We, like scientists, have known that sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy and chronic insomnia, can lead to serious health problems. It’s been known about for many years. Insomnia cures have been based on either the use of sleeping pills, environmental and behaviourial adjustments or changes to the diet.
Although there is another option that has also been around for a surprisingly long time and requires no discomfort with no side affects and has benefits for not only sleep-related problems as we’ll discover later.
Difficulty sleeping may be a real danger signal for a more serious illness although behavioural and environmental changes can have more of a positive impact on sleep than sleeping pills, sleep aids or other medications, without the risk of side effects or dependence.
Many people enviously read about Churchill or Edison’s sleeping habits and hope they could train themselves to sleep only 4 hours per night having far more time for other activities and more importantly not feeling sleepy during the waking hours that accompany insomnia.
Insomnia and worse, chronic insomnia, the inability to get to sleep or sleep well at night, is a very common problem and is the most common sleeping disorder, a condition more prevalent in the western world than type 2 diabetes.
Although research suggests that people with chronic insomnia don’t usually become sleeping pill addicts, the use of sleeping pills over long periods of time, or in higher doses than recommended, can cause a rebound of insomnia that occurs when you stop taking the medications.
As a result, it takes additional pills for people to sleep, with a tendency to up their dosage. People take sleeping pills because they don’t see rest as regenerative and refreshing and have reduced so much bedtime that they have to get some fast sleep each night. So as one of the most used cures for insomnia, sleeping pills are not the answer.
Only take a sleeping pill when you will have enough time to get a full 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Sleeping pills can help people sleep better, some feel more alert in the morning, others feel groggy. They are not for everyone.
If you sleep against your natural rhythm you will often experience tiredness or drowsiness that can be resolved by adjusting your sleeping hours.
The most important advice for sleep-deprived sufferers is to use your sleeping room for sleep only (and sex of course), keeping it dark and quiet.
With the currently available data on sleep, the conclusion is to not try to compress NREM 2 by sleeping less. NREM is the non-rapid eye movement sleep, most of which is the less useful form of light sleep within the range of sleep stages.
With a little practice, these skills can improve your sleep better than a sleeping pill or sleep aid.
A huge chunk of the population inflicts pain, misery and mental strife on themselves and their families by trying to regulate their sleep with alarms, irregular shift-work, sleeping pills, alcohol, caffeine, etc. By using artificial mechanisms like the electric light, alarm clocks and sleeping pills, we have wreaked havoc on the sleep process.
Your medical professional may decide you should go to a sleep clinic where you can be prescribed tablets in a way that will help avoid dependence, however, there is good news for the sleep deprived as in most cases of insomnia can be cured by you, without relying on sleep specialists or turning to prescription or over-the-counter sleeping pills.
Now that being said there is a huge amount of advice and recommendations, a lot of which is on this site, which will almost certainly be of great benefit, but I find that for people I’ve spoken to in the past, a lot of the ideas just doesn’t fit in with a lot of people’s work or leisure commitments; it means too big a change in their lifestyle.
Using relaxation techniques for a better night’s sleep can be useful, as can treating the anxiety and stress that can be the cause of insomnia. Then there are all the good sleep-inducing foods you can try and all the bad stuff you should avoid.
For all the cures for insomnia out there, there is one that, since the 1980’s, has been used to improve memory and concentration as well as treat ADHD, depression, anxiety and YES! you’ve guessed it, insomnia.
It’s an audio option that trains the brain using low delta frequencies commonly called brainwave entrainment, it can for those uninitiated, sounds a little out there but as an option, it doesn’t require a huge change in lifestyle or major commitment and unlike the potential of taking sleeping pills it isn’t addictive.Continue reading
Jetlag is a condition that affects almost everyone’s sleep patterns who travels across more than 3 time zones especially if going east. Natural sleep is disrupted for as long as 7 days if nothing is done to counterbalance the affect.
Normally jetlag is an irritation after a long flight that leaves us unable to sleep properly at the right times and causes sleep drowsiness; it is a mismatch between our natural biological clocks and the time at our destination. the affect.
Long distance travellers going from west to east suffer more as the day is affectively shortened running against the natural drift of the biological clock. From a sport performance point of view this can have measurable consequences for teams travelling the “wrong way” for a game.
