Ask the average adult if they sleep enough and they'll probably laugh. Or yawn. Late bedtimes, early alarms, waking up 40 times in the middle of the night because you had three sips of water before bed — a lot of us haven't slept well since we were kids. While certain behaviors are quite common and not really cause for concern, there are other more unexpected sleep habits you should discuss with your doctor.
You probably don't need to be reminded how important sleep is, but what you may not know is just how damaging a lack of it can be. The National Sleep Foundation says when we don't catch enough ZZZs, it's harder to focus and pay attention, thereby negatively impacting performance and efficiency at school or work; our reaction time slows, a serious danger especially if you're driving; creativity and problem-solving skills are deterred; and we become forgetful, since memories are created during sleep. If this sounds like you, know you're not alone. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation says around 33 percent of American adults don't sleep enough regularly.
While hectic work schedules and too many responsibilities understandably wear us out, there are certain sleep habits you simply shouldn't ignore.
1. You're A Heavy Snorer
If your snoring knows no boundaries, it could possibly be a sign of sleep apnea. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, sleep apnea happens when your airway becomes blocked while you're sleeping. This reduces your airflow, and can even stop it completely. While a little light snoring here and there is probably harmless, if you think you might be suffering from sleep apnea, talk to your doctor. It disrupts your sleep and makes you tired, says Harvard Health Publishing, but can also lead to high blood pressure and even heart problems.
2. You Rely On Sleep Aids
If you can't get to sleep without a double dose of your favorite nighttime cough medicine or some other kind of sleep medication, you might want to rethink things. It's not uncommon to become addicted to these medicines, which means when you finally stop, you run the risk of withdrawal, not to mention you'll go back to having difficulty sleeping. Sleep medications can actually worsen daytime sleepiness, they can be dangerous when mixed with other types of medication (like painkillers), and they could even contribute to dementia, says Harvard Health Publishing.
3. You Can Never Fall Asleep (Or Stay Asleep)
These are two common symptoms of insomnia. Health Communities shares a 2006 report from the Institute of Medicine, saying insomnia can eventually lead to diabetes, depression, heart attack, stroke, and hypertension — not to mention you're perpetually tired. There are solutions to insomnia, but you need to have a chat with your doctor first.
4. You're Experiencing Hallucinations
These are different from dreams and nightmares, says Sleep Education. You awake from a dream or nightmare and are aware it happened while you were sleeping. Such is not the case with sleep hallucinations, which can include your senses of sound, touch, taste, and smell, and even a feeling of motion. Sleep hallucinations most commonly occur as you are falling asleep or as you are waking up.
5. You Do Weird Things In Your Sleep
We often kid about the funny or silly things we do in our sleep, but certain acts are nothing to laugh at. Sleepwalking is one of them. The National Sleep Foundation explains this is actually a disorder where you might get up and walk or perform complicated tasks while in a deep sleep — even leaving the house and driving long distances. Furthermore, it's tough to waken a sleepwalker, making it all the more dangerous.
Sleep eating is another disorder, and we're not talking about waking up hungry in the middle of the night to grab a little snack. Sleep Education describes it as an out-of-control act of binge-eating. Aside from grabbing stuff from the pantry, sleep eaters might also try to prepare food with the stove or oven, or use tools that could be dangerous when you're in this state, like knives.
6. You Grind Your Teeth
Bruxism is the medical term for grinding or clenching your teeth, both during wake and sleep hours, although it's largely considered a sleep-related movement disorder, according to the Mayo Clinic. Medical News Today lists a few possible causes of bruxism, including stress, facial spasms, and improperly aligned top and bottom jaws.
Here's why it matters: not only does teeth-grinding increase the likelihood you'll have sleep apnea, it can lead to jaw disorders, headaches, and it's bad for your teeth. Protect your mouth— and get better rest — by talking to your doctor.
7. You Wake Up Irrationally Angry
All of us have days when we wake up on the wrong side of the bed, but confusional arousal disorder (AKA "sleep drunkenness") is so much more than that. While it occurs mostly in infants and toddlers, adults can experience it too, according to an article in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. You wake up agitated, confused, frightened, or even angry. The cause might be medication, or recovering from sleep deprivation.
8. You're Suffering From Sleep Terrors
Similar to sleep hallucinations, sleep terrors — episodes of screaming and intense fear, explains the Mayo Clinic — are not nightmares. While you wake up from a nightmare and likely remember parts of it, you typically remain asleep with sleep terrors and don't recall the details in the morning. Terrors may be accompanied by other acts like sleep walking, posing an additional risk.
9. You Act Out Your Dreams
While most of us dream while our bodies are at rest, people with REM sleep behavior disorder act out their dreams. This can range from simple movements while you remain in bed, to performing the specific activities, screaming, hitting, and punching, says the National Sleep Foundation. While REM sleep behavior disorder can be relatively harmless, you could also hurt yourself or others.