You May Have a Sleep Disorder If...

Wake up refreshed? Alert throughout the day? If not, you may have a sleep disorder.

From the WebMD Archives

Wake up to this simple fact: You are not supposed to be sleepy, with your feet draggin' and lids laggin' during the day. Do not let the notion that "I have always been this way" fool you into thinking it's OK. You should awaken feeling relatively refreshed and remain alert throughout the day -- every day.

Have you ever...

  • ...awakened after seven to eight hours of sleep feeling unrefreshed?
  • ...spontaneously fallen asleep during meetings or social events?
  • ...gotten a creepy, crawly sensation in your legs, with an irresistible urge to move them, especially when you lie down in bed at night?
  • ...found that your bed partner has vanished sometime in the night because your snoring was no melodic symphony, or you literally kicked your partner out of bed?

If any of this rings true, you may have a sleep problem, a medical sleep disorder, or a related medical condition for which treatment may literally change your life.

Waking after seven to eight hours of sleep and feeling unrefreshed could be a sign of poor quality sleep. The quality of sleep is as vitally important to our health and well-being as is the quantity. Our sleep has a complex pattern, or architecture, consisting of four stages that run through various cycles during the night. During certain stages and times of the sleep cycle, we secrete a variety of hormones and other substances that help regulate our metabolism and other health-related factors. If our sleep patterns are altered, it may leave us feeling unrefreshed, tired, and sleepy, as well as put us at risk for a host of serious medical conditions.

Let's first briefly distinguish among sleep problems, primary sleep disorders, and sleep disorders secondary to medical conditions.

Sleep problems often occur as the result of poor "sleep hygiene" or "bad habits." These are a range of practices and environmental factors, many of which are under your control. They include things like smoking, drinking alcohol or caffeine, vigorous exercise or eating a large meal before bed, jet lag from travel across time zones, and psychological stressors like deadlines, exams, marital conflict, and job crises that intrude on your ability to fall asleep or stay asleep. Designing and sticking with a good sleep hygiene program should alleviate these types of problems.

There are more than 85 recognized sleep disorders, the most recognizable of which may be insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and restless leg syndrome. These and others may manifest themselves in various ways.