When it comes to sleeping well, the number of hours slept per night and the overall quality of our rest are at the forefront of determining great sleep. But not all of us are lucky enough to get eight full hours of rest each night. In fact, a third of US adults report frequently getting less than the recommended amount of sleep per night, according to the CDC, which could, in worst-case scenarios, result in a sleep disorder.
Worried your less-than-average sleeping hours might be something serious? There are a multitude of telltale signs you live with a sleep disorder, but it’s critical to consult with your doctor before assuming you have one. Having said that, there are some general, across-the-board signs that your sleep may constitute a sleep disorder diagnosis. Take a look at our list below to find out if your sleeping patterns or sleep schedule might constitute a trip to the doctor.
It takes you a long time to fall asleep
If you take more than 20-30 minutes to fall asleep, this could be a sign that stress is keeping you awake at night. At the worst, it could be insomnia.
Look at what could be causing you to take longer to fall asleep. Do you have pain in your body? A headache? Or are you just wide awake? Make sure you are sleeping on a mattress that suits your needs and doesn’t leave you with a terrible backache the next day.
You wake up throughout the night
Ever tossed and turned and struggled to fall asleep? Restless sleep could be an indication of restless leg syndrome, especially if you often feel tight pain, commonly called a charley horse, in your legs.
There’s nothing more aggravating than waking up from deep sleep more than once a night. If you can agree that you have a constant need to move around at night until you fall asleep, you should talk to your doctor about possible reasons it keeps happening.
Excessive snoring is often a presumptive sign of sleep apnea, a condition where your breathing stops and starts throughout the night. Sleep apnea is a condition you will want to bring up with your doctor, as it may constitute serious surgery.
Common signs of sleep apnea include sore throat, tiredness the next day and waking up in the night gasping for air. If you’ve been told you snore loudly, that’s another indication your snoring could be a serious medical problem.
You’ve slept inconsistently for a long time
If you can’t remember the last time you had a good night’s sleep, it could be an indication that your sleep deprivation is chronic. Does a chaotic sleep schedule align with your lifestyle? Do you fall asleep during the day? Going to bed at different times each night and trying to catch up on lost sleep by napping are two common indications your sleep schedule needs help.
Inconsistent sleep doesn’t just affect your physical health. If not treated promptly and properly, your lack of quality sleep could contribute to long-term mental health problems, like depression or anxiety, while also affecting your everyday life.
Craving caffeine or naps throughout the day
Everyone enjoys an afternoon cup of coffee every so often or relies on a quick cat nap to get them through a tough day. Caffeine and naps are best limited, though, and can become a problem for your sleep cycle once you start relying on them.
If you can’t make it through the day without a caffeinated beverage, it’s a sign you’ve started relying on caffeine to keep your energy up. Long-term, this habit will only lose you sleep and can negatively impact your health.
Should I see a doctor if I can’t sleep?
If you have serious concerns or beliefs that you might have a sleep disorder, the next step is to contact your doctor or a mental health professional. It’s important to prioritize your sleep so that poor health habits don’t turn into a serious sleep disorder.
To prepare for your appointment:
- outline your symptoms and do your best to describe in detail how they affect your sleep
- track your sleep patterns in a journal over time to provide your health professional with a better idea of how long the symptoms have lasted and whether or not they have gotten worse over time
- inform your doctor about any stressors in your life that could be contributing to your sleep problems, like work or school
This article is for reference purposes only. It is not to replace or complement the advice of a licensed professional, nor is it intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. Any and all health concerns you have should be directed at a doctor.