Sleep is every bit as important to our overall health as is drinking water, eating a well-balanced diet and exercising regularly. For the majority of people sleeping well at night and waking refreshed to meet the challenges of a new day is something we take for granted. However, for millions of Americans getting a good nights sleep is something only to be dreamed of, if you’ll forgive the pun, as they suffer from one of the various sleep disorders that lead to disrupted sleep patterns and even, in extreme cases, sleep deprivation. The following takes you through some of the more common sleep disorders and some possible cures from altering your diet to taking sleep disorder medications like modafinil.
Mention sleep disorders and most people will first think of insomnia, the inability get to sleep. Insomnia can manifest itself in four ways: finding it difficult to fall asleep, constantly re-awaking throughout the sleep period, waking after a short period of sleep and sleep state misperception (believing you haven’t slept when in reality you have). All of these sleep disorders can be transient, short-term or chronic occurrences. For sufferers of insomnia taking modafinil would not be the solution, as rather than wanting to stay awake you need something to help you sleep. Sometimes changes to diet or drinking habits before sleep, modifying your activities before sleep or even taking a sleeping pill can all help to ensure you have a good night’s sleep.
Shift work sleep disorder.
Believe it or not but if you are a shift worker you could well have a sleep disorder known as both shift work sleep disorder or, alternatively, circadian rhythm sleep disorder. As a shift worker establishing a regular sleep pattern is pretty well impossible which often results in the length of time you spend asleep being shortened compared to that which your body requires.
The net result of this is that you end up feeling tired during your hours of wakefulness. This will lead to general fatigue which can often result in stress and an inability to work to your best capacity. One solution to this is to take a wakefulness medication like modafinil. Modafinil is also known to be of benefit to students during exam periods when, due to heavy revision schedules, their circadian sleep patterns become disrupted. A positive side-effect of modafinil for students is that it has been observed to also enhance their performance in exams.
Sleepwalking – a very real sleep disorder
More often associated with children – somnambulism or sleepwalking can affect adults too. Sleepwalking is more likely to result in embarrassment than injury but, especially for adults, it is a serious sleep disorder that needs treatment. Whilst some drugs can be used in the treatment of somnambulism the use of modafinil would not be appropriate here. Sleepwalking is usually treated by modifying the behavior of the somnambulist prior to going to bed.
Narcolepsy – falling asleep at inopportune times.
Sounds nasty doesn’t it – Narcolepsy! Well more importantly than it sounding nasty are the potential consequences of having this sleep disorder as, in simple terms, it means you could simply fall asleep at any time at all. If you’re sat down or lying down at home this wouldn’t be a problem – but imagine if you were driving or operating machinery or cooking in the kitchen, you could leave your self and others open to serious injury or even death.
A narcoleptic attack can last for anything from a few seconds to more than 30 minutes – but for sufferers of narcolepsy, they frequently feel incapacitated to take work away from home for fear of endangering others and/or suffering the embarrassment of others seeing them fall asleep at their desk. Narcolepsy is caused by a disorder of the brain whereby it cannot control your ability to stay awake. The only real cure for this brain disorder is to take medication that can act on the brain to stimulate it into wakefulness, the market leader of which is modafinil.
Sleep apnea is another serious sleep disorder, which in one form could have potentially fatal effects too. Sleep apnea interferes with your breathing during sleep and can manifest itself in two ways. Central sleep apnea is when your brain ‘forgets’ to tell your body to breathe whilst you’re asleep. In most cases, this means you will miss occasional breaths throughout the period you are asleep, but it has also been known to cause fatally prolonged lapses in breathing.
Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by the throat becoming obstructed by an excess of tissue in the pharynx, this can also cause a cessation of breathing whilst asleep and it will also invariably result in loud and prolonged snoring. For some people, obstructive sleep apnea can be cured by losing weight. Alternatively, for both central and obstructive sleep apnea, modafinil can be prescribed to help combat the symptoms.