Struggling to Sleep: Knowing about Sleep Disorders
You’ve probably had a night where you just can’t seem to get any quality sleep. Maybe it’s too noisy outside, maybe you’re just anxious and your mind is racing, or maybe you woke up from a bad nightmare and can’t seem to force yourself back into dreamland. Regardless of the reason, having the occasional off night is fairly normal and happens to a lot of people. What’s not normal is when you have consistent trouble getting a good night’s rest. If that’s the case, you may have one of many sleep or wakefulness disorders.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is estimated that 50 to 70 million adults in the US have a sleep or wakefulness disorder, making them very common. Before delving deeper into sleep disorders, you should understand how much sleep you actually need. Most people probably already know that getting 8 hours of sleep a night is considered healthy but the required amount actually varies from person to person and can even change as you age.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests that young children need about 10 hours of sleep per night, teens usually need 9 to 10 hours per night, and adults need 7 to 8. With kids and teens having to wake up early for school, and adults having to rise early for work, it’s expected that most people don’t actually get the full amount of sleep hours that they need. This might not seem like too big a deal but there are quite a few detriments that come along with getting insufficient sleep.
Fatigue from a restless night can increase the chances of car and work related accidents. That may seem obvious, but constant lack of adequate sleep can increase the risk of heart disease, heart failure, heart attack, stroke, irregular heartbeat, diabetes, high blood pressure, and more. In addition to this, a lack of sleep impairs your cognitive functions, increases depression, and can lead to many more health problems. In short, getting a good amount of sleep is very important and can lead to some serious issues. Unfortunately, there are many different disorders that can affect the amount of sleep that you get.
There are some common symptoms that, if regular, may indicate that you have a sleep disorder. These symptoms include feeling irritable or sleepy during the day, having trouble sleeping at night, constantly waking up during the night, having difficulty concentrating, reacting slowly, having trouble controlling your emotions, and feeling very tired during the day. The most common sleep disorder is insomnia, which is the inability to fall asleep at night. It can be caused by a variety of things including jet lag, stress, excessive caffeine, and even by other sleep or mood disorders.
Another common disorder is sleep apnea. A person suffering from sleep apnea will have their breathing suddenly and temporarily stop while they’re sleeping which causes them to wake up frequently. It’s possible to not even remember waking up during the night, but they’ll feel exhausted during the day. Sleep apnea is treatable, but potentially life threatening. Depending on the cause or severity of the case, it may be treated at home by losing weight, avoiding alcohol, changing sleep positions, stopping smoking, and by not sleeping on your back. Regardless, it’s always best to consult a doctor.
Other sleep disorders include restless legs syndrome, where you have an irresistible urge to move your legs or arms while lying down in bed which prevents you from sleeping. There’s also Narcolepsy where one suffers from an uncontrollable daytime sleepiness and seemingly random episodes where you can’t help yourself from falling asleep. While there are countless other sleep disorders, there are also ways to improve the general quality of your sleep. Improving your sleep hygiene may help you get better sleep in the long run.
Sleep hygiene just has to do with your regular habits that can help or hinder your quality of sleep. In order to improve your sleep hygiene you can exercise regularly, as exercise can help reduce anxiety, stress, and depression which all can prevent you from sleeping. In addition to that, exercise helps to tire your body out which can quicken the process of falling asleep. It’s also important to establish a regular routine for bedtime as well as waking up at the same time each morning. You should avoid eating too close to bedtime, and also avoid caffeine and alcohol as they can help keep you up. While many people think alcohol can actually help them fall asleep, it’ll keep you up once your body starts metabolizing it.
To further improve your sleep you can try meditating and practicing proper breathing to help you fall asleep. You should also avoid watching TV, and using a computer or phone 30 to 60 minutes before bedtime as the blue light emitted from these devices may impair your ability to sleep. It may seem obvious but it also helps to keep your room dark and quiet as well as keeping it cool when you’re ready to go to bed. It’s important to keep all of these tips in mind because better sleep hygiene can lead to better sleep!
If you think you’re suffering from a sleep disorder, you should try improving your sleep hygiene, but above all, going to a doctor is very important if you think you have a serious issue. Your doctor may or may not prescribe melatonin to help you sleep. Melatonin is a hormone that your body naturally produces. It helps to regulate your sleep and wakefulness. For this reason, it is sometimes used to help treat insomnia, although it’s not certain whether or not it can actually help. Although it may be tempting to buy melatonin over the counter, you shouldn’t act recklessly. Always consult your doctor first to avoid doing more harm than good.
Getting a good night’s rest will help you to be the happier, healthier you that you want to be! Sleep disorders may be a little scary, but there are ways to deal with them as well as to improve your overall quality of sleep. So remember to put away that cellphone, get rid of those stressful thoughts, and have a good night sleep! Sweet dreams, everyone.