A sleep disorder is broadly defined as a physical or psychological problem that impairs your ability to sleep or causes increased sleepiness during the day. Everyone can experience sleep problems from time to time. However, you might have a sleep disorder if:
You regularly experience difficulty sleeping
You are often tired during the day, even if you slept for at least seven hours the night before
You have a reduced or impaired ability to perform regular daytime activities
It is important to explore the possible causes of your difficulty with sleeping and/or daytime sleepiness and try to find a solution. One way to evaluate the quality of your sleep and to see whether you have a sleep disorder is to know the characteristics of various sleep disorders. Keeping track of your sleep habits by keeping a sleep diary may also help you and your doctor identify the problem.
Sleep has never been easy for Leslie Partridge Sachs, a dancer, choreographer, and mother of two young girls who lives in Garrison, N.Y. Even as a child, she says, "I had trouble falling asleep and staying asleep." Once she became a mother, her insomnia worsened.
"I sleep very lightly -- I hear my daughters even if they turn over in bed. And most mornings I wake up at 3:30 or 4 and can’t get back to sleep." Her average night’s shut-eye of four to five hours affects her mood. "I feel irritable,"...
Ask yourself the following questions about your sleep. Do you:
Fall asleep while driving?
Struggle to stay awake when inactive, such as when watching television or reading?
Have difficulty paying attention or concentrating at work, school, or home?
Have performance problems at work or school?
Often get told by others that you look tired?
Have difficulty with your memory?
Have slowed responses?
Have difficulty controlling your emotions?
Feel the need to take naps almost every day?
If you experience one or more of these characteristics, you may have a sleep disorder.
Keeping a Sleep Diary
In order to determine if you have a sleep disorder, pay attention to your sleep habits by keeping a sleep diary and discussing patterns and characteristics of your sleep with your doctor. It is important to note that insomnia can be a sleep disorder, or a symptom of another problem. Many common sleep problems can be resolved with behavioral treatments and increased attention to proper sleep hygiene. Consult your doctor if you have any concerns about your sleep patterns.