Sleep disorders can impact your social, occupational, and daily life functioning in profound ways. Lack of sleep and poor sleep quality, both of which frequently pair with various sleep disorders, are known to come with detrimental risks – including substantially increasing your risk of getting into a car accident.
Despite this, sleep disorders are very common, and many people, unfortunately, go without treatment. So, what are the causes of sleep disorders? Are they expanding in prevalence, and how can you address a sleep disorder if you have one or think you might?
What Does It Mean To Have A Sleep Disorder?
The definition of a sleep disorder, according to the APA Dictionary of Psychology, is, “a persistent disturbance of typical sleep patterns (including the amount, quality, and timing of sleep) or the chronic occurrence of abnormal events or behavior during sleep.” It is not uncommon to have trouble sleeping every now and again, but prolonged difficulty sleeping, poor sleep quality, tiredness during waking hours, and other sleep-related abnormalities may be indicative of a sleep disorder or another health problem.
Are Sleep Disorders More Common Than They Used To Be?
Speaking about health conditions broadly, some diagnoses may seem to be more common now without actually being more common. This is due to increased awareness surrounding some conditions both in and outside of medical settings.
However, sleep disorders may actually be more common nowadays. Research shows that, since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the pervasiveness of sleep disorders has increased.
This makes sense when you consider some of the known risk factors for the development or worsening of common sleep disorders like insomnia, which include stress and trauma.
Possible Sleep Disorder Causes
Here is some information about possible sleep disorder causes and contributors:
- Family history or genetics. Studies show that A family history of sleep disorders can increase the likelihood that you will develop one, though this varies based on the specific sleep disorder and question and other factors.
- Personal history. Personal history of mental health conditions such as anxiety or PTSD makes it more likely that a person will develop a sleep disorder such as insomnia.
- Life stress. Stress can lead to trouble sleeping long-term or short-term. Chronic stress is affiliated with a higher risk of insomnia and various other conditions. Common stressors include finances and work, both of which have been impacted by the pandemic for many.
- Trauma. Trauma increases the likelihood of sleep disturbance and various sleep disorders. Examples of trauma or traumatic events include but are not limited to natural disasters, the loss of a loved one, abuse*, and physical illness.
*Please contact the national domestic violence hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) if you or someone you know is experiencing abuse.
With it in mind that more and more people seem to be struggling with or getting diagnosed with sleep disorders, it is more vital than ever before to talk about how to promote quality sleep and how to get treatment for sleep disorders.
Find Treatment For Sleep Disorders
Most sleep disorders are treatable, even if not all of them go away entirely. Insomnia, which is one of the most common sleep disorders, is one example of a sleep disorder that is highly treatable. The first step to getting treatment for a sleep disorder will typically be to talk with your personal primary care physician or a general doctor. There are a number of ways to treat sleep disorders, including lifestyle changes (such as sleeping in a cool, dark area without electronics, limiting caffeine and alcohol, and implementing stress management techniques), therapy, and medication or other interventions, depending on the specific disorder or concern. Please consult with your doctor before considering, starting, or changing medications. Therapeutic modalities such as cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, frequently abbreviated to CBT-I, may be advantageous for some. Therapy can also help with general stress management and give you a place to address any other mental health concerns, both of which can improve your sleep quality. Getting a referral from your medical doctor is not the only way to locate a therapist. You can also find a therapist near you by searching the web, contacting your insurance company to see who they cover, or seeking low-income resources in your area if relevant. Whether you want to discuss sleep or something else that’s on your mind, online therapy through a platform with licensed professionals like BetterHelp is yet another option.
To get an adequate diagnosis and determine the appropriate next step for yourself as a unique individual, it is important to seek the care of a medical provider if you have a sleep disorder or think that you might. Trouble sleeping may be due to something more severe in some cases, so it is vital that symptoms are addressed and evaluated by a professional.