Most of us can certainly agree that sleep is one of the most pleasant things in life. However, many people experience problems that do not allow them to enjoy itfully. Insomnia and other sleep disorders should not be underestimated. They are considered a certain type of illness and trouble; they are often a symptom of something wrong with the body. Causes may be banal or more significantly severe, but it is always necessary to uncover them and take steps to remove them. The fight for healthy sleep may be demanding and lengthy, but it certainly pays off.
We spend approximately a third of our life sleeping. Sleep gives us the strength we need and allows our entire body to relax. It is completely natural and nobody should refrain from it. We can influence sleep quality in various ways, e.g. by buying a mattress with spine-support or by creating suitable sleeping environment. But despite all their efforts, many people still suffer from disorders that also project into real life. A person suffering from lack of sleep is tired, moody, inattentive and unfocused.
What Types of Sleep Are There?
Sleep is divided into 2 main types, synchronous and paradoxical. The synchronous sleep is called non-REM and paradoxical REM (as it is characterized by rapid eye movements). Both cycles alternate approx. 4 to 6 times during the night; the occurrence of REM sleep decreases with age - in adulthood, it usually occurs at 1:4 to the non-REM type. It is assumed that the paradoxical sleep serves to regenerate brain functions and synchronous to regenerate somatic functions. It is therefore clear that uninterrupted sleep is very important for our health. The quality of sleep worsens with age. Awakenings and wakefulness come more and more often and the deepest stages of sleep disappear. Despite that, even the smallest children experience sleep disorders. Learn more in further parts of this article.
Basic Principles for Healthy Sleep:
- appropriate length (average 7-9 hours)
- the sleep time should not vary significantly
- the sleep should not be interrupted
- afternoon sleep should not compensate the night sleep
- the regime of sleep and wakefulness should alternate very regularly
Insomnia and Other Sleep Disorders
Most frequently, people encounter insomnia; but apart from this disorder, there are others that reduce sleep quality or disrupt peaceful sleep in various ways. Let's have a look at some of them.
Inability to fall asleep, problematic falling asleep, poor night sleep, repeated or premature awakenings... we can include all these into the term insomnia. The need for sleep is individual, but in general, we can say there is a problem when sleeping does not bring the desirable feeling of rest and freshness. We can discern insomnia on the basis of whether the condition is long-term or temporary. In latter case, it is a so-called transitory type when the sleep disorder is caused e.g. by a change in the environment, stress or another unfavourable situation. You may try hypnotics which therefore represent prevention before the disorder becomes chronic, but are not to be underestimated as you can develop an addition on them. That is why the medication is never applied for more than 3 days. Insomnia is called chronic when the sleep is insufficient at least for one month, but for some of us, it is even years. In case of long-term insomnia, a visit to your doctor is unavoidable. There is sometimes a third type of insomnia which is called iatrogenic and it is induced by medication.
- • Hypersomnia (increased day somnolence)
There is also a sleep problem opposite insomnia - excessive need for sleep. This particular disorder is accompanied by incontrollable sleepiness, reduced ability to concentrate and sometimes even lost ability to wake up in the morning.
We can rank narcolepsy with hypersomnia because it also concerns sleeping during the day. It is a fairly rare disorder and experts claim it is genetic. How does it manifest? By several minutes of sleep which hits the individual even in the course of performing some activity without even feeling the urge to fall asleep. After waking up, the narcoleptic feels fresh and alert.
- Sleep Apnoea
Another sleep disorder is the sleep apnoea syndrome often characterized by snoring. Find information on its treatment and a lot of interesting facts about it HERE. Sleep is disrupted by breaks in regular breathing which is naturally very dangerous. If a person is diagnosed with this problem, they usually have to wear a special mask during their sleep that maintains constant pressure in the respiratory tract, thus keeping it free. People affected by apnoea are usually overtired, suffering from reduced concentration, mood swings and personality disorders.
- Restless Legs Syndrome
Another unpleasant thing that might reduce sleep quality is the Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS). Such disorder forces a person to keep their lower limbs moving in the evening hours and when falling asleep because when the legs are still, they ache, burn, swell and itch. Sleeping with such a disorder is not refreshing and doesn't provide the sleeper with enough energy. It is most common in pregnant women and the elderly.
The umbrella term for them is parasomnia. It includes sleepwalking which is a subject of many jokes but in reality it is a dangerous disorder, or bed-wetting which affects mostly small children. Night terrors which leave many small children screaming, crying and terrified are also frequent. It is necessary to properly diagnose all these conditions, mainly in relation to epilepsy, a serious illness.
