Sleeping Disorders

We have all experienced the sleepless night, and dealt with the exhaustion and fatigue the following day, but occasional disturbances to sleep do not constitute a sleeping disorder. Frequent episodes can however be an altogether different story. Sleeping disorders are also known as somnipathy and include disturbances in sleep patterns. Sleep is essential for the proper functioning of an individual and sleeping disorders can wreck havoc in a person’s life. Normal, day to day activities can be hampered to a large extent. Most individuals have suffered from a sleep disorder at some point in their life. When the problem persists for a long time only then can be classified as a sleep disorder.

Insomnia is the most common problem faced by persons suffering from a sleeping disorder. Other sleeping disorders include sleep apnea, sleep paralysis, restless legs syndrome, parasomnias, narcolepsy, circadian rhythm disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, jet lag and seasonal affective disorder.

Insomnia is difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep. Sleep apnea refers to a condition in which the individual’s breathing is interrupted during sleep and could include bouts of breathlessness. Excessive snoring may also point towards sleep apnea. When a person is unable to move during waking or falling asleep it is known as sleep paralysis. Restless leg syndrome is uneasiness in the legs due to which a person has difficulty in sleeping or falling asleep. Abnormal behavior during sleep is called parasomnia. Sleepwalking, eating during sleep, and sex during sleep, among other oddities, are different types of behaviors that a person may engage in if he is suffering from parasomnia. If a person suffers from sleep paralysis, hallucinations before falling asleep, sleepiness during the day time and a loss of muscle tone during a response to a stimulus then he or she is said to be suffering from narcolepsy. When a person’s sleep patterns are not in tandem with time then the person has what is called a circadian rhythm disorder. Chronic fatigue syndrome as the name suggests is a disorder wherein an individual is constantly tired. No amount of rest makes him feel relaxed and rested. Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD implies excessive sleepiness and depression during winter. Lastly, jet lag refers to a sleep disturbance caused due to travel between different time zones. However, this is only a temporary problem. Another strange condition called hypersomnia also exists. People who suffer from this disorder sleep excessively.

One out of four people suffer from some form of sleeping disorder. Most sleeping disorders remain undiagnosed and go untreated. Sleeping disorders create a lot of problems in the normal functioning of an individual. Depression and sleeping disorders also go hand in hand. However, if diagnosed sleep disorders can be effectively treated.

Symptoms of Sleeping Disorders

Difficulty in falling asleep, weakened memory, lack of concentration, slow reflexes, irritability, falling asleep in inappropriate circumstances, lethargy, fatigue and trouble controlling emotions are all warning signs of a sleep disorder and need immediate attention.

Symptoms of insomnia include extreme difficulty falling asleep or frequent waking up during the night and waking up well before it is time to get up. Light sleep and disturbed sleep are other symptoms. A need to consume sleeping pills to be able to fall asleep and feelings of fatigue and sleepiness during waking hours are yet other signs.

Symptoms of sleep apnea could include loud and continuous snoring, gasping during sleep, stoppage in breath during sleep and waking up with a feeling uneasiness; inability to breathe normally and headaches. Symptoms of restless leg syndrome include the urge to move one’s legs constantly due to uneasiness. Aches and pains are other common symptoms. Cramping and jerking of the legs during sleep are some other signs of sleep apnea.

If a person hears and sees things that are actually not present just before going to sleep, has intense dreams immediately after falling asleep, suffers from a temporary paralysis on waking up or when dozing off and is subjected to involuntary muscle contractions or spasms when highly emotionally charged such as with laughter, anger or surprise then the person is suffering from narcolepsy.

It is not very difficult to diagnose sleep disorders. However, we often tend to ignore our sleep problems. If one has the slightest feeling that he or she suffers from a sleep disorder it is important to consult a sleep specialist. The doctor will use different diagnostic tests to determine the nature of the problem. Main tests are the overnight oximetry, the polysomnography, titration study, multiple sleep latency testing and actigraphy.

Possible complications and other health problems caused due to sleeping disorders include a decrease in productivity, hypertension, obesity, disturbed heart rhythms, respiratory disorders, cardiac disorders and mental health problems. Sleep is primordial for overall health and well being.

Causes of Sleeping Disorders

Different factors cause sleeping disorders. Health problems such as having ulcers, body pain, and illness can make falling asleep very difficult. Asthma patients may also suffer from sleeping disorders. People suffering from mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety disorders almost always suffer from sleeping problems. Lifestyle factors such as excessive alcohol, caffeine, tobacco and drug abuse may also give rise to a sleep disorder.

