Sleep disorders and how we deal with them

Sleep disorders deprive our body of the rest it so desperately needs, resulting from which we are unable to perform our daily duties successfully and safely. But what are these disorders, and how can we deal with them?

Sleep disorders are not so much a lack of sleep (insomnia) but a violation of falling asleep, a violation of the sleep process itself (intermittent sleep, premature waking, shallow sleep).

Sleep disorders concern 28-45% of the population, a significant problem that requires particular diagnosis and treatment. Insomnia in people over 60 years old occurs 3-4 times more often than in middle age.

The average duration of sleep varies significantly from person to person – from 4-5 hours to 10-12 hours, i.e., healthy short-sleepers and long-sleepers. The primary indicator of sleep rate is the feeling of rest after sleep.

If there is no feeling of rest, we can talk about a violation of the sleep-wake cycle. Insomnia can be primary or secondary, caused by mental illness, anxiety, fear, medication, or physical condition. It can be temporary or lifelong.

Causes of sleep disorder

The most common causes of sleep disorders in healthy people are:

  • Eating later than 3-4 hours before bedtime, eating spicy foods.
  • Excited state: previous intense physical or mental activity, strong emotions (both positive and negative); working with a computer, watching TV, loud, rhythmic music, etc.; the use of activating drinks (strong tea, coffee and drinks containing caffeine, etc.).
  • Sedentary lifestyle, lack of adequate physical activity, late awakening, daytime sleep.
  • Uncomfortable sleeping conditions: uncomfortable mattress, pillow, bedding, high or low air temperature, noise, light, etc.
  • Events and situations have a traumatic effect on the human psyche.
  • Pain syndromes in neurological and somatic diseases.
  • Long-term tobacco abuse.
  • Apnea syndrome, i.e. night snoring.
  • Disruption of the regular rhythm of wakefulness and sleep (work at night, sudden change of time zones, encephalitis, damage to the hypothalamus)

Types of Sleep Disorders

There are several types of sleep disorders, which can be grouped according to various criteria, e.g. the causes that cause them, their symptoms, the problems with the sleep-wake cycle, etc. However, some of the most common forms of sleep disorders are:

Insomnia

It is the inability to stay asleep or fall asleep. It can be caused by jet lag, stress, hormonal or digestive problems. It can also be a symptom of another condition. Insomnia is prevalent, but it seems to concern older adults and gender, mainly women.

It can be chronic, when it occurs regularly for at least a month, intermittent when it happens periodically, or transient when it lasts for a few nights at a time.

Apnea

Sleep apnea is characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep, resulting in the body receiving less oxygen.

There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea, in which the airway is obstructed by obstruction of the upper airways, and central apnea, in which the obstruction is attributed to a reduction in respiratory effort.
Some patients present with a combination of obstructive sleep apnea and central apnea, also known as complex sleep apnea.

The nightmare

It is a category of disorders that cause abnormal movements and behaviours during sleep. They include sleepwalking, sleep talking, nightmares, loss of urine, gnashing of teeth or clenching of the jaws.

Restless legs syndrome

Restless legs syndrome is characterized by a strong need to move the legs, which is sometimes accompanied by numbness in the legs.

This syndrome is often associated with certain health conditions, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and Parkinson’s disease. However, its exact cause is not always known.

The narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is characterized by “sleep attacks” that occur while one is awake. This means that he may feel exhausted and fall asleep suddenly, without warning.

Although narcolepsy is likely to occur on its own, it is mainly associated with certain neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis.

Symptoms of sleep disorders

Symptoms vary depending on the severity and type of disorder. However, they generally include drowsiness during the day and difficulty sleeping at night. Other symptoms of sleep disorders include fatigue during the day, unusual breathing patterns, the need to move while falling asleep, disturbing movements or experiences during sleep, and involuntary changes in the sleep-wake schedule.

In addition, sleep disorders are accompanied by irritability or stress, decreased performance at work or school, lack of concentration, depression, and even weight gain.

How are sleep disorders treated?

The treatment of sleep disorders depends on their type and cause and may combine medication with lifestyle changes.

Of course, there are cases such as sleep apnea, where the doctor may suggest using a respiratory device or surgery.

In terms of our lifestyle, changes such as:

Improving our diet

In any case, our diet should include more fruits, vegetables, lean meats and fish, and less sugar intake. In particular, however, before going to bed, it is recommended to eat a light meal so that our sleep is not interrupted by the feeling of hunger or discomfort due to indigestion.

In addition, before going to bed, we should avoid caffeinated beverages and limit alcohol, as they seem to affect the quality of our sleep negatively.

Exercise

Regular exercise helps us relieve the day’s stress and get tired, more likely, therefore, to enjoy better sleep.

In addition, exercise helps maintain the ideal weight for us, preventing any breathing difficulties during the night.

However, it is recommended not to exercise late at night, as in this case, the exercise may cause us overstimulation and make it difficult for us to sleep.

Establishing a consistent sleep routine

If we want quality and satisfying sleep, we make sure to relax before going to bed, turning off our mobile phone early, enjoying a bubble bath or reading our favourite book.

It is also essential to create a similar atmosphere in our bedroom, with low lighting, moderate temperature and quiet, and “train” our biological clock, observing a constant time of sleep and wakefulness daily.

The role of valerian

Treatment for sleep disorders may include dietary supplements with valerian, an herb with a proven anxiolytic effect that significantly helps with insomnia.

The beneficial effects of the root of this herb have been known since antiquity and are rightly described as a natural ally in our quest for a good and adequate sleep.

It seems that taking valerian can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and improve the duration and quality of sleep.

Many studies have shown its benefits, with participants reporting that their sleep improved, sometimes reaching perfection, or that they were able to fall asleep faster and deeper after receiving valerian extract.

For best results, taking a valerian supplement is usually recommended one hour before bedtime.

Note* Always consult your doctor or other qualified health care professional for any questions you may have about your health or condition. Never disregard a health care professional’s advice or delay getting it because of what you read on this website.

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