The 6 ‘normal’ sleep problems that are actually a sign you must see your GP

ARE you a snorer, fidgeter or sleep talker?

Everyone has their sleep habits that are either quirky or very common.

But perhaps you're a little concerned about a symptom that appears at night, and wonder if it is worth seeing the doctor for.

Many are easy to just brush under the carpet as "normal" – including snoring, which can in fact be the sign of something serious.

Here, experts reveal when a sleep problem deserves a trip to the doctor.

1. Snoring 

Snoring is incredibly common and not normally a cause of concern.

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However, listen to the sound of your partner’s snoring, for it could hold clues tos something more serious.

Sounds of gasping, snorting or choking could mean a person has sleep apnoea.

The condition also causes a person to momentarily stop breathing repeatedly over the night.

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During the day, a person with sleep apnoea may also wake up with a headache, feel tired or moody and find it hard to concentrate.

While many people won’t need treatment, some may need a device called a CPAP machine that pumps air into a mask that is worn over the nose and mouth while sleeping.

Dr Claire Morrison, a medical advisor for MedExpress, said sleep apnoea is easily and often missed as a cause of sleep apnoea.

She told the Daily Record it is “responsible for chronic tiredness during the day, and even road traffic accidents if sufferers fall asleep at the wheel”.

2. Anxiety

Anxiety can keep you tossing and turning for hours at night, or wake you up throughout.

This causes fragmented sleep that, no matter how long you’ve slept for, will leave you feeling unrested.

Sleep deprivation can worsen anxiety, spurring a negative cycle involving insomnia and anxiety disorders.

Dr Morrison said: “Mental health problems that commonly affect sleep include depression, anxiety, stress, panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder.”

These are treatable mental health disorders.

But in the meantime, get an evening wind-down routine that starts in the early evening and improve sleep hygiene, such as having a tidy and calming bedroom with no screens.

3. Restless legs

If you or your partner can’t stop fidgeting in bed, it could be a condition called restless legs syndrome, also known as Willis-Ekbom disease.

This causes an irresistible urge to move the legs, or a tingling or fizzing sensation, Dr Morrison said.

“It tends to be worse in the evenings and at night, sometimes making it impossible to sleep properly. It can affect the arms too,” she said.

It’s more common in women than men, and those of middle age.

In some cases, restless legs syndrome is caused by an underlying health condition, such as iron deficiency anaemia or kidney failure, or pregnancy.

Treating these conditions will usually make restless legs disappear.
But in the majority of cases, there's no obvious cause of restless legs syndrome, which makes it harder to get rid of.

4. Sweating

Finding yourself waking in the night doused in sweat?

Night sweats have a number of causes, some of which are more serious than others.

Hormone changes during the menopause can give women night sweats. But it is treatable – go to your GP if it is affecting you.

Antidepressants, steroids and painkillers are the most common medications to have sweating as side effects, which you can talk to your GP about.

Sweating at night can also be a very early warning sign of some cancers, most notably lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. But this would be rare.

Infection can also cause the body to sweat at night, and has been highlighted as a potential symptoms for Covid.

5. Loss of interest in sex

If you’re finding yourself uninterested in bedroom antics, it may cause you to worry if there is something wrong with you.

Often it comes down to problems within a relationship.

However, there are also medical reasons for a loss of libido, which can be targeted with treatment to give you your mojo back.

For people of all ages, depression or other mental health conditions may be the cause, as well as diabetes or heart disease.

Sometimes hormonal birth control, such as the combined pill or implant, is to blame.

As women age, the drop of hormones that comes with the menopause – which can last several years – may deplete any interest in sex, or make it physically uncomfortable due to vaginal dryness.

Men can also experience a dip in testosterone as they age, and erectile dysfunction becomes more common from the age of 40.

6. Toilet trips 

Nocturia is the medical term for excessive urination at night.

It could be triggered by caffeine, alcohol or smoking, while anxiety or stress may cause you to think you need to urinate even if you don’t.

Dr Jiri Kubes, medical director of cancer facility the Proton Therapy Center, said: "If you regularly find yourself waking up late at night with a sudden need to visit the toilet, it could indicate there is something not right with your prostate.”

One in eight men will get prostate cancer, which also causes “difficulty starting to urinate or a weak flow, as well as blood in the urine or in semen”.

The symptoms of prostate cancer could also be down to an enlarged prostate, common in men over the age of 50.

Normally it doesn’t threaten health and is thought to be linked to hormonal changes as a man gets older.

But it can sometimes lead to complications, the NHS says, such as a urinary tract infection (UTI) 

Frequent peeing, especially at night, could also be a symptom of diabetes, of which type 2 is the most common form.

7. Extreme tiredness in the day

Extreme tiredness in the day could have a long list of causes.

It shouldn’t simply be brushed off as a lack of sleep – especially if you know you are getting a normal amount, or at least what is normal for you.

Tiredness in the day (fatigue) could be a sign of anaemia, Dr Ross Perry, a GP and medical director of Cosmedics said.

“Other symptoms [of anaemia] include a lack of energy, pale looking skin, headache, dizziness, light headedness, cold hands and feet and brittle nails.”

Extreme tiredness can also be due to undiagnosed or insufficiently treated thyroid disease, he adds. 

The condition occurs as a result of a decrease in thyroid hormone production and also causes weight gain and muscle aches.

Dr Perry said: “You may sleep more than usual but still feel completely exhausted.

"At times, you may fall asleep during the day or very quickly at night. In the morning, you may find it difficult to get out of bed.

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“Extreme tiredness [also] could be a symptom of coeliac disease, and for some, it may be the only symptom.”

Fatigue is also a top symptom of cancer, and may be accompanied by weight loss, a lump or swelling and/or changes in toilet habits.

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