Sleep plays a vital role in both your physical and mental health, from healing and repairing your heart and blood vessels, to building up your immune system to fend off disease. In other words, we absolutely need good sleep to stay healthy.
However, in today’s electronic age, with the rise of portable technology, an increasing number of us are suffering from ongoing sleep deficiency or sleep disorders. Sleep deprivation is dangerous as it not only makes you irritable and moody, it also affects the way you think and react, which can lead to dangerous accidents as well as memory and cognitive dysfunction.
But while some sleep disorders result from lifestyle choices, others have deeper, physical causes, making them much more difficult to beat. However, the good news is that there are still measures you can take to get your sleep back on track.
Here we’ll discuss the five most common sleep disorders - and how to overcome the problems to make your sleep more sound and enjoyable.
Insomnia is the inability to fall or stay asleep, and an all too popular and all too frustrating sleep disorder that more and more people are struggling against every day.
Short-term (or acute) insomnia usually lasts for less than three months, and occurs when something in your life is really bothering you, causing psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and stress. For example, you may be revising for a big test, grieving the loss of a family member, or you may have recently broken up with your partner.
On the other hand, chronic insomnia typically stems from a physical illness or medical condition, for example, neurological conditions like Parkinson’s disease, or conditions like heartburn or Gastroesophageal reflux disease (acid reflux).
The good news is whichever case you are suffering from, insomnia is usually a symptom of an underlying issue – so there are things you can do to help your situation.
If you suffer from insomnia, the first thing to do is ask yourself some questions and work out whether your lifestyle is the cause for your sleep deprivation. Take a look at you schedule, eating patterns, and any possible distractions and behaviors that may be causing the problem.
- Do you have a regular sleep schedule?
It’s important to remember that our bodies are machines and they operate better on a stricter sleep schedule. Try setting a sleep schedule for yourself that gets you into bed around the same hour each night, and wakes you up around the same time each morning.
- Do you have an ideal sleep environment?
The technology we often use before bed (laptops, phones, etc) emit a harmful blue light that can actually prevent us from sleeping well. It’s really important therefore to not use this type of technology immediately before bed, as it stimulates the brain rather than relaxing it.
- Do you have a healthy diet?
You should also make sure you are not eating big, fatty meals or drinking a lot of water or alcohol before going to sleep. Your body is trying to slow down and relax and that includes your metabolism, so give your body a few hours before your last meal to process the food so that you will not be up or waking up all night with stomach pains or heartburn or frequent, urgent needs to use the toilet. This can be difficult if you work in an industry that encourages long hours like medicine or construction where contractors stay up late to bid small construction jobs.
If after asking yourself these questions you still can’t work out the issue for your insomnia, make an appointment with your health provider who will be able to fully assess the reason why you can’t sleep, prescribe medication, or recommend relaxation techniques.
2. Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is an issue with how you breathe while you are sleeping, which experts say can be broken into three main categories:
- Obstructive sleep apnea, or how the muscles in your throat relax while sleeping
- Central sleep apnea, which occurs when the brain does not signal the muscles properly
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome, a combination of the first two
Many people with this condition aren’t aware they have sleep apnea, and this is because a lapse in breathing while sleeping can usually only be detected by another person. You may, however, notice that you wake up with dry mouth, that you gasp for air in your sleep, or that you snore or suffer from headaches and insomnia.
So how can you overcome a disorder that is not related to your lifestyle but the way your body is working?
First things first you should talk to your doctor or health provider and rule out any medical issues. While there are many factors that can predispose you to the sleep disorder, you can also help prevent it too by working on your overall health and keeping yourself at a healthy weight. You should also avoid smoking, alcohol, and sedatives.
If you are healthy but the problem persists, your health provider may suggest that you look into getting a CPAP machine (continuous positive airway pressure) that will help to regulate your breathing while you are sleeping. This will help to make sure you’re getting oxygen into your airways - and while it may be uncomfortable to use the first time, it does not take long to get used to the machine.
Snoring is the bane of some people’s existence, and is often a cause to feel embarrassed and uncomfortable.
But according to The Sleep Foundation, snoring can affect as many as 90 million American adults, so if you are affected by this condition you are certainly not alone.
Asthma and sleep apnea both have roots in respiratory illnesses that can cause snoring, but then, some of us just snore without experiencing any respiratory problems. So before you head to the doctor, there are a few things you can try to help alleviate the snoring:
- Try sleeping in a different position and roll onto your side to see if that helps your breathing.
- Avoid large amounts of alcohol as it relaxes the tongue and throat muscles, while dehydrating you, making you more likely to snore
- Maintain a healthy weight as gaining weight can lead to increased throat tissue which can be attributed to snoring. Gaining gain weight around the neck, (which often happens when we age), also causes the space around the throat to get narrower which can lead to snoring
4. Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless leg syndrome may not sound like a big deal, but it can actually be a real pain when you are trying to get a restful night of sleep. It is also known simply as RLS, Willis-Ekbom Disease or nocturnal movement disorder.
As defined by The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, RLS sufferers have an irresistible urge to move their legs when they are lying down in bed.
To try and combat this particular sleep disorder, it is suggested that you avoid alcohol, drugs, nicotine and caffeine as well. You may also consider adding more leafy green vegetables to your diet, as iron deficiency is often a cause of RLS.
On top of this, try to get enough exercise in the day time to allow your legs to move. It’s also important to have a regular sleep pattern where you go to bed around the same time each night and wake up around the same time, too.
Whether sleepwalking affects you personally or if you are the parent of a child with sleep walking issues, it is a scary and difficult sleep disorder to manage.
Sleepwalking does not just have to be walking around, but sitting up, moving around talking or even urinating. Moreover, the sleep disorder can be caused by a multitude of things, from your genetics, to fatigue, stresand even noise.
So how can you fight sleepwalking?
While there is no known way to absolutely prevent sleepwalking, making sure you get adequate sleep and setting a strict bedtime routine will certainly help. If you are stressed, try to medicate or relax before bed, and avoid any sort of brain stimulation (phone, TV) or drinking lots of liquids that may cause you to get up in the middle of the night.
Tips to protect yourself when sleepwalking:
Sleepwalking can be dangerous, so take the following steps to minimize the chances of you or someone you love getting hurt:
- Remove any potentially harmful or sharp objects from your bedroom or sleeping environment
- Move your bedroom to the ground floor, if possible
- Make sure to close windows before you go to bed, and keep the doors firmly shut
If your sleepwalking is caused by underlying medical conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux, sleep apnea, seizures, or restless legs syndrome, head to the doctor and they will be able to treat the problem and therefore beat your sleepwalking.
Do you or a loved one suffer from sleep apnea? Don’t hesitate to contact Alaska Sleep Clinic today for your free consultation. Are you ready to get on the road to better sleep and better health all around? Alaska Sleep Clinic is ready to help you improve your sleep AND your life.