Here are 6 tips to aid natural sleep through and after a long haul flight where sleep patterns would otherwise be affected with the possibility of spoiling the start of a long awaited holiday or causing a team to lose by those 2 baseball runs or cricket wickets.
1. On the previous day of the flight make sure you have 3 well balanced meals. I think we all know what that means these days although the guidance on how many servings of fruit and veg is best, differs from country to country.
I would suggest 5 of fruit and vegetables (preferably green) plus a portion of protein in the shape of fish, chicken (or other low-fat meat) or tofu.
2. On the flight have your watch set to the time of your destination. Keep track of the times the airline brings you meals – they tend to be suited to the crew’s comfort and convenience rather than yours – and where possible keep something back, like your delightful cheese and cracker (no! I mustn’t go off on one about airline food).
Eat this at what would be the appropriate time for meals according to the destination time zone.
3. Now this one might be a little tricky to organise especially if you in cattle class with excited youngsters going somewhere exotic for the first time.
You need to block out the sounds and sites when it is time for sleep at your destination and turn on your night light and stay alert and active (as much as is possible) when it is daytime at your goal.
Use the mask and earplugs to try and get some natural sleep.
4. I expect you have been told this before. Drink loads of alcohol and avoid….oh sorry wrong way round…drink loads of water and avoid alcohol.
Because of the cabin’s false atmosphere you are more susceptible to dehydration, however it’s also very easy to drink a lot of water just because of the dryness. Don’t do what I did; I kept on drinking water whilst I kept glancing up at my halo which ruined my sleep pattern.
It got to a tipping point where I was traipsing down the aisle every 10 minutes to queue for the loo.
5. During the times when it’s “up and atem” where you’re going, try to maintain some form of exercise routine by going for a walk up and down the aisle.
When seated try some simple movements of your legs and upper body including neck, head and shoulders. Do this for a couple of minutes every hour or so – whilst in awake mode of course.
6. On arrival at your destination eat the foods that would influence your sleepiness. So if it’s becoming time for bed concentrate on carbohydrates which will make you drowsy and eat proteins for energy and attention keeping awake.
The best way to control your body clock and therefore the effects of jetlag is by using bright light. If your long haul destination is east then get an early night. Then on the morning of your departure at around 4am wake up and use bright light to reset your body clock.
Good luck with your sleep patterns when travelling long distances – I have done it many times between UK, US and Australia. I even went from Australia to UK and back to Australia in 5 days and totally fooled the old body clock and jetlag never took hold.Continue reading
Relaxation techniques used to help us sleep better have been around for thousands of years in one form or another so the problem of interrupted sleep patterns have also been a part of our lives for as long.
In their infinite wisdom the ancient Chinese believed insomnia and generally sleepless nights to be the product of a broken energy force or what they call qi.
This energy, according to Chinese medicine flows along meridians throughout the organs of the body, which is controlled by the opposing, but complementary forces, yin and yang.
Any sleep disturbance could be attributed to an imbalance of these two forces within a particular organ.
So, for instance, a restless sleep pattern is a signal that there is a problem with the energy force in the kidneys whereas broken sleep caused by illuminated dreams is the result of an imbalance that is connected with the heart or liver.
The Chinese beliefs in the properties of yin and yang in control of the energy force qi within the body and between the organs, was very strong and so they developed areas of discipline that tries to redress the imbalance.
It’s an exercise that uses distinct and slow movements and one ideally suited for relaxation in preparing for a good night’s sleep. It encourages better circulation of the energy force through the body as well as focusing the mind.
Whatever the Chinese believed about yin and yang and qi, the benefits of this relaxing form of exercise to promote good quality sleep is undoubted as it helps greatly in the release of physical and mental tension in preparedness for a relaxing sleep. This is great news for our anxiety levels. Anxiety is the prime reason for restless sleep and anything that is a relaxation technique for anxiety is also a good sleeping tip.
As well as physically and mentally relaxing, this exercise benefits our posture as well as increasing muscle strength, control and suppleness.
Tai Chi is a form of exercise first thought to have been used by an Indian monk in the 6th century. It then evolved and by the 14th century it’s positions were better defined and then it became a gentle movement from one static position to another.
Regardless of age or disability it’s an exercise that anyone can benefit from and the Chinese gather in large groups early in the morning to practise outside in the fresh air (maybe not as fresh in the cities these days).
