Good sleep is crucial for our well-being, working capacity, and mood. Sometimes people experience short-term sleep disturbances, due to stress or grief. Short-term insomnia is the most common sleep problem in people of all ages. However, sleep disturbances can last for a long time, interfering with everyday activities and general health.
Why we need to sleep
While sleeping, our body experiences changes that affect our immune system. Our muscles relax and rest. Our bloodstream takes away the toxins, accumulated during a day. The chemical balance becomes restored.
One of the most important functions of sleep is that it allows the central nervous system to recover after a working day. During deep sleep, cerebrospinal fluid washes the brain more actively, wiping away toxic metabolic products. Regular lack of sleep can lead to age-related dementia and problems with brain functioning in most cases.
What causes sleep disorders
Various factors can reduce the quality of sleep. Doctors recommend keeping a special diary to track the reasons for sleep disorders. Here’s the list of common factors which interfere with your sleep:
- Uncomfortable atmosphere. Bad choice of pillows and mattresses has more impact on your sleep than you think. Remember to ventilate your room and keep it dark and quiet.
- Emotional state. If a person is tense or upset, thoughts constantly spin in his head, making it extremely difficult to sleep.
- A high-calorie meal at night reduces the chances of proper rest.
- Frequent transfers from one time zone to another, shift work schedule. The body simply does not have time to adapt to new conditions.
- Drinks and ingredients stimulating mental activity. You shouldn’t drink strong tea, coffee, or alcohol late in the evening.
- Diseases and pathological conditions: neurosis, depression, neuroinfection, concussion, asthma, arthritis, coronary heart disease, oncology.
- Menopause. Deficiency of estrogen and progesterone manifests itself in the form of hot flashes and night sweats, impaired magnesium metabolism. The latter is responsible for muscle relaxation and increases the tendency to insomnia.
- Medications and substances. Insomnia can be a side effect of certain drugs. This group includes drugs to normalize blood pressure, for angina pectoris, diuretics, caffeinated drugs, and corticosteroids.
- Hormonal disorders. Excessive production of thyroid hormones stimulates metabolism and prevents relaxation.
- Vitamins and minerals deficiency. A lack of magnesium provokes nervousness and sleep problems.
- Hereditary predisposition to insomnia. Sleep disorders of this nature are difficult to treat.
Types of sleep disorders
This condition can be described as difficulty with falling asleep, troubled sleep with frequent awakenings, daytime apathy, and fatigue. Symptoms of insomnia are bright and easily detectable. During the day, a person may experience irritation, low attention, distraction, and mood swings. All this leads to social dysfunction, a lack of motivation for anything. People feel drowsiness during the day. Often there are headaches and problems with the gastrointestinal tract.
Narcolepsy is characterized by excessive drowsiness during the day or uncontrolled episodes of sleep (so-called sleep attacks). Sudden episodes of muscle weakness can occur. Sometimes a person experiences sleep paralysis, vivid dreams, and hallucinations.
Sudden stops in breathing can be really dangerous, so you should contact your neurologist if you noticed sleep apnea. Other symptoms include increased daytime sleepiness, anxiety, snoring, constant awakenings, and morning headaches.
Restless legs syndrome
It is a neurological sleep disorder characterized by leg movements during sleep or rest. Patients have an irresistible need to move their legs due to discomfort in their legs. Symptoms are observed during periods of low activity, usually in the evening or at night. RLS can interfere with sleep.
This is a group of sleep disorders connected with unusual behavior during sleep. Sleepwalking, sleep talking, nightmares, snoring, bedwetting, bruxism, groaning belong to this category.
Circadian rhythms disorders
Our sleep-wake cycle is regulated by the melatonin hormone. It is produced at night and makes a person sleepy. Regular violations of your sleep regime knock down our circadian rhythm settings. There are such disorders as shift work sleep disorder, delayed sleep phase disorder, and jet lag.
Self-help guide on sleep problems
Most sleep troubles can be solved by a person himself. If these tips don’t lead to any improvement, then you should visit your doctor.
- Improve your lifestyle. The first thing to do is to schedule your day and improving your lifestyle. Regular exercises boost the activity during the day. Try to consume less nicotine, alcohol, and coffee.
- Establish a bedtime routine. A set of actions repeated day by day before going to bed makes your brain get ready for sleep. Your body starts to relax and it becomes easier to fall asleep immediately.
- Transform your bedroom into a cozy shelter. The quality of sleep gets better when the room is dark and ventilated. You can also try to sleep on a firm thick mattress.
- Avoid smartphones and any device with a bright screen one hour before sleeping. You may read a book instead.
- Try relaxation techniques. Some breathing exercises and meditation soothe you and eliminate anxiety. ASMR records are also helpful.
Remember, that these tips don’t cure narcolepsy, RLS, or sleep apnea. In case of such disorders, you should seek medical help.