Sleep is important for our physical and mental well-being. Sleep also helps out body to recover from our day routines and it also allows the body to heal. We do not feel well if we do not have enough sleep. Aside from not feeling well, we may also feel anxious and scientists say that lack of sleep could lead to premature ageing, death or heart disease. But due to hectic work schedules and demanding daily routine, it has been approximated that most of the people sleep for ninety minutes less every night than the people did in the early 1920s. There are a lot of people suffering from sleep disorders and it now clear that today’s society function in a sleep-deprived status. The most prevalent sleep disorder is insomnia. Aside from insomnia, apnoea and narcolepsy could also be a hazard.
Common sleep disorders
Scientist and doctors have noted the presence of 80 or more sleep disorders which have been listed in medical references. The disorders range from insomnia to narcolepsy. Many of the sleep disorders are temporary and are easily cured by self-management measures. But there are sleep disorders that are underlying causes for other conditions like depression or a thyroid malfunction. Should you feel anything wrong about your sleeping patterns, consult your doctor immediately.
A common sleep disorder that affects about 20% of the population, insomnia exhibits the following symptoms:
- Difficulty in falling asleep
- Difficulty in staying asleep: waking up several times at night
- Waking up too early
- Sleepy, irritable, anxious and forgetful during the day.
Short-term insomnia, on the other hand, lasts for just a few of days to a couple of weeks and affects people who are suffering from:
- New noise level
- Temperature changes
- Routine changes due to things like jet lag
- Side effects of taking certain medications
Chronic insomnia can last between a few months to years. Usually, it is due to a several factors such as mental or even physical problems as well as behavioural factors including excessive consumption of caffeine or alcohol or changes in work schedules that disrupts normal routine.
This condition is a brain disorder that disrupts the regulatory processes of sleep in the body. A symptom for this condition is the excessive sleepiness or lethargy of the person. The person easily falls asleep at any situation and the ‘sleep attacks’ lasts between thirty seconds to more than thirty minutes. The sleep attacks happen regardless of whether the person had enough hours of sleep at night.
This is a breathing disorder experienced during sleep. This is typified by deafening snoring. Apnoea is made up of short periods when breathing stops. Those who suffer from apnoea wake up in their sleep to breathe a couple of hundred times before being able to sleep again. These people become very sleepy in the morning as a result. They also do not have any memory of their awakenings at night. In obstructive sleep apnoea, the upper portion of the airway is blocked which makes this condition very life threatening. This condition needs immediate medical attention.
The person can do a lot of things to help him sleep well:
- Do regular exercise 3 hours before going to bed
- Do not drink coffee, alcohol or tea before bed
- Sleep and try waking up at the exact same hour every day
- Do not use the bed for anything else except for sex or sleep.
- Make a relaxing and regular bedtime routine to let you relax and make you sleep easily
- When you cannot sleep, do something relaxing like listening to your favourite music or reading a favourite book until you fall asleep.
Treatment for sleep disorders
If your sleep disorder is not cured by doing the suggested lifestyle changes above, see your doctor. Keep a diary intended for your sleep for ten days prior you visiting a doctor so you could explain the problem to him. The doctor may examine you if the sleep disorder is caused by other underlying disorders or conditions. He may also suggest more lifestyle changes.
If the changes still does not work, you may be prescribed with sleeping pills. These pills offer only short time relief and can make the sleep disorder worse because of the pills are addicting. Sleeping pills are therefore prescribed at their lowest dose for just a short while until the patient has recovered their normal sleeping pattern. But if the problem persists, the doctor will recommend seeing a sleep specialist.
Narcolepsy has no known cure but its symptoms are manageable and can be treated with prescribed drugs. Lifestyle changes, regular exercise and proper diet can also help reduce the symptoms of narcolepsy.
For sleep apnoea, losing a couple of pounds and sleeping on the patient’s side can help reduce mild apnoea. Sleep devices can be put into the mouth to keep the airway open while the patient is asleep. Those with apnoea need to use a very special device during their sleep. The machine blows air in the nose to help keep the airways from being blocked.
Sleep disorders in children
Having enough sleep if vital for a growing child’s mental and physical well being. Children should have uninterrupted periods of sleep for them to develop and grow more. Sleep disorders are also common for children. Their problems might include reluctance to sleep, sleep walking, nightmares or waking up in their sleep. Children with autism also have sleep disorders. Having the child get enough sleep has an impact on his entire family especially the parents.
Some self-help treatments suggested above are also good for the children. It is also a good thing to encourage the child to keep a sleep diary to have them show to the doctor. Prescription medicine is the last resort for treating the children’s sleep disorders because of the addictive nature of the drugs. The child’s hesitance to wake up or if he sleeps excessively can also be signs of psychological problems or depression.