However, Tai Chi is not only practised in the mornings and can be used just before sleep time as a way to create a wonderful feeling of relaxation in readiness for a good night’s sleep.
Anticipating a solid night’s sleep try a couple of exercises about an hour before retiring to bed.
Stand with your feet slightly apart in parallel with the shoulders. Bring your left and right palms up to meet your shoulders. Then make circular motions with your elbows as wide as possible. Go one way for half a minute then the opposite way for another half a minute.
Next standing as before, hold your arms, parallel to the floor. Raise one arm as high as you can, reaching for the sky whilst plunging the other arm to the floor.
Hold for 15 seconds then reverse the arms for a further 15 seconds.
Complete both exercises 2 or 3 times. For extra sleep promotion try doing the exercises in a quiet, coolish and darkish room which is how your bedroom should be before going to sleep anyway.
There will be more sleep relaxation techniques and sleeping tips coming soon.
This is the first part in a series of articles on sleeping techniques designed to provide an alternative, natural way of overcoming or alleviating common sleep problems. In this article we look specifically at relaxation techniques for sleep and the other benefits such techniques bring to our every day well-being.
How Cultural changes have Affected our Sleeping Techniques
The way we live today has changed enormously from 50 or even 20 years ago as we move inexorably toward a more urban, fast-paced, technology driven society. At one time a family working on a farm, for instance would get up very early and have a set pattern of work, interrupted only by the seasons or by one off events and would wind down naturally in the evening before retiring to a well deserved sleep.
Today the scenario is different; an urban family are likely to wake up immediately concerned about the day ahead. With pressures to get the kids to school on time, to catch the train to get to work, to finish looking at the notes for the days meetings the pressures begin at the beginning of the day and continue filled with coffee and crisis, before returning home to eat badly and finish off some emails. The modern family goes to bed feeling very tired from the exertions of the day and hit the sack, but then of course sleep is elusive.
During the day both the mind and body have been reacting to the stresses of the day and there hasn’t been an opportunity for a re-balancing to take place so we need to slow down and take the time to rebalance mind and body with some relaxation. There are some excellent relaxation techniques to try but going down the pub for 6 pints, followed by a curry, isn’t one I’ll be recommending.
Breathing may not sound much like an exercise; it’s something we do a lot of but if done “properly” it is very relaxing. So try it and see. Your breath should come from the abdomen not your chest, breathe through your nose for 3 seconds then breathe out through your mouth also for 3 seconds, pause for 3 seconds and repeat. Try perfecting this technique so that it becomes comfortable and do it for 10 minutes before you go to bed.
Mastering Yoga or even in the early stages of learning, can be an affective weapon in the fight against insomnia.
There are many forms of yoga but they are all a form of workout for your mind and body, bringing them
together for harmony and well-being. After some practice you will have more stamina, strength, flexibility and energy. You will have more control over your mood, be able to calm the mind and truly relax with a sense of inner peace.
Try attending a class to get the most out of Yoga. There are many different types but hatha yoga is probably best for the beginner. Most gyms, these days run popular forms of yoga; I’m sure the instructor will be able to tell you more about each one.
The corpse is a pose in yoga, often done at the end of a session to wind down and relax the mind and body. It’s good to try before going to bed. Lie on your back with your legs and arms slightly outstretched, palms resting on the floor and pointing upwards. Think nice thoughts and if you feel tension in your limbs, as if you want to stretch them out, imagine you are enormously heavy and that the floor is supporting you. Do this for at least 5 minutes. This is also a good position for meditation.
Progressive muscular relaxation (PMR) is an anxiety reducing method devised by Dr. Jacobson, a physiologist but is useful as a sleeping technique. Everybody, at some stage has had muscle tightness and fatigue, brought about by emotional stress, depression or anxiety. This method works by concentrating on tightening muscle groups for a few seconds and then slowly releasing the tension with a slow exhalation of breath. This can be done with the breathing technique mentioned before and you should start from one end of the body either lying on your back or standing straight.
This technique might sound like a chore at first but like anything, with practise you develop more effectiveness as well as it becoming second nature.
Meditation is a time efficient way of bridging the gulf between the physical and mental stresses of the day and the slow wave, deep sleep needed to be able to function at the peak of performance in the waking hours.
The picture you might get of someone meditating, cross-legged, arms outstretched and chanting a repetitive ditty might put you off but this is only one way of approaching meditation.
