Often at work you suddenly fall to sleep. Or it takes you more than 30 minutes to fall asleep and when you finally fall asleep you are up for more than 30 minutes at a time throughout the night. Sometimes you wake up from sleep too early. Maybe your breathing repeatedly stops and starts during your sleep. You may experience uncomfortable aching or tingly in your legs that cause an irresistible urge to move your legs or arms during your rest or while you lie down. You probably disregarded these sleep problems and thought, “It’s just a little sleep loss, no more no less”. You did not realize you may have a sleep disorder.
Sleep problems that occur regularly and interferes with you daily are normally sleep disorders. Sleep disorders cause you to feel real tired and prevent you from falling asleep. A disorder makes you toss and turn throughout the night. You experience poor quality sleep and as you sleep it feels as if you are awake.
Experts recommend adults get between seven to eight hours of sleep nightly to feel rested. Sleeping well is crucial to one’s physical and emotional well-being. Minimal sleep loss may cause a list of negative effects. Listed below are some areas that may be negatively affected:
- impact your energy
- emotionally imbalance
- your ability to handle stress
- poor health
- impaired job performance
- relations stress
Sleep can gauge your overall health. People who adequately sleep most often are in good health. Gerardin Jean-Louis, Ph. D., New York University’s Langone School of Medicine professor says, “Getting more sleep will not only make us feel more refreshed in the morning, but it will also help us stay healthy.”
Lack of quality sleep can lead to serious health problems. Those who repeatedly suffer from sleeping problems may undergo minor or serious medical or mental health problems. Recent studies suggest a strong connection between insufficient sleep and multiple chronic health conditions.
Obesity can be a result of not getting quality sleep. You can gain weight if you average six hours of sleep a night compared to people who sleep seven to eight hours. As you sleep the body produces additional leptin (a hormone that suppresses the appetite & decreases its production of gherlin-an appetite stimulator). Sleep deprived individuals long for high calorie and high carbohydrate foods. Junk foods become very tempting to sleep deprive people and they are unable to resist.
A study conducted in 2010 at Morehouse-Emory Partnership to Eliminate Cardiovascular Health Disparities showed people who reported sleeping six or less hours a night had blood levels of C-reactive (marker of inflammation and heart disease risk) protein that were 25% more than people who reported getting six to nine hours of sleep. A different study showed women who slept less than seven hours a night were more likely to acquire diabetes.
If you answer yes to any of the questions below you may have a sleep disorder.
- Do you become irritable and/or sleepy during the day?
- Do you require caffeinated beverages to assist you throughout the day?
- Do you feel you can take a nap often during the day?
- Is there a challenge to stay awake when you sit still?
- Are you extremely tired or fall to sleep as you drive?
- Do you react very slowly?
- Do others often comment how sleepy you appear?
- You experience uncontrollable emotions?
Common sleep disorders:
- Sleep Apnea
- Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
Insomnia – “Three times or more a week for a month it takes you more than 30 minutes to fall asleep and you are up for more than 30 minutes during the night or you happen to awake from sleep too early – you have insomnia.”, says Shelby F. Harris, Psy. D., director of behavioral sleep medicine at Montefiore Medical Center. Your sleep may feel light or exhausting. Insomnia causes you to experience low energy during the day.
Insomnia is often a symptom of other problems:
- Underlying health condition
- Lifestyle choices
- Medications taken
- Lack of exercise
- Jet lag
- Amount of coffee one drink
Simple lifestyle changes and daily habits can combat insomnia without relying on sleep specialists or taking prescriptions or over-the-counter sleeping pills:
Get up and go into another room if you can’t fall asleep within 15 -20 minutes.
Perform a quiet activity under dim lights until you fall to sleep.
Sleep Apnea – The most common serious sleep disorder and is the most common cause of daytime drowsiness. Breathing is briefly interrupted or becomes very shallow during sleep. The stop and start breathing pauses normally last between 10 to 20 seconds & occur up to hundreds times a night. Most people who experience sleep apnea do not remember awakening throughout the night. Some common symptoms:
- Feel exhausted during the day
- Loud chronic snoring
- Daytime sleepiness
- Wake up with soar throat or dry mouth
- Frequently going to the bathroom
- Depression, moody, irritable
- See productivity decreased
- Morning headaches
Sleep Apnea is a critical potentially life-threatening sleep disorder and one should see a sleep specialist immediately. One can be treated with a mask-like breathing device that pushes air into your throat as you sleep to help keep the airway open. This machine is called Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). Surgery may also be needed to effectively cure the sleep apnea condition. In cases of mild to moderate sleep apnea you can:
Avoid sleeping pills & sedatives
Avoid heavy meals & caffeine within two hours of bedtime
Elevate the head of the bed
Maintain a steady sleep schedule
Sleep on your side
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) – This sleep disorder causes an irresistible urge to move legs or arms during rest or lying down, usually due to uncomfortable sensations – tingly, aching, or creeping. RLS is connected with heart, lung, and kidney disorders, circulatory problems, and arthritis.
- Repetitive leg cramping or jerking during sleep
- Leg sensations are triggered by rest and get worse throughout the night
- when one move, stretch, or massage their legs the uncomfortable sensations temporarily get better
- Uncomfortable sensations deep within the legs accompanied by a strong urge to move the legs.
Pursue ways to get RLS under control before taking prescription medications. Best Health Magazine recommends, “Breathe deeply for a few minutes, then tense the muscles in your feet. Hold the tension for a few seconds, then relax. Next, tense your calf muscles, hold, and relax. Then do the same with your thigh muscles. Repeat the tensing-and-relaxing pattern, working all the way up your body to your neck and face muscles. When you’re finished, your whole body should feel relaxed.” This muscle relaxation practice should be conducted at bedtime. Several RLS remedies include:
Avoid caffeine and alcohol
Avoid strenuous exercise at bedtime
Moderately exercise everyday
Walk daily at a moderate pace
Stretch your calves, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles before bedtime
Take aisle seats when possible so you can walk around periodically
Drink plenty of water throughout the day and evenings.
Drop a tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar in water and drink at bedtime
Narcolepsy – This sleep disorder involves excessive or even uncontrollable daytime sleepiness caused by a brain mechanism dysfunction that controls sleeping and waking. People with narcolepsy experience sudden irresistible stints of sleep that strikes at whatever time. You may experience sleep attacks as you talk, work, or drive and they last a few seconds to several minutes.
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Feeling weak and loss of muscle control
- See or hear things when you are drowsy
- Start to dream before you are fully asleep
- Dream immediately after you fall to sleep
- Feeling weak or lose muscle control when you feel strong emotions – laugh, angry, etc.
- Have intense dreams
- Feel paralyze or unable to move as you wake up or doze off
Narcolepsy cannot currently be cured. Medications, behavioral strategies, and lifestyle changes can treat narcolepsy. Exercise 20 minutes daily to improve your sleep quality and make sure you exercise no less than four to five hours up to your bedtime. This will help to prevent weight gain if you have narcolepsy.
Additional remedies include:
Take short regular naps when you feel the sleepiest
Go to bed and wake up the same time daily
Do not drink alcohol and caffeine-containing beverages no less than three hours before bedtime
Enjoy relaxing activities before bedtime
Do not eat large meals before bedtime
Avoid heavy meals just before you go to bed
Learning how to sleep better is possible even if you feel sleepy during the day, cannot fall to asleep at night, or if you feel exhausted when you wake up. Track your symptoms and sleep patterns. Make healthy daytime changes and alter your bedtime routine. Seek assistants from a trained sleep medicine specialist.