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Help With Sleep Disorders

Curated and updated for the community by APA

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Sleep disorders (or sleep-wake disorders) involve problems with the quality, timing, and amount of sleep, which result in daytime distress and impairment in functioning. Sleep-wake disorders often occur along with medical conditions or other mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, or cognitive disorders. There are several different types of sleep-wake disorders, of which insomnia is the most common. Other sleep-wake disorders include obstructive sleep apnea, parasomnias, narcolepsy, and restless leg syndrome.

Sleep Problems
  • Quality of sleep
  • Timing of sleep
  • Amount of sleep

Sleep difficulties are linked to both physical and emotional problems. Sleep problems can both contribute to or exacerbate mental health conditions and can be a symptom of other mental health conditions. About one-third of adults report insomnia symptoms and 6-10 percent meet the criteria for insomnia disorder.

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  • Nov 26, 2019
Is Social Jet Lag Dragging You Down?

Social jet lag refers to the mismatch between a person’s internal clock and their daily schedules. For most people that means the difference in sleep schedules between weekdays (school or workdays) and weekends (non-workdays).

  • May 14, 2019
Men, Women, and Differing Responses to Stress

Stress affects people in several ways—it activates adrenaline and other hormones, the nervous system and immune system. While not all stress is harmful, and some can even be beneficial, chronic or toxic stress can contribute to health problems. “Men and women react differently to toxic stress because their brains are wired differently,” notes Bruce McEwen, Ph.D., of The Rockefeller University, * “and therefore they may be at risk for different stress-related illnesses.” For example, as a result of chronic stress, women may be more likely to experience symptoms of depression while men may be more likely to develop problems with substance use. 

  • Feb 22, 2019
Are there Mental Health Benefits to Being a Morning Person?

Many of us identify ourselves as either a morning person or a night owl, and these preferences are at least partly the result of our genes. New research finds associations between the timing of your sleep/wake preferences and your mental health.The study from researchers at the University of Exeter and Massachusetts General Hospital suggests that being genetically programmed to rise early may lead to greater well-being and a lower risk of depression and schizophrenia.

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World Sleep Day 2019
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World Sleep Society

I’m considering talking with my doctor about medication to help me sleep, but I’m concerned about becoming dependent on medication. Is it safe to take over-the-counter sleep medications?

Learn more about lifestyle choices that will promote and not harm sleep, (See Treatment and Self Help) rather than taking medication for sleep. Over-the-counter medications for sleep generally contain antihistamines. These may leave you feeling drowsy and may interfere with memory and attention. More

Is there a specialist that I should see about sleep problems?

Sleep disorder specialists should be consulted in cases of significant daytime sleepiness, persistent insomnia and disturbed behavior during sleep. Referral to a sleep disorder specialist is also appropriate for evaluation of breathing-related sleep disorders. More

I generally sleep eight to eight-and-a-half hours each night, but I’m still very sleepy during the day. How can I figure out what is going on?

Persistent daytime sleepiness can be debilitating or even dangerous. Daytime sleepiness can be caused by a number of issues, including self-medication with either stimulants or depressants; inadequate sleep at night; breathing-related sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea, narcolepsy or cataplexy; or psychiatric illnesses like depression. Excessive daytime sleepiness should be evaluated by a sleep disorders specialist. More

A friend often has a glass or two of wine to help her get to sleep, is there any concern with doing that?

Wine and other alcoholic beverages may enable someone to fall asleep more quickly, but as the alcohol is metabolized, the sleeper may experience rebound insomnia during the middle of the night. Also, if the sleeper has sleep apnea or a tendency to sleep apnea, the use of alcohol and other depressants may worsen this condition. More

I have an infant and a toddler and my sleep is often interrupted. Is there anything I can do to get the best sleep possible, given the circumstances?

Pediatric sleep specialists have developed techniques that parents of infants and toddlers can use to promote better sleep and sleep habits in their children, thereby enabling tired parents themselves to have a better chance at restorative sleep. See infant sleep recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. More

Charles Reynolds

About the Expert:

Charles F. Reynolds III, M.D.
UPMC Endowed Professor in Geriatric Psychiatry
Director of the Aging Institute of UPMC and University of Pittsburgh

Warren’s Story

Warren, a 30-year-old graduate student, saw a doctor to discuss his problems staying asleep. The trouble began four months prior when he started to wake up at 3 a.m. every morning, no matter when he went to bed, and he was unable to fall back to sleep. As a result he felt “out of it” during the day. This led him to feel more worried about how he was going to finish his thesis when he was unable to focus due to extreme fatigue.

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OCT 16, 2020
Sleep trackers measure how long – but what about how well?
Med-Tech News

Sleep trackers generally fall significantly short in terms of diagnosing sleep conditions. In the diagnostic realm, polysomnography – not the most popular apps and devices – is the gold standard.  Evaluating the overall merit of different sleep trackers is even more difficult given that most commercial products operate on undisclosed algorithms that determine what is and is not sleep. Sleep labs’ algorithms, on the other hand, are publicly shared, making it possible for independent experts to evaluate them. 

OCT 13, 2020

US Study Examines Impact of Technology Use on Sleep Disorders

AJMC.com

An analysis finds Americans who are under the age of 25, shift workers, and living in urban areas are more likely to have sleep disorders. Researchers from SleepStandards.com sought to examine the utilization of technology in those with sleep disorders across age groups. Beginning at the end of July 2020, the study authors conducted a national survey of 1,062 US participants, with the primary objective being to assess both negative and positive aspects of the connection between technology use and sleep disorders.

OCT 13, 2020

Sleep disorders common during COVID-19 pandemic
News Medical/Life Sciences

A recent study published in October 2020 reveals the significant prevalence of sleep abnormalities among the population in areas affected by COVID-19. This is likely to cause a heavy toll on mental and physical health if sustained over the long run..