Prepare a quiet, bland space and sit in a straight backed chair and place a hand on your stomach. Concentrate on the sensation of your lungs filling with air as you take long slow breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Once you feel your stomach rise and fall under your hand you know its working. Again, like the other techniques it may take some practise and feel a little trite at first. One of the benefits is to clear your mind of all the worries of the world and this will come eventually even if, at first your mind is awash with them. It may help to focus on a singular item like a flower and to concentrate on the sensation of your breathing.
Eventually you’ll be able to take your technique and do it anywhere.
As you may have noticed these relaxation sleeping techniques for sleep are also useful for your general well-being. Although it’s use has been overused and it’s meaning diluted “unwinding” should an important part of your daily tasks but they should be done purposefully and not just as an excuse to zone out. Unfortunately there isn’t a relaxation topic here devoted to “lounging around”, so getting into the habit of trying one or more of these methods that suits you will hopefully aid in getting a restful nights sleep.Continue reading
There is a common picture in younger people’s minds of grandma falling off to sleep in the corner after lunch or of granddad’s head lolling from side to side, the newspaper around his ankles, being poked and prodded by the toddlers. It begs the question whether you need more sleep as you age.
It’s a misconception that older people need to nap during the day. In fact, for the elderly, sleeping requirements have hardly changed since their formative years.
Changes in patterns of sleep as you age.
These are in part physiological as well as indirect changes that may have been brought about as a result of lifestyle factors.
The intensity of our sleep as we grow older is lessened, so men in particular experience less slow wave and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep or basically sleep less soundly.
This less intense sleep is caused by the decrease in production of growth hormones, sex hormones and melatonin. Most unusually, as we age there is an increase of cortisol in the blood.
Very high levels of serum cortisol are very toxic to the brain and other organs and have an impact on our immune system. High levels of this hormone seems to be associated with the reduction in REM sleep as we age but, as it is with the complexity of our bodies, it is important that we get good uninterrupted 6 to 8 hours of sleep a night as well as avoiding stress situations to control cortisol levels.
It’s thought that this lighter sleeping at night is because of a reduced urge to sleep which can lead to a higher urge to nap during the day.
Studies have shown however, that elderly people into their 80s who have a relatively clean bill of health don’t necessarily show any need or feel like taking daytime naps.
So if your eyes keep zoning out whilst reading the newspaper, don’t let anyone tell you and don’t assume it’s due to old age. Your strength, endurance and organ function may have been declining since around the age of 30, but if you are generally healthy and sleep well at night, there is no reason why you should be feeling excessively tired during the day.
There are many other factors existing or developed over the years that cause sleep disruption and insomnia in later life.
As we age our desires for getting out and about can diminish which means that the stimulation of physical exercise is lacking. Additionally staying indoors more means less exposure to natural light.
Studies have shown that older people with sleeping problems have less exposure to light, have a poor diet and have limited physical and mental stimulation.
It seems that the cirdanian rhythm changes as you get older, which means a tendency to feel sleepy earlier in the evening, therefore going to bed early, and waking up earlier. It’s not understood why this happens but there is nothing wrong with it unless, of course, you are getting up so early and it affects your day time functioning. An extreme case is known as advanced sleep phase syndrome (ASPS).
Doctors can be pretty free with prescribing drugs and you may have accumulated quite an arsenal of prescription drugs over the years. You should get clarity from your health professional on your medications and what affect they will have on your sleep.
Here is a list of the more common prescribed drugs and what affects they could have.
Getting up in the night to go to the bathroom gets more and more frequent causing sleep disruptions.
As you get older, like the rest of the body, the muscles controlling your bladder weakens and becomes less likely to retain as much urine as it used to.
For men who get up frequently in the night and have “stream” problems they should get their prostrate checked.
Don’t be worried about discussing these problems with your medical professionals or even an urologist.
Cut down on the fluids before bed time. Try to take diuretic medication as early in the day as possible. With a primary bladder problem get comfortable incontinence pads.
State of Mind.
Just because you’re no longer running marathons doesn’t necessarily mean that you should be feeling overly tired during the day and therefore unable to keep your eyes open. There may well be an underlying cause for not sleeping well at night.
Make sure you get exercise appropriate for your age. This in itself will give your more interest in your diet, which should be well balanced. It’s also important to stay mentally active and don’t forget to relax in the garden to soak in some natural light (take the normal sun screen precautions of course).
