Q: Why can’t I seem to get rested?
A: Sleep disorders cause abnormal timing, duration or quality of sleep and can compromise your wellbeing and performance during the day.
Inadequate duration of sleep is the leading cause of excessive daytime sleepiness and is usually due to social obligations, behavior or body clock problems. Most adults require seven to nine hours of sleep to feel fully alert and perform their best, thus people who sleep less than seven hours nightly may short themselves by seven to 14 hours of sleep per week. Wearable activity monitors (i.e. Fitbit, Basis, Jawbone, Apple watch or cell phone apps) provide an objective way to track the timing and duration of sleep. This information can help you learn how to adjust habits to support consistent sleep patterns seven nights a week. Inconsistent sleep timing may suggest a circadian rhythm (body clock) disorder. Test yourself by getting eight to nine hours of sleep every night for a month and then reassess how you feel. Many people will find they feel better and more rested after doing so.
Sleepiness despite practicing consistent sleep habits, suggests impaired sleep quality. Despite advertised claims, currently available wearable devices and smartphone apps do not accurately report sleep quality, though more reliable devices are anticipated shortly. These devices do correctly detect movement, which may be associated with more shallow or fragmented sleep. Common disorders that cause fragmented sleep include snoring and breathing disorders (i.e. obstructive sleep apnea), and movement disorders (i.e. leg movements, dream enactment or sleep walking). Rare brain disorders like narcolepsy can also cause excessive sleepiness. Symptoms of snoring, pauses in breathing, jerking movements, sleepwalking, acting out dreams, impairment at work due to sleepiness, or drowsy driving should all prompt further evaluation or testing in an American Academy of Sleep Medicine accredited program like the Kootenai Health Sleep Disorders Center.