WE all know that feeling of just wanting an extra five minutes in bed before we start our days.
For most of us it’s usually because we stayed up too late or had to get up earlier than usual.
Sleep disorders can be dangerous – so it’s important to know the signs and when to see a doctor[/caption]
But for some people that feeling of sleepiness can be something more serious.
Sleep disorders affect millions of people worldwide and while being tired may sound harmless, it can be quite dangerous – especially if it goes undiagnosed.
Certified sleep coach, Carolyn Burke told Dreams: “Untreated sleep disorders can result in poor heart health, strokes, an increased risk of cancer, and more”.
Here, we break down some of the sleep disorders that leave people struggling to stay awake…
The majority of us feel tired sometimes, but for around 20 per cent of the population it can be classified as hypersomnia.
Also known as excessive daytime sleepiness or excessive time spent sleeping, it’s when you struggle to stay awake during the day.
People affected by this can fall asleep at any time, for example at work or while driving.
It’s not a disorder in itself but it is a serious symptom that can have many different causes.
Those with hypersomnia may:
- Regularly nap during the day and not feel refreshed
- Fall asleep during the day, often while eating or talking
- Still sleep for long hours at night
Other symptoms might be an indicator of what’s causing your excessive sleepiness.
That’s why it’s important to see your doctor so they can investigate it further and work on a treatment plan.
2. Prolonged sleep inertia
Feeling a little groggy and heavy in those first few moments when you wake up is called sleep inertia.
It affects most of us and usually doesn’t last very long before we can haul ourselves out of bed.
But for some people it can last hours.
Those severely affected can be at higher risk of confusion arousal – also known as ‘sleep drunkenness’ – or parasomnia.
Symptoms can include feeling drowsy or groggy and you may also have trouble concentrating.
A doctor will usually diagnose it if it’s causing you distress or disruption to your life.
Narcolepsy is a rare long-term brain disorder that causes a person to suddenly fall asleep at inappropriate times.
This neurological condition affects the brain’s ability to regulate a normal sleep-wake cycle which means sufferers don’t have an inbuilt body clock.
While it was once thought of as a sleep disorder, narcolepsy is now considered an auto-immune disease caused by the destruction of certain cells within the brain by the immune system.
Although it is estimated to affect one in every 2,500 people, there are approximately 30,000 narcolepsy sufferers in the UK and not all of them have been diagnosed.
As the brain struggles to regulate sleeping and waking patterns, narcolepsy sufferers typically experience periods of extreme drowsiness and have difficultly staying awake.
Patients may also suffer from sleep paralysis and hallucinations.
The condition is diagnosed using a series of sleep test and by measuring hypcretin levels in the brain.
4. Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME)
Chronic fatigue syndrome, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), is a complex disorder characterised by ongoing, debilitating tiredness.
The main symptoms is tiredness, but the fatigue patients experience is completely different to ‘normal’ tiredness, Dr Sarah Jarvis told us.
She said: “It’s not like the tiredness you get when you overdo it – it is often a total exhaustion of every muscle in your body.”
People also find that rest doesn’t relieve that feeling of tiredness.
Other symptoms can include:
- Muscle or joint pain
- Sore throat
- Memory problems
- Feeling sick or dizzy
- Flu-like symptoms
- Heart palpitations
Dr Charles Shepherd, from the ME Association, told The Sun that despite these symptoms, ME is an “invisible illness” and people with ME might not necessarily look ill.
MORE ON HEALTH
He said: “There is no known cure and no effective treatment – and it can lead to greater functional impairment than multiple sclerosis or cancer.”
Chronic fatigue syndrome specialist Leonard A. Jason, Ph.D., professor of psychology at DePaul University, Chicago even told Cosmopolitan that 90 per cent of cases of chronic fatigue go undiagnosed.
Given this shocking statistic if you feel as though the symptoms apply to you, check in with a doctor who can rule out other illnesses and help to get a proper diagnosis and treatment.