5 “Harmless” Sleep Problems You Shouldn’t Ignore

It’s easier than you think to tame your tossing and turning: You can cure some minor sleep disorders after just one therapy session, suggests new British research. Study participants had acute insomnia, or trouble sleeping for a period of 2 weeks to 3 months because of a life event like stress or illness. But 3 months after the subjects sat down for a 1-hour therapy session, nearly 75 percent reported being completely cured of sleep struggles.

It’s much easier to nip insomnia in the bud through therapy before it becomes chronic, says study author Jason Ellis, Ph.D. The problem: Most people don’t identify with the term “acute insomnia” even if they have it, he says. And soon enough, frequent sleep issues become harder to fix. Even if these five common sleep problems only strike occasionally, you should still bring them up with your doctor.

These occasional snoozing struggles could signal a bigger issue

1. You Don’t Sleep through the Night

Waking up frequently could be a sign that you have sleep apnea, says Men’s Health sleep advisor W. Christopher Winter, M.D. When you snooze, your airway closes and forces your brain to choose breathing properly over staying asleep. You wake with a jolt, the muscles in your airway readjust, and then you’re knocked out again before you realize what happened, Dr. Winter says. It doesn’t matter if you’re rousing every 5 minutes or every hour. If sleeping in chunks makes you feel worn-out the next morning, then it’s a problem—and you need to see your doc, says Dr. Winter.

2. You Wake Up from Nightmares

You’re lying on the beach with a Corona in hand when a tidal wave hits you. Suddenly, you’re back in your bedroom gasping for air. If you’re constantly waking up from dreams like this one, it could be another indicator of sleep apnea, says Dr. Winter. Throughout the night, you dream in cycles known as REM sleep, or rapid eye movement. During your REM cycle, the muscles that keep your airway open become paralyzed and can cause it to collapse, says Dr. Winter. Then, your brain takes that feeling of suffocation and incorporates it into the fabric of your dreams. It might seem like you’re waking up from fear, but apnea is likely the culprit, he says.

3. You Get Morning Headaches

A migraine in the morning could also mean you have a more mild form of apnea known as upper airway resistance syndrome, says Dr. Winter. If you don’t inhale and exhale properly, you don’t get rid of enough carbon dioxide. And when you keep in all this excess gas, it leads to a pounding head—which serves as a cruel alarm clock in the A.M. Before you see a doc about this sleep problem, see if it’s an easy fix. Avoid pulling the covers over your head prior to dozing off. Trapping yourself in a blanket dome with all the carbon dioxide you’re breathing out can give you what’s called a “turtle headache,” says Dr. Winter. If you can’t resist yourself, at least leave an air hole, he says.

4. You Grind Your Teeth

If you sand down your chompers, it could mean stress is keeping you from getting a good night’s sleep. Although you’re probably not aware of it, you’re actually conscious when you grind your teeth, says Dr. Winter. The action happens during short awakenings in the night. If something’s bothering you, you wake up and subconsciously clamp down as a release. In the morning, you’re left with a sore jaw—and later, a lecture from your dentist.

5. You Do Things You Don’t Remember

Does your girl wake you with tales of weird things you did last night that you can’t recall? Don’t laugh them off, says Dr. Winter. If there’s no booze in the equation, this kind of behavior falls under the umbrella of parasomnia disorders, which involve doing abnormal things while you sleep that could hurt yourself or others. Eventually, you could escalate to sleep walking, sleep driving, or even “sleep sexing,” says Dr. Winter. Bring up your strange nighttime adventures with your doctor.

By Jada Green for Men’s Health