- When You Cannot Get Used to Working Shifts
Maybe you work or worked in shifts. Some people can deal with the alternating day regime, others get affected by sleep disorders which frequently manifest by cases when they are unable to fall asleep at the time they should and then get sleepy at work. The combination of work in shifts and insufficient sleep, even more problems may arise, such as digestion problems and irregular menstrual cycle in women.
Insomnia and Other Sleep Disorders May Signalize an Illness
Any problems concerning sleep are not to be underestimated. This applies especially when they may signalize possible illness, mostly within functioning of the central nervous system. All problems described may be symptoms of e.g. Parkinson's or Alzheimer's.
What May Cause Insomnia?
It has already been written that some disorders are a symptom of a certain illness which may cause them. However, if such a possibility has been eliminated, there are many aspects that may prevent you from enjoying the energy-refilling sleep. Human psyche and personality are very individual; everyone reacts to various stimuli with various intensity. Someone may be displeased with the colour on the walls of the bedroom, another person is unable to fall asleep easily due to a more pragmatic reason - they refuse to go without their afternoon cup of coffee. Revealing the actual cause of insomnia requires patience and meticulous self-reflection. The usual factors include stress, bad physical condition or somatic pains, but also using drugs and alcohol and bad habits in general.
Insomnia in Children Is Particularly Serious
As well as in adults, insomnia in children may also indicate some illness. If not, the problem probably lies in unsuitable regime measures. Unlike in adults, insomnia in children is a little more big deal. We are able to deal with tiredness using various supportive agents such as coffee or energy drinks (although their relation to good health is heavily debatable), but a little boy or girl who lack their good sleep always suffers.
Healthy sleep in children of any age is based on regular schedule and pleasant environment that little sleepers can associate with rest. So if the little sleeper prefers to sleep with his/her favourite teddy-bear, let him/her. If they are used to some kind of ritual, e.g. a bedtime story, do it. Always introduce changes slowly and always explain them to your little one. Peace in the bedroom is provided not only by absence of bright lights or by quiet, but also by the right temperature and fresh air. There are many principles of suitable sleep regime, but as we said earlier - you will never get anywhere without regularity.
How to Fight Insomnia?
Insomnia is definitely a disorder that needs to be treated. The result will be an improvement to your life in many aspects. Sleep will be regenerating for you again and every day will start with a feeling of freshness for you. There are various forms of treatment to insomnia and other sleep disorders. In heavier forms, and of course in cases of specific illnesses, doctors prescribe some medication - most frequently hypnotics. However, it is always necessary to change your regime and habits. Regardless of whether you want to help yourself or turn to experts for advice. The so-called sleep hygiene stems from a healthy lifestyle, well-arranged daily schedule and desirable conditions for sleeping. You may also try out alternative methods, such as acupuncture or other physical treatment. If you don't know how to reveal your problem or what measures to take, cognitive-behavioural therapy is recommended (with a psychologist or a psychiatrist), which will lead you to complete removal of the undesirable state or help direct you towards the right way to it.
Basic Rules of Sleep Hygiene:
- go to sleep only at the moment you feel sleepy
- use your bed (bedroom) for sleep or sex only
- if you can't fall asleep for more than 30 minutes after going to bed, go to another room and occupy yourself with some activity
- do not drink coffee, black or green tea or energy drinks in the afternoon or evening
- do not go to sleep immediately after eating
- take up regular movement activities, release your energy
- get rid of stress
- do not think about problems before sleeping
- temperature in the bedroom should be lower than in other rooms
- vent your bedroom intensely before going to sleep to get some fresh air in
- keep the bedroom sufficiently humid
- get up at the same time every day of the week
- go to sleep at the same time every day of the week
- resist the temptation to sleep during the day if there is no particular reason for it (work, illness, etc.)
- do not keep disturbing elements in your bedrooms
- sleep on a quality mattress, in a quality and satisfactory bed
Herbs Can Help With Insomnia and Other Sleep Disorders
Insomnia is a serious problem that projects into one's life significantly. You should definitely not underestimate your sleep trouble. The effort to remove all undesirable conditions certainly pays off. You will feel much better and mornings will become cheerful and enjoyable for you again.
And how do you fight insomnia? Or do you have the perfect sleep? What do you think about this topic?