So sleep as you age is as important as it always was and to get a good night’s sleep consistently will mean feeling so much better in general health terms although don’t worry about the odd nap during the day.
But don’t try to sleep; if you suffer from insomnia, look at lifestyle factors that you can easily adjust or look to adopt some specific sleeping techniques.Continue reading
The Epworth Sleepiness Questionnaire was devised by Dr. Murray Johns in Melbourne, Australia while working at the Epworth hospital.
It measures sleepiness rather than tiredness and is one of the most widely used clinical test in the world.
If the situations haven’t arisen recently imagine yourself in the situation now or in the recent past.
Use the following scale to choose the number which most closely matches your sleepiness reaction.
|Situation||Chance of Dozing|
|Sitting & Reading||0 1 2 3|
|Watching Television||0 1 2 3|
|Sitting Inactive in a Public Place (like a theatre or meeting)||0 1 2 3|
|As a Passenger in a Car Without a Break||0 1 2 3|
|Lying Down to Rest in the Afternoon Circumstances Permitting||0 1 2 3|
|Sitting and Talking to Someone||0 1 2 3|
|Sitting Quietly After Lunch Without Alcohol||0 1 2 3|
|In a Car While Stopped for a few Minutes in Traffic||0 1 2 3|
Copyright © MW Johns 1990-1997. Used under license.
Add up your score which could be a maximum of 24. A score of 11 or over is consistent with excessive daytime sleepiness.
The Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) is a self diagnostic test and a first step that you can take to see if you have a current sleeping problem, whether it is a mild case of insomnia or something that could be more serious. The next step would be to take this and your sleep diary to your doctor who, these days, is much more aware of sleep disorders.
If sleep apnea is suspected then you may be referred to a sleep center for an overnight stay or be given recording equipment for a number of nights.
If narcolepsy is a possibility you would be referred to a sleep center for day and night time studies.
People with general insomnia may be referred to a counselor or psychologist or if there is significant mood disorders to a psychiatrist who may be able to reveal the reason for the disorder.
During pregnancy, insomnia is common and many factors conspire to cause disruption to sleep such as hormonal changes bodily discomforts, mood swings and anxiety. Even if you had never had a sleepless night in your life, let alone suffered from insomnia, pregnancy will change all that and it doesn’t get better after birth as the new born baby’s demands takes precedence over you’re 7 to 8 hours of blissful sleep.
About a third of all mothers to be, snore during pregnancy and if it is heavy and persistent medical advice should be sought. Severe snoring is a sign of potentially high blood pressure.
There’s a further risk for very overweight women or women who put a lot of weight on during pregnancy of developing sleep apnea, where a drop in blood oxygen at night can be a sign of complications for the baby
Restless Leg Syndrome
About 20 percent of women during pregnancy develop restless leg syndrome (RLS) a symptom of iron deficiency or low folate levels or both. It’s important to increase your intake of iron, folate and vitamin B12 before and during pregnancy.
Anywhere up to 80 percent of women get the mild form of postnatal depression often referred to as the “baby blues” soon after delivery and lasting for a couple of weeks. The more serious mood disorder however, can occur anytime within 6 months after birth, which is often why it is not readily identified, and can cause further problems to the already disrupted sleep patterns.
Tips to overcome insomnia in pregnancy.
Sleeping techniques that help
As with any other sleep disrupter there are remedies at hand that can at least alleviate some of the problems associated with sleep deprivation. Insomnia in pregnancy is something that can’t be cured, just because of the enormous disruption it causes but there are certain sleeping techniques that makes the most out of time available to you as an expectant mother and as a practising parent. These sleeping techniques include relaxation methods such as breathing, meditation and yoga as well as other holistic approaches.
They sleep an awful lot and it’s a very active sleep made up of around 50 percent REM.
There is much written about developing sleep patterns in babies and infants but each child will develop his own pattern as he grows.
Babies should preferably be put to bed when they are sleepy after plenty of light and play during the day rather than when they are asleep.
Infancy to teenagers
At between 5 and 12 children need about 10 to 12 hours of sleep to be able to function and develop during the waking hours. Whilst they are developing interruptions to their sleep patterns can take the form of stimulants such as computer game and television as well as the other forms of stimulants found in food and drink like excess sugar and caffeine.