Short term insomnia also known as acute insomnia can be caused by different life events such as losing a loved one, losing a job, a divorce, changes in environment, a stressful living environment or even factors like too much light and noise in the room one is sleeping in. Long term or chronic insomnia can be caused by severe mental disorders, stress or discomfort at night.

Genetic factors also play a role in the occurrence of sleep disorders. Certain kinds of medications are also known to cause disturbances in sleep patterns. In addition to this, many adults have sleep disorders as they get older.

People who work in shifts also suffer from sleep problems. Working late night shifts can disturb the body clock and it is very likely that such an individual may suffer from a sleep disorder.

Remedies for Sleeping Disorders

It is important to treat a sleeping disorder in its early stages before the problem deteriorates any further. Treatment comprises of behavioral treatments, medications, somatic solutions and rehabilitation. In case of severe sleep disorders, no one treatment is adequate and a combination of different treatment methods may work better. Medications and somatic treatments are effective in providing instant relief. However, with time if the patient’s condition is improving, medications can be reduced and psychotherapy can instead offer more help.

If the sleeping disorder is not very severe self-help and home remedies can be of great help. Maintaining a sleep diary is known to be quite effective. It would also help if you were to maintain a sleep journal in which you can keep track of all events just before going to bed and falling asleep, the number of time one wakes up during sleep and the total numbers of hours in bed and the total number of hours slept. Daytime habits and dietary and lifestyle changes should also be recorded carefully. A well balanced diet, reduction in the intake of alcohol, tobacco, stimulant foods and regular exercise are known to improve the quality of sleep. Making the sleeping space calm and cozy and maintaining regular disciplined sleep timings are essential aspects of self care when faced with sleep disorders.

According to some individuals a warm glass of milk consumed before going to bed can help. This however is simply hearsay and is unlikely to be of any effect when faced with a serious sleep disorder. Another effective home remedy is listening to soothing music and using aromatherapy sleep sprays and candles that induce sleep. Prevention is always better than cure, which is why it is so important to maintain healthy eating habits and a disciplined lifestyle. Learning to relax, avoiding naps during the day, physical exercise, abiding by a healthy balanced diet and using the sleeping area only to sleep are helpful prevention tips.

Diet for Sleeping Disorders

Your diet is important for overall well-being and more so during the treatment of a sleeping disorder. Not all foods may directly influence your sleep patterns, but certain eating habits and foods can certainly contribute to sleep disorders either directly or indirectly. It is important to have a well-balanced diet rich in proteins, minerals, vitamins, good carbs, fibre and good fats. Green leafy vegetables must be included in the diet and so should whole grains. Fruits and vegetables must be had in adequate quantities. Lettuce is another food that is known to enhance sleep. Complex carbohydrates induce sleep as well. Vitamin B3 is a vitamin important to regulate sleep.

Foods that one must keep away from are tea, coffee, alcohol, spicy and oily foods, carbonated drinks, chocolate, refined foods, canned foods, high protein foods at night and foods high in sugar.

It would help greatly if you were to consult and seek advice from a dietician to choose the right kinds of foods. Your dietician would be able to advice you not just with specialized diet plans, but also with the creation of a healthy daily routine.

Suggestion for Sleeping Disorders

Sleep disorders should be given due attention and if you notice any of the symptoms in yourself or a family member, it would be wise to seek medical attention. Avoid any type of self treatment with over the counter drugs and medications, as many drugs recommended for sleep, both over the counter and prescription drugs, pose grave health risks. This is particularly true with an extended use of such drugs. Your main aim should be to identify the most likely causes and to rectify them.

If a sleep disorder is identified early enough it is a lot easier to treat and you may in fact be able to overcome it with a little help from your doctor and with some simple changes to your lifestyle.

It is important for each one to be responsible about sleep and give adequate importance to this daily activity. In case of children, the parents must inculcate healthy sleeping habits early on. In case of adults, family must be supportive with other family members suffering from a sleep disorder. It is important to seek immediate help if you notice that a family member is suffering from a sleep disorder. Ignoring the problem will not make the problem go away.

If a certain medication to treat another health condition is hampering sleep, then it is important for the medical health practitioner to prescribe an alternative medication. Self medication of sleeping pills is a strict no-no. Those good 8 hours in Morpheus’ arms are vital.

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