1. Common Sleeping Disorders And How To Resolve Them

    July 19, 2013

    lack of sleep

    by Dr. Frank Shallenberger

    Almost everyone has experienced trouble sleeping at some time or another. Difficulty sleeping is normal and is typically only a temporary problem, which is often due to stress or another outside factor. If you have problems sleeping on a regular basis and the lack of sleep is interfering with your daily activities, you may have a more serious sleeping problem or a sleeping disorder. Sleeping disorders have other symptoms outside of simply sleepiness and they can have a negative impact on your overall well-being, emotional balance and energy. The following are a few of the most common sleeping disorders and how they can be resolved.

     

    Insomnia

     

    Insomnia is the most common type of sleep disorder. Insomnia prohibits you from getting the amount of sleep that your body needs to wake up feeling refreshed and rested. In most situations, insomnia is a symptom of one or more other problems such as depression, stress, anxiety or a health condition. Insomnia can also be the result of your lifestyle choices such as a lack of exercise, jet lag, excessive consumption of caffeine and/or certain medications. Some common symptoms of insomnia may include:

    • Frequently waking up during the night
    • Trouble falling asleep and/or difficulty getting back to sleep when you wake during the night
    • You have to take something that allows you to get to sleep (sleeping pills)
    • Low energy levels and sleepiness during the day
    • When you do sleep it feels fragmented, light and/or exhausting

    Insomnia can take a toll on your mood, the ability to function in daily activities and energy. Fortunately, there are changes you can make that will help you get a good night’s sleep. For most people, simple changes in lifestyle are the most effective. Taking a natural supplement that works with your body’s own natural rhythm is enough to avoid having to take over-the-counter or prescription sleeping pills.

     

    Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders

     

    Everyone has an internal biological clock to regulate the 24-hour sleep and wake cycle, which is known as the circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are primarily cued by light, so in the morning when the sun rises, your brain tells your body it is time to wake-up; when there is less light at night, the brain begins to trigger the release of melatonin, a hormone in your body that makes you sleepy. When the circadian rhythms get thrown off or disrupted, you may begin to feel sleepy, disoriented or groggy at inappropriate times. Many sleeping disorders and sleeping problems are associated with disrupted circadian rhythms such as seasonal affective disorder, jet lag, insomnia and shift work. If you have a circadian rhythm disorder, there are several beneficial treatments you can try such as keeping the room dark and quiet while you are sleeping and well-lit when you are awake. It is also best to avoid exposure to bright light during the evening and to maintain a routine for eating and activity hours. You should make all attempts to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, avoid napping and try to avoid sleep deprivation, stress and fatigue.

     

    Shift Work Sleeping Disorder

     

    Shift work sleeping disorder may occur if your biological clock and work schedule are disrupted or are out of sync. It is common for workers to have a midnight shift, early morning shift or a rotating shift, but these schedules may be forcing your body to work when your brain is signaling sleep time, and vice versa. Many people rapidly adjust to the demands of shift work, while others get significantly less quality sleep. When workers are struggling with shift work sleeping problems, it causes sleepiness and mental lethargy while at work, which can put you at the risk of injury and decrease your productivity. To reduce the impact of shift work on your sleeping patterns, regulate your wake and sleep cycle by limiting your exposure to light when it is time to sleep and increasing exposure to light while at work, use blackout curtains during the daytime when you sleep to block out the sun, and consider taking a natural supplement such as melatonin when it is time to go to sleep.

    The first step to finding a solution for your sleeping problems is identifying what the problem is. While many sleep disorders may require a visit to your physician or CBT sessions with a psychologist, you can address many sleeping problems on your own. A consistent sleep routine, changes in lifestyle, natural sleep supplements and keeping a sleep diary are all beneficial for monitoring your sleeping patterns. For example, keep a sleep journal to record when you went to bed, when you woke up, how many hours of quality sleep you had, the food and beverages you consumed before bedtime and when you exercised. The journal will help you identify what may be preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep.
    When it comes to supplements that aid in sleep disorders, many believe in melatonin or valerian as natural ways to get a good night’s sleep. But the latest research casts doubts on the ability of these nutrients alone to do the job. Reading Beyond Melatonin and Valarian here sheds new perspective on this wide spread problem, and what to do to get that restful, deep sleep we all need.

    Image Credit: Jöshua Barnett

     


  2. Coping With Mental Illness: Anxiety, Depression, Adult ADHD and Other Conditions

    June 14, 2013

    Coping With Mental Illness

    by Valerie Johnston

     

    Mental illness can easily interfere with a person’s quality of life, even if the issues aren’t outwardly apparent. People who suffer from mental illness often struggle with inner demons that can make the ordinary tasks of life seem like burdens that are impossible to overcome. Each type of mental illness has its own unique set of problems as well as methods of psychological treatment. However, there are a few coping strategies that can help people with any kind of mental illness or disorder, from anxiety and depression, to adult ADHD and other serious types of mental illnesses.

    Step 1: Get Help

    Mental illness still carries a stigma in many communities; so people are often reluctant to seek treatment for their condition. If you are experiencing the symptoms of any mental illness or disorder, it is important to realize that the problem that you are suffering from is a real and physical problem. Though you may or may not be able to see any outward physical problems of the condition, that doesn’t make the symptoms any less real. If you are experiencing anxiety, fear, depression, trouble concentrating, trouble sleeping, or any other symptom, you should plan a visit to the psychiatrist or clinical psychologist to get help. At the very least, you should confide in family members or friends that you trust. They will be able to give you some support and advice to help you move forward.

    Step 2: Develop a Plan for Treatment

    The best way to cope with mental illness is to get regular treatment from a doctor, clinical psychologist, or psychiatrist. They will be able to help you treat your condition in any number of ways. They may prescribe medication that will help reduce your symptoms and make coping with your condition easier, though medications do not necessarily have to be used as the first line of defense. Many clinical psychologists will suggest starting with therapy (e.g. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) to help you learn how to cope with your mental illness. Having regular appointments with a therapist can help you work through some of your issues and create routines that make it easier to manage the symptoms of depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder, or whatever type of mental illness you