By: Fauzia Haque, Contributing Writer
With added amounts of stress, tension, and anxiety, including an immensely heightened emotional track, adolescence is the prime time for sleep deprivation to occur. Most teens stay awake and pull all-nighters for fun while others keep tumbling and turning without the soothing tranquility of sleep ever reaching them. Sleep disorders have grown quite prevalent throughout the years as teenagers are also prone to experience mental health issues. Here are some of the most common sleeping disorders and how to realize if someone is suffering from them.
Insomnia happens to be the most common form of sleep deprivation overall; the disorder also serves as an umbrella term to encase various sleeping disorders that may affect both cranial and the entire body’s physiology. Insomnia refers to the inability to fall asleep, mainly by stress, but any conflict involving someone physically, emotionally, and mentally can cause an increased occurrence of the disorder, especially if the victim does not have a peaceful and sound sleeping environment. While insomnia commonly occurs to everyone from time to time, those that endure chronic insomnia are at a more worrying risk of their personal lives deteriorating academically, mentally, and physically. Not feeling well-rested, having difficulty sleeping, waking up frequently throughout the night or too early, and continually feeling tired and irritable are all insomnia symptoms. Self-care techniques, therapy, or medications can improve insomnia. Self-care methods usually improve sleeping habits by avoiding adrenaline-inducing meals, eliminating electronic exposure before bed, and regulating sleep schedules. Light therapy helps to readjust one’s circadian rhythm through bright light exposure to mimic natural sunlight. In contrast, cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) can be utilized to pinpoint and modify negative thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that disrupt the body’s mental and physical ability to fall asleep timely. CBT-I targets psychological distress and is the first treatment prescribed to patients before medication and usually takes up to eight weeks to see improvements. Sedatives, antihistamines, and antidepressants are typically prescribed by doctors or over-the-counter sleeping pills can also be taken to enhance the stimulation of melatonin in the body. Psychological insomnia is a prevalent subtype of insomnia spurred by the anxiety of restlessness the next day or by the fear of falling asleep. It can be treated similarly and tends to have similar symptoms.
Parasomnia is a categorical term for sleeping disorders that involve abnormal and disruptive behavior that causes sleep deprivation even though the child tends to be unaware of their movements. Unwanted behaviors or events, such as sleepwalking, talking, eating, enuresis, nightmares, and teeth grinding, occur due to the arousal from rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. Periodic episodes of parasomnia can be triggered by stress, sleep deprivation, and neurological disorders; other sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, and medications can also trigger a parasomniac episode. In most children and teens, parasomnia happens because of an underdeveloped circadian rhythm that causes a fluctuation in consciousness. If someone is struggling with any of these symptoms, they typically visit a sleep medicine physician where an in-lab sleep study is conducted. For treatment, the physician may suggest that locks or alarms be applied to doors and windows, to sleep on the ground, or to remove furniture that may cause one to fumble during an episode. Personal adjustments in self-care can also aid in improving parasomnia and decreasing the likelihood of an episode. Medications are also prescribed, such as topiramate, antidepressants, melatonin, and more, to aid in sleeping.
Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS):
DSPS occurs when one’s sleeping schedule is delayed by at least two hours because melatonin is released from the pineal gland later throughout the night, causing a disruption in the ability to fall asleep at a traditional bedtime and waking up at the desirable time. Teenagers are susceptible to this neurological disorder as they typically face interferences in their body’s internal clock. DSPS does not have a known cause, but anywhere from 7 to 16 percent of adolescents are diagnosed with the disorder. The disorder commonly happens in adolescence after puberty. Psychiatric issues may occur from DSPS due to a notable amount of drowsiness throughout the day that can lead to decreased academic, mental, and social performances. Doctors tend to diagnose DSPS based on either the symptoms or through an overnight sleep test called a polysomnogram. Personal sleep and self-care behavioral improvements, light therapy, and sleep-incurring medications are used to treat the disorder.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA):
OSA is the most common form of sleep apnea that occurs when one stops breathing momentarily and is therefore prevented from going into a deep stage of slumber. The muscles in the throat relax for a moment, which narrows down the airway, and is mainly signified by snoring or sweating in sleep. Obesity and enlarged tonsils or adenoids are the leading causes of sleep apnea. As the disorder can be potentially life-threatening, weight loss, and laying on one side is suggested. Polysomnograms, home testing, and a physical examination of the throat are how doctors typically diagnose OSA. A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy device is most commonly utilized to keep the patient’s airways open to allow air through a mask. Other mouthpieces and oral devices are used to minimize respiratory disturbances where the lower jaw may be jutted forward, the tongue held, or the throat may remain open for the duration of the night. If necessary, surgical procedures involving the nose, throat, upper airways, jaws, and neck may be done to increase stimulation for those that need more critical care or cannot adjust to the oral technologies.
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS):
RLS refers to the discomfort or painful sensations felt in the leg, which causes the involuntary need for continuous fidgeting. More often than not, RLS tends to affect teens and children in the evening and night before bed, causing an uncomfortable feeling. Approximately 1.5 million children and adolescents are affected by this neurological condition. RLS can be genetically inherited from familial genetics, and the symptoms are more likely to appear within the periods of childhood and adolescence. The compelling impulse to fidget or move the leg is the most significant indication of RLS, but pain and sleep deprivation are also very common within a RLS patient. RLS symptoms typically worsen throughout the night, and with old age; a brief moment of relief is felt when one is engaged by an activity like walking. Other medical conditions, such as iron deficiency anemia, can also afflict RLS as the decrease in iron causes a fall in dopamine levels. As with most sleeping disorders, self-care improvements, such as decreasing caffeine intake or implementing physical exercise into routines, can immediately help with the urge; massage therapies, dopamine supplements, or medications that target pain in the leg can provide a sense of relief for an RLS sufferer as well.
Narcolepsy, or excessive uncontrollable daytime sleepiness, is a chronic condition that induces daytime fatigue. Symptoms of narcolepsy can be seen anywhere from a prepubescent age to thirty years old. Although narcolepsy does not have an exact cause, the neurological sleep disorder is usually inherited amongst families through a predisposed gene that causes the immune system to attack the brain cells that generate hypocretin. The lack of hypocretin causes unexpected storms of sleep, as well as the privation of muscle tone, hypnagogic illusions, sleep paralysis, and cataplexy, that trouble narcoleptic patients and their circadian rhythms. One in 2,000 people is diagnosed with narcolepsy in the United States alone. Incurable sleep disorder makes even the most menial tasks difficult. Treatment generally consists of therapeutic peer groups and medications, such as stimulants, sodium oxybate, antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) to induce sleep in the night and help alleviate symptoms and daytime drowsiness.
Most individuals suffering from a sleeping disorder are notably vulnerable to develop mental illnesses, suffer from concentration issues that lead to academic and social regression, and the inability to complete menial tasks due to the deprivation of emotional motivation from their severe drowsiness. If any of these symptoms, characteristics, or disorders seem to illustrate the behavioral aspects of oneself or others, it is essential to note that seeking medical assistance is the best way to help and ensure that any other adverse consequences resulting from the sleeping disorder do not occur.