary Nightmares That Wake You Up
If you have nightmares, that are super visual and scary, and can't fall back asleep after waking up, you might have a sleep disorder known as nightmare disorder. Having nightmare disorder can mess with your wellbeing and emotions, so consider seeing a therapist if you're having trouble.
9. You Have Weird Leg Movements In The Night
If you experience periodic limb movements in the night that are waking you up from your sleep and are preventing you from going back soundly, it could mean you have a sleep disorder related to restless leg syndrome. These movements seem to come out of nowhere, but will stir you. If you have these signs, consider seeing a doctor.
10. You Can't Move When You Wake Up
If you can't move upon waking, you might have sleep paralysis, which is a type of sleep disorder that can be pretty debilitating to your daily function. It can also be linked to hallucinations, and such symptoms can appear before falling asleep too, rather than just upon rising.
11. You Simply Can't Fall Asleep
If you can't fall asleep at all, you might have insomnia, a common sleep disorder, and this could also lead to chronic fatigue syndrome, where you're constantly tired throughout the day. Losing sleep regularly can be dangerous, so if you're an insomniac, it's best to try and seek help.
12. You Sleep 15 - 20 Hours A Day & Are Highly Sexual
According to Adler, if "you need to sleep for 15-20 hours a day and have an uninhibited sexual drive, it could be a sign you have Kleine-Levin syndrome, a rare disorder characterized by the need for excessive amounts of sleep and hyper sexuality. The cause of this condition is unknown, but it is believed to be hereditary in nature."
13. You Sleepwalk
Adler also cautions against talking or walking while sleeping. If "you sleep-talk (or even worse) sleep-walk," says Adler, it could be a sign of a disorder. "These are signals that you may have rapid eye movement behavior disorder, which is when your body removes itself from its normal state of being paralyzed while asleep to freely act out dreams. This can obviously be both dangerous and embarrassing," says Adler.
If you have any of these symptoms, you might be experiencing a sleep disorder. Getting help as soon as possible will help you get back to a proper balance and regain your strength and restoration.
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