If you find that you're sleepy during the day and have a difficult time remaining alert and focused without the help of a nap or an extra dose of caffeine, you may have a sleep disorder. There are six different categories of sleep disorders, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine: insomnias; hypersomnias; sleep breathing disorders; circadian rhythm disorders; parasomnias; and sleep movement disorders.
Two of the most common disorders are insomnia and sleep apnea. People suffering from insomnia have a difficult time falling asleep and staying asleep. Insomnia can be caused by a number of issues, including stress, depression, poor sleeping habits and certain medications. People suffering from insomnia should see a doctor when their lack of sleep begins affecting their daily activities. Sleep apnea, on the other hand, takes place when regular breathing is interrupted for short periods due to a complete or partial blockage in the upper airway. This causes the person to wake up, interrupting their sleep multiple times throughout the night. If left untreated, severe cases of sleep apnea may be associated with high-blood pressure and the risk of a stroke or heart attack.
It's not always easy to tell when someone is suffering from a sleep disorder, especially because sleep can be disrupted for a variety of reasons - everything from a snoring partner to an uncomfortable bed can keep you awake. While there are a variety of lifestyle tips to help improve your sleep, if you've tried everything and can't seem to figure out why you're having trouble, it's time to meet with your physician. Your doctor may ask you to spend a night or two in a sleep lab where technicians will monitor your heart, brain, breathing pattern and body movements throughout the night. The tests will offer a more detailed report regarding your lack of sleep, allowing your doctor to get to the root cause and better treat your disorder.
Take the National Sleep Foundation Sleepiness Test to get a better idea of whether or not you have a sleep disorder.