Continued sleep disturbances can lead to poor learning, mood disorders and hyperactivity. They may also be more likely to start showing signs of sleep apnoea, narcolepsy and sleep walking.
A consistent bedtime routine is the order of the day.
In adolescence teenagers require slightly less sleep but quite often develop a phase shift in their sleeping habits or the first signs of delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS).
It may be harder for parents but again a consistent bedtime routine is important.
More than not, of course the phase shift is more likely due to behaviour reasons such as school schedule and social activities.
DSPS is a circadian rhythm disorder and the likely sleeping pattern would be getting to bed at between 2am and 6am and rising between 10am and 1pm. The tendency would be not to be hungry in the morning but to eat in the evening.
Apart from common sense measures in getting your child back into a more normal pattern of sleep light therapy can be tried
This is where bright light is scheduled for the early morning and strong light is avoided after sunset.
Light exposure is more effective when combined with exercise.
Switch the computer off in the evening or at least move it out of his bedroom if at all possible.
And beyond. So the kids have all grown up and flown the nest
Women’s sex hormones, oestrogen and progesterone play a large part in the pattern of sleep especially in regard to the circadian rhythms. The hormones play a role in regulating the menstrual cycle and women often report 2 or 3 days of sleep disturbance. Although women are more likely to suffer from insomnia prior to menopause than men generally, they are less likely to suffer from sleep apnea.
The menopause occurs between around 40 and 58 with the decrease in production of oestrogen and progesterone. Sleep disturbance and daytime fatigue are the most common complaints during the menopause. Other symptoms include hot flushes and night sweats. Any elevation of body or room temperature will have the tendency for sleep interruptions.
Well at least you no longer have the worries of trying to sleep during pregnancy, when the baby is crying, when the toddler is scared by nightmares and when the teenager is keeping you up whilst he is socially networking at 2am.
You can at least relax with a few drops of essential oils in a warm bath with the ambient fragrance of a candle wafting from the bedroom. But that’s a topic for another article.
Snoring and sleep apnea causes and cures have long been overlooked by the medical profession. It wasn’t so long ago when a visit to your GP with these problems would have been rewarded with a “it’s something you’ll have to live with” response. Fortunately these days things have changed and there are more possible solutions to these two connected disorders.
The other thing that has improved enormously is the increased number of sleep laboratories or clinics, where you can get diagnosed using current techniques such as polysomnography, to record and diagnose a person’s sleep.
Snoring occurs when the intake of air you breathe hits the floppy soft tissue at the back of the throat, which is relaxed whilst asleep. This causes increased air turbulence resulting in the noises so familiar to a snorer’s sleeping partner. Everyone snores – it has been estimated that there may be 750 million snorers worldwide.
Twice as many men as women snore. This could partly be to do with the inherent physiological differences of the shape and size of the neck in men and women or it could be the relationship to alcohol.
Snoring is not an illness but a symptom.
Studies have shown that snorers tend to be less healthy with higher blood pressure, a higher preponderance to angina and symptoms of arterial disease in the legs.
10 percent of snorers develop the potentially dangerous condition known as obstructive sleep apnea.
Snorers can be anyone and although not common even children suffer.
The shape of the head, jaw, the thickness of the neck, size of tonsils, adenoids and uvula (flap of skin at the back of the throat) can influence whether you snore or not.
A high proportion of overweight drinkers and smokers snore.
If your throat is a collapsible tube the muscles at the base of the tongue hold it open when you’re awake but the muscles relax when you sleep and the throat collapses. If there is a lot of fatty tissue in the throat the air flow is partially obstructed creating noisy air turbulence.
Sleep apnea ( or apnoea)
Snoring is not funny but forms of sleep apnea can be very dangerous. Sleep apnea occurs when no air at all passes through the nose or mouth for more than 10 seconds at a time. About 4 percent of men, twice as many as women are thought to be affected. That makes it more common than diabetes or asthma.
There are 3 types of sleep apnea, the most common is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This is where the airway falls in on itself completely obstructing the air passage. The sleeper doesn’t know its happening but fortunately his brain, which is being starved of oxygen, does. A safety mechanism wakes the sleeper for an instant forcing a gasp of air. This can happen over and over again during the night.
With central sleep apnea the brain doesn’t send the right signals to tell you to breathe when asleep and mixed sleep apnoea is a combination of the two.
