Five warning signs while you sleep that mean you should see a GP immediately

Getting a good night’s sleep can do wonders for your health. The NHS recommends adults need between 6 and 9 hours of sleep every night.

While our brains sort out and process all the information we’ve received during the day, hormones also flood our body including a growth hormone released by the pituitary gland. This helps your body to grow and repair itself.

Sometimes we can all feel like we’re running on empty, and not getting enough time between the sheets. The NHS recommends setting a regular bedtime schedule and trying to wake up at the same time every day to feel more alert.

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But apart from the usual bouts of tiredness we all face, there are some more serious warning signs that can occur in our sleep. If you experience any of the five symptoms below, GPs told the Daily Record that you should make yourself an appointment with your doctor to talk it through and make sure nothing more serious is going on.

Restless legs

Ever felt an uncomfortable tingling or fizzing sensation in your legs at night that makes you want to move them constantly? This could be a sign of a nervous system condition.

GP Dr Claire Morrison, a medical advisor for MedExpress (, says: “It tends to be worse in the evenings and at night, sometimes making it impossible to sleep properly. It can affect the arms too. “

It’s thought to be caused by a lack of the dopamine chemical in the brain, she explains, and it can be triggered by a number of underlying causes – so it’s important to work out what. Women are twice as likely as men to develop it and it’s also more common in middle age and pregnancy.

It could be a sign of an “iron deficiency, kidney impairment, diabetes, under-active thyroid, fibromyalgia or Parkinson’s disease”.

Heavy snoring

Most of us probably snore a little bit, but if your partner sounds like a tractor at night make sure you get them to see their doctor as it could be a sign of sleep apnoea. Sleep apnoea is when your breathing stops and starts while you sleep.

“This is an often-missed cause of poor sleep, responsible for chronic tiredness during the day, and even road traffic accidents if sufferers fall asleep at the wheel,” Morrison says. “It’s caused by the throat repeatedly closing off during sleep, making oxygen levels fall, and resulting in frequent waking. It’s most common in those who are overweight and who have a thick neck. “

Mental health concerns

Many mental health conditions can cause difficulty sleeping. “There is a close link between sleep and mental health, and poor sleep can aggravate mental illness, so it’s very important to address sleep problems early on,” says Morrison.

“Mental health problems that commonly affect sleep include depression, anxiety, stress, panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder, for example.”

Signs of mental illness include low mood, excessive worrying, tearfulness, irritability, low self-esteem, lack of motivation, inability to concentrate, intrusive thoughts, loss of pleasure in life, poor appetite, and / or binge-eating, she adds.

“You may benefit from talking therapy such as ‘cognitive behavioral therapy’, and / or medication, but make sure your doctor knows about the insomnia, as some anti-depressants can help promote sleep, whereas others may make it worse and are best avoided if possible. “

Extreme tiredness all the time

Most of us feel like we could do with an extra nap every now and then when we’ve burned the candles at both end, but if you’re feeling extremely tired all the time, you should get yourself checked out.

It could be a sign of anaemia, says Dr Ross Perry, a GP and medical director of Cosmedics ( “Other symptoms [of anaemia] include a lack of energy, pale looking skin, headache, dizziness, light headedness, cold hands and feet and brittle nails. “

He also says it could be a sign of thyroid disease, or coeliac disease. “The gut damage caused by coeliac disease results in poorer absorption of essential food nutrients involved in energy metabolism, including iron, folic acid and vitamin B12,” Dr Perry adds.

Loss of interest in sex

If you’ve completely lost your interest in sex, there could be an underlying problem. Dr Perry says: “[For men] testosterone deficiency is another common problem associated with tiredness and one of the trademark symptoms of low testosterone in men is chronic fatigue – the type of tiredness that doesn’t improve after rest. “

He said interest in sex may also decline too, adding: “However, it’s not normal for testosterone levels to get so low that fatigue impacts daily activities or for there to be a complete loss of interest in sex, so do visit your GP.”

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