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Hey there, sleepyhead. What's keeping you up?

June 30, 2015

Slumbering. Snoozing. Sawing logs. No matter what it's called, a good night's sleep never becomes tiresome.

Unfortunately, millions of people aren't getting the seven to eight hours of ZZZs every adult needs—every night—to support good health. If you're among those sleepyheads, perhaps it's one of these common sleep disorders that's keeping you up:

Insomnia

Signs and symptons

  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night.
  • Waking up too early.
  • Sleeping for only short periods of time.
  • Difficulty focusing during the day.

Possible Treatments

  • Sleep medications.
  • Lifestyle changes, such as exercising more and avoiding alcohol, caffeine and tobacco.
  • Better sleep habits, such as going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning.
  • Therapy to relieve sleep anxiety.

Narcolepsy

Signs and Symptons

  • Sudden sleep attacks during the day—even when doing something active, like walking.
  • Extreme or irresistible daytime sleepiness.
  • Sudden muscle weakness when awake (called cataplexy), often triggered by a strong emotion.
  • Hallucinations.

Possible Treatments

  • Stimulant medicines to increase daytime alertness.
  • Medicine to promote sleep at night.
  • Medicines that treat depression—which can help with muscle weakness, sleep paralysis and hallucinations.
  • Lifestyle changes, such as taking naps, following a regular sleep schedule and relaxing before bedtime.

Restless legs syndrome (RLS)

Signs and Symptons

  • Creeping sensations in the legs that create an urge to move them. (Walking or kicking offers some relief.)

Possible Treatments

  • A combination of two medicines—one to regulate dopamine levels and one to promote sleep.

Sleep apnea

Signs and Symptons

  • Frequent pauses in breathing while sleeping.
  • Nighttime gasping or snoring.
  • Morning headaches.
  • Irritability or depression.
  • Dry mouth upon waking.

Possible Treatments

  • Treatment of underlying conditions, such as a nasal condition or heart failure.
  • Breathing devices worn while sleeping, such as a continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP).
  • Surgery.
  • Weight loss.

If you think you have a sleep disorder, ask your doctor for help finding your way back to dreamland.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Our sleep center can help you stop counting sheep and get some sleep. For information visit ketteringhealth.org/sleep