Because the sufferer is constantly waking he returns to stages 1 and 2 sleep and so may never get enough deep sleep that he would otherwise get in stage 4.
This may lead not only to daytime fatigue, moodiness and low concentration levels but also more seriously, to memory and intellect problems, mood swings and loss of libido.
Apart from which in the longer term, because bouts of sleep apnea reduces the supply of oxygen to the brain, the body gets pumped with additional quantities of adrenalin to wake the sufferer up causing the heart rate to speed up. This can be dangerous for anyone with an underlying heart condition.
Poor quality sleep and daytime fatigue is a much bigger problem than was first realised.
Sleep apnea causes
The greatest risk for developing sleep apnea is being an obese middle-aged male. The fact that obesity in the western world is becoming more common indicates a link with the increasing number of sleep apnea cases as well.
The structure of the face can be a large factor in causing the airway blockage. So jaw structure abnormality such as an overbite, large tonsils and adenoids, the shape of the hard palate and generally large neck and head can contribute the collapse of the airways when the muscles relax during sleep.
Of course what makes sleep apnea worse is anything that has a sedating affect on the muscles in the upper airway which includes alcohol and sleeping pills.
Sleep Apnea Cures
In mild cases it would be wise to try the “lifestyle change” option where you look at weight, smoking and alcohol consumption. These measures associated with a dental mouth device (like a sports gum shield); designed to hold the lower jaw and tongue forward can be totally effective.
A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is considered the most effective treatment for moderate to severe conditions of sleep apnea. It may not be a cure for sleep apnea, but most people agree the treatment works.
The machine is connected to a specially designed sleep apnea mask that forces a pressure of air into the airway which would have been specified by a sleep specialist after examination at a sleep centre where testing for sleep apnea is normally carried out.
Masks for sleep apnea come in a range of different styles and designs are available for those who feel closed in with the full face mask, nasal masks and also nasal cushions which are inserted into the nostrils.
Sleep apnea surgery
Surgery is an option but is generally not recommended and is becoming less and less so unless the circumstances are exceptional. If the cause of the obstruction is oversize tonsils or adenoids they can be removed by surgery. Same with the large palate and uvula which can be reduced in size by laser; this procedure is called laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP). If a deformed jaw is the cause then this can be operated on as well.
Sleep apnea causes are not fully understood yet although an increasing amount of research is going into the sleep disorder, but it’s generally believed that CPAP is the preferred treatment even though a lot of people find it uncomfortable and inconvenient. Curing the problem would naturally be the answer to a lot of people’s prayers.Continue reading
Insomnia is by far the most common reason for a doctor’s visit when it comes to sleep disorders, and treatments can vary depending on the root cause.
Insomnia is classified into two categories; sleep-onset insomnia, where you find it hard to get to sleep and sleep-maintenance insomnia where you have problems staying asleep.
The time it takes a non-sufferer to get to sleep is between 1 and 20 minutes.
Insomnia is further defined into how often it happens so transient insomnia is where you have problems for a few nights, short term insomnia, where you have problems up to a month and chronic insomnia where the problems exist for more than a month.
About 30 to 40 percent of adults report some degree of insomnia within any one year period and 10 to 15 percent of those indicate a chronic level.
It’s believed up to twice as many women than men suffer some form of insomnia being at least partly contributed to hormonal changes.
There is also varying degrees of sleeping problems associated with babies, toddlers and teenagers. (see article Insomnia in Pregnancy)
The root cause of insomnia certainly comes under one or more of the following categories below. Discovering the cause or causes is the first step in putting insomnia to bed and getting night after night of good quality sleep.
Psychological factors – these can be stress, anxiety, depression and over stimulation most likely related to work, home and general lifestyle.
Lifestyle – so a bad or inconsistent diet, lack of exercise or exercising too close to bedtime and regular overuse of the stimulants, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and recreational drugs.
Sleep Environment – your bedroom needs to be a place for Goldilocks where temperature, light and noise levels are just right for you.
Medications – over the counter cough medicines as well as beta blockers, diuretics and thyroid hormones and withdrawal from some drugs can affect sleep patterns.
Mental – depression, schizophrenia, bipolar and dementia are all linked to insomnia.
Medical – any condition which causes pain or discomfort is going to have an impact on your sleep which includes
Sleep Disorders – discounting insomnia there are over 70 classifications of sleep disorders which mostly come under the following categories.
