At certain points in our lives, we experience stress, a change of schedule or a drastic life event that leads to sleepless nights. While it can be normal to experience lack of sleep from time to time, it will be considered as a disorder if it’s chronic, ongoing or prolonged.
What are the most common sleep disorders and their causes? What are some of the most useful tips to improve Zzzz and achieve quality sleep night after night? Let’s discuss:
Causes of sleep disorders
Various factors can cause sleep problems in people. Many of them can even lead to the disruption or exaggeration of daytime wakefulness. Some causes of such conditions include:
- Working night shifts
- Medical issues like asthma or breathing trouble
- Alcohol and other environmental causes
- Mental causes like anxiety disorder or depression
- Diseases like ulcers
Types of sleeping disorders
In the following segment of our article, let us discuss some of the most common types of sleep disorders:
Do you find it hard to fall and stay asleep? You might be experiencing one of the signs of insomnia.
Insomnia often includes high-stress levels, depression and can occur as a side effect of certain medications. In some cases, it can be due to alcohol or drug abuse.
Acute or short-term insomnia can also be due to a job change or loss, moving, bereavement or any other life change, or environmental causes like noise or illness.
However, chronic or long-term insomnia, which lasts for at least three nights weekly or more than a month, can be due to chronic stress, depression, discomfort or pain.
Such insomnia can be caused as an emotional response to something, or because our thoughts are not able to settle down. It can also be because of a behaviour usually developing around the disorder like ruminating in bed, which can worsen the symptoms.
Narcolepsy is a sleep regulatory neurological disorder affecting sleep and wakefulness control. If you’re suffering from it, you might have experienced uncontrollable and intermittent episodes of falling asleep or daytime sleepiness. The sudden attacks can occur during any activity you are doing at any moment.
In some cases, narcoleptic people also suffer from muscle weaknesses with emotions like laughter while sleep disorder can occur between any age groups, even for those who range between 15-25 years of age.
Following insomnia, sleep apnea can be the next most common sleep disorder from which many of us suffer. It is characterised by a partial or complete throat blockage and with notable symptoms that include excessive snoring, morning headaches and daytime sleepiness.
The condition is more of an annoyance for someone who sleeps beside a sleep apnea patient. It can also cause an alarm in severe cases because apnea can stop one’s breathing several times.
As a possible treatment, a continuous positive airway pressure machine is used to keep the throat open with a steady air stream.
REM Sleep Behaviour Disorder
Characterised by intense and sudden movements while sleeping, REM sleep behaviour disorder is a common sleeping disorder. Those who have it suddenly jump out of bed and thrash around in the sheets. This happens when a brain’s mechanism, which prevents them from having a motor movement while sleeping, isn’t optimally working.
How to overcome sleep disorders naturally
A few lifestyle changes can help you overcome sleep disorders and improve sleep quality. Follow these tips to get a restful sleep at night:
- Sleep and wake up at the same time every day: One of the best ways to deal with sleeping disorders is to maintain regular sleep hours. Go to bed and get up at the same time daily so that you can programme your brain and body to become familiar with it.
- Limit caffeine intake: Another way of improving sleep is by cutting down on energy drinks, coffee, tea and other caffeinated drinks before bedtime as they can interfere with the sleep process and prevent deep sleep.
- Exercise: On a regular basis, make it a point to include exercise into your routine. This will help in relieving tension, reducing stress and improving your mood for better sleep.
- Write your worries away: Make sure you write your plans for the next day before going to sleep, not when you’re already lying in bed. Do not worry about the things you need to do tomorrow when trying to sleep.
- Create a bedroom for sleeping, not for activities: The bedroom should promote a restful and conducive sleep environment. This includes controlling noise, lighting and temperature so that the overall ambience can help you fall asleep faster. You should also check on the mattress. It should not be too hard or soft, too old or too small.
- Create a pre-sleep routine: Try to create before-bedtime routines like light reading, listening to nature music, etc. Doing so, you will be able to transition your body from wakefulness to sleep smoothly. A few other suggestions include taking a bath, practising relaxation techniques and avoiding stimulating activities.
- Avoid stress: Avoiding discussion on emotional issues before bedtime can also help in preventing troubled sleeping. Finally, do not engage in stressful activities during the evening, which may lead to the secretion of cortisol, a stress hormone that can increase alertness. Instead of taking your problems to bed, write them down, as mentioned before.
- Go to bed when ready to sleep: Get out of bed if you’re still not asleep after 20 minutes of being under the sheets. You can do something relaxing, like listening to music or reading until you’re ready to go to sleep.
- Skip alcohol and smoking before bedtime: Any of these two habits can majorly interrupt your sleep cycle. While alcohol can make you fall asleep, frequent consumption will just disrupt your cycles, causing you to wake up in the middle of the night. You should also avoid smoking because it contains the stimulant ‘nicotine.’ When smoking, it will also take you longer to fall asleep and lead to waking up frequently throughout the night.
A sleep disorder can cause life disruption because it can affect daily functions at work, school, play or home. Such disorders can also affect relationships, productivity and overall health. To help you overcome common sleep problems like insomnia, narcolepsy, sleep apnea and REM sleep behaviour disorder, follow the tips shared above and be on the path to restful quality sleep.
Disclaimer: The tips shared in this article are only for reference purposes only, and it does not replace or constitute medical advice. Consult your GP if you’ve been suffering from any of the sleep disorders above.