Do I Have A Sleeping Disorder?

Our hectic lives can leave us short on sleep.  But is our lack of good sleep due to our busy schedule or something more?    

My sleep is irregular throughout the night and when I wake I feel tired.  What is wrong?
Irregular sleep and daytime sleepiness are common signs of insomnia.  Insomnia is when your body is not getting the amount of sleep that it needs and when you wake the next day your energy level is low and you feel tired.  Simple changes could help with this: limit your amount of caffeine and get regular exercise.  Regular exercise will reduce the amount of stress, which is a cause of insomnia. 

I have difficulty breathing while I sleep.  What is causing this?
When our airways are blocked and cause irregular breathing while asleep, the person typically has sleep apnea.  If you wake the next day feeling tired, have a headache or dry throat, pain in your chest, or are having trouble breathing, you may have this disorder.  Excessive, loud snoring is another symptom of sleep apnea.  This is a very serious disorder and must be treated.  If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, you may use a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure mask.  This mask is worn every night while you sleep to provide a continuous flow of air, which keeps the airway open. 

My legs ache when I lay down to sleep or relax.  Is this serious?
If you have abnormal feeling in your legs when you lay down, it might be more than tiredness.  Do you feel the need to move your legs?  Do you experience pain if you don’t move?  If you are experiencing these symptoms you may have restless leg syndrome.  When your legs are resting it triggers the RLS; therefore, the feeling gets worse as you are falling asleep.  You can find temporary relief by massaging your legs or moving around.  If the pain persists, seek medical attention. 

I have found myself falling asleep at work or while I’m driving.  I do this throughout the day.  What does this mean?
Falling asleep during daily activities could be signs of narcolepsy.  Narcolepsy is an untreatable condition and symptoms are typically seen in those between the ages of 10 and 25.  The sudden sleep can be during the day while engaging in daily activities.  People with narcolepsy also experience hallucinations.  These happen when they are about to fall asleep or are getting tired.  Some people with narcolepsy also experience what is called, cataplexy.  This is when your muscles become weak to the point of immobility and your speech is hindered, making it difficult to speak.  This can be triggered by excessive laughter or if the person becomes angry. 

If I do not have a serious condition, how can I help myself sleep better?
One way to help get adequate amounts of sleep is by establishing a regular routine.  Set a specific time that you will go to bed and get up.  Plan your day around your sleeping schedule, not the other way around.  Make sure that your sleeping environment is sufficient and can provide a peaceful night of sleep. 

If you think you may have a sleeping disorder, talk to your physician about referring you to the IU Health Ball Memorial Sleep Disorders Center.  To learn more, call 765.751.2727.

Sudarshan Komanapalli, MD, FCCP, is the Medical Director at IU Health Ball Memorial Sleep Disorders Center. For more information, please visit