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6 Signs of Poor Sleep Explained

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This blog has been medically reviewed by Theresa Vuskovich, DMD.

Hitting the hay at the end of the day and getting some sleep is rejuvenating. However, not everybody wakes up in the morning with recharged batteries. For the 25 million adults in the United States living with obstructive sleep apnea, nighttime sleep provides ineffective rest.

Underlying sleep conditions can make it difficult for a person to get deep, restful sleep at night. While millions of people may have an underlying condition causing their poor sleep, they might not always know it. For example, obstructive sleep apnea is common; however, an estimated 80 percent of cases are undiagnosed.

Getting an underlying condition diagnosed and treated won’t just help a person get a good night’s sleep: It could also reduce the risk of developing life-threatening health problems like diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. If these six signs of poor sleep are all too familiar, talking to your doctor can help you get to the bottom of the problem.

Snoring

Snoring at night is not an uncommon condition. Sometimes, though, the noise coming from your mouth as you sleep could be more than just an annoying sound. Snoring could be a sign of sleep apnea, especially if it is accompanied by pauses in breathing.

Snoring is often present in cases of obstructive sleep apnea. In cases of obstructive sleep apnea, breathing stops periodically due to blockages in the airway. People with this condition may snore, with periods of quiet when they stop breathing. Breathing then resumes, often with a gasp or loud noise.

Excessive Movement during Sleep

Moving around excessively during the night could point to periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD). People with this may experience involuntary movements when they sleep, though their partner is more likely to notice the disturbance than the patient.

While patients may not know they are moving throughout the night, these movements can prevent them from sleeping well. People with obstructive sleep apnea or narcolepsy may also have PLMD.

Waking Up at Night

Frequently waking up in the middle of the night could be a sign of a variety of underlying conditions. People with some health concerns might wake up fully in the night or have small awakening episodes that they may not remember.

People with sleep apnea, for example, can wake up repeatedly in the night for just a few seconds at a time as they begin breathing again. People with narcolepsy and insomnia can also have trouble staying asleep through the night. Periodic limb movement disorder may cause frequent awakening during the night, along with involuntary movement, though patients may not always notice.

Fatigue

Being tired is just a reality of adulthood, unfortunately. Adults have traded in the early bedtimes and afternoon naps of childhood for stressful jobs, parenting, and never-ending to-do lists. While many people have to stifle a few yawns now and then, people with an underlying condition take being tired to a whole new level.

Waking up frequently during the night or having a hard time achieving deep sleep can lead to a very sleepy day. For example, people with obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy, or periodic limb movement disorder can suffer from excessive sleepiness during the day. Some people may even be so tired that it becomes difficult to get through daily activities.

Difficulty Concentrating

When a person consistently doesn’t get enough sleep, their cognitive function can suffer. Research has shown that sleep is critical for brain health, and a variety of tasks can be more difficult without enough rest.

If underlying conditions like sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy, and others are hindering sleep, a person may have trouble concentrating and get confused more easily. Logical reasoning and complex thought may be more difficult, and memory and learning can be impaired.

Mood Changes

It’s no secret that a toddler that doesn’t get a nap or wakes up too early in the morning will be cranky and fussy. In this respect, adults are quite similar to toddlers. A lack of sleep can affect a person’s mood, especially when they frequently don’t get adequate rest. People who are sleep deprived have reported feeling sadder or angrier, and stress and mental exhaustion are common.

The problem can end up being cyclical, as stress and anxiety can lead to more sleepless nights. Mood can be seriously affected by poor sleep—15 to 20 percent of people suffering from insomnia also have depression. Studies have suggested a bidirectional relationship between sleep disturbances and mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. About 75 percent of depressed patients also have insomnia.

Mood changes can occur with many different sleep disturbances that prevent a person from achieving restful sleep each night. For example, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and insomnia have been found to affect a person’s mood during the day.

A restful night of sleep is important for people of all ages, and problems that get in the way of sleeping well could be a sign of an underlying condition. If a person is experiencing one or many of these signs of a sleep disturbance, it is important to talk to a physician. A doctor can determine if another health condition is to blame and find the right treatment to help get patients back to sleeping soundly.

References
  1. Alvaro, P. K., Roberts, R. M., & Harris, J. K. (2013). A Systematic Review Assessing Bidirectionality between Sleep Disturbances, Anxiety, and Depression. Sleep, 36(7), 1059–1068. doi:10.5665/sleep.2810
  2. Colten, H. R., & Altevogt, B. M. (Eds.). (2006). Sleep disorders and sleep deprivation: An unmet public health problem. Washington, D.C., DC: National Academies Press.
  3. Goyal, M., & Johnson, J. (2017). Obstructive Sleep Apnea Diagnosis and Management. Missouri medicine, 114(2), 120–124.
  4. Nutt, D., Wilson, S., & Paterson, L. (2008). Sleep disorders as core symptoms of depression. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 10(3), 329–336. doi:10.31887/DCNS.2008.10.3/dnutt
  5. Slater, G., & Steier, J. (2012). Excessive daytime sleepiness in sleep disorders. Journal of thoracic disease, 4(6), 608–616. doi:10.3978/j.issn.2072-1439.2012.10.07
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