Sleep related breathing disorders – e.g. snoring and sleep apnea
Sleep related movement e.g. restless leg syndrome (RLS)
Circadian rhythm disorders e.g. advanced sleep phase syndrome (ASPS) and delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS)
Parasomnias e.g. sleepwalking, bruxism (teeth grinding)
Hypersomnias e.g. Narcolepsy, sleep paralysis
The Consequences of Insomnia
The effects of going without sleep can range from being tired, listless and forgetful during the day as well as loss of concentration and the ability to learn to the tragically extreme sleeping disorder known as fatal familial insomnia (FFI).
Without going into detail it’s a genetic condition where the brain’s thalamus is damaged (the area that controls the stages of sleep) and the sufferer CANT sleep at all. The condition is fatal with different stages of body and mind deterioration.
This is, as I said a very rare condition with perhaps 40 known families affected worldwide but it does demonstrate the utmost importance of sleep.
Treatments for Insomnia
For chronic insomnia sufferers the short term use of some medications like benzodiazepines can be used. Otherwise relaxation techniques and cogative-behavioural therapy maybe appropriate. Alternatively using the bedroom only for sleeping and making sure that the bed and surroundings are comfortable and not too warm can all help. And an adjustment to your sleeping patterns. A consultation with your doctor is worthwhile for advice that suits your particular situation.
Sleep, what’s it all about then? If you have laid in bed, tossing and turning, unable to sleep then you might have asked this question to yourself on many occasions. The answer should be obvious but we really don’t know exactly. For those people who can’t sleep it is of little value to know that simply put, getting the right sleep is essential to help the body and brain function properly and lack of sleep can have devastating effects on mind and body.
It has long been understood that during periods of sleep the body mends and repairs itself, which indeed it does but in fact it is now believed that normal relaxation does the same or a similar job.
Besides, during sleep you are likely to be on the move betwen 20 and 40 times a night and certainly the brain remains active also, processing memories and emotions or what I like to think of as “housekeeping”.
Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Without a night of restful sleep you can simply feel rubbish during the day but after a few nights or more of sleep loss you can experience a whole range of physical and mental effects.
Sleep deprivation effects include a higher risk of depression, stroke, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
And for example, sleep deprivation studies have shown that women who get less than 6 hours sleep a night are more likely of developing breast cancer than a women who gets 7 hours.
So as well as the immune system, the heart and circulatory system lack of sleep can also affect the hormonal system with the result that sufferers tend to eat possibly one and a half times more than good sleepers.
This may cause a vicious circle with obesity being one of the prominent causes for sleep apnoea.
Other symptoms of insomnia are a lowering of the immune system making you more likely to get infections, an impairment of co-ordination and judgement, certainly making you more dangerous on the roads, moodiness, causing relationship issues at home and work and overall a chronic lack of sleep is thought to overall lower your life expectancy.
So something needs to be done if you’re not getting the right sleep.
Stages of Sleep
There are 2 types of sleep REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non rapid eye movement which occurs within 5 stages of sleep which then constitutes a cycle lasting for around 90 minutes.
The first cycle begins with stage 1 NREM when you’re sleeping lightly. Stage 2 NREM follows when you’re arousal level is higher and lasts for 10 to 25 minutes. Stages 3 and 4 of NREM or slow wave sleep takes around 20 to 40 minutes in the first cycle. Stage 5 is REM sleep and lasts for about 5 to 10 minutes in the first cycle and around 60 minutes in the last.
So stages 1 and 2 can be seen as the slowing down of body functions in preparation for stages 3 and 4, slow wave sleep, in which your blood pressure and body temperature falls, your breathing slows down and your kidneys function is reduced, producing less urine. During these stages growth hormones are released aiding in the repair and maintenance of the body tissues and immune system.
Stage 5, REM sleep is characterised by the eyes darting all over the place. Your breathing rate increases along with your heart rate and blood pressure and the brain is as acitve as it is when you’re awake, however your muscles are temporarily paralized. This may be to prevent you acting out your dreams.
Your dreams are the manifestations of memories and experiences that are being processed and stored. This is why it is thought that too little sleep can affect memory.
Although you dream in REM sleep it is not as deep or satisfying as in deep sleep, stages 3 and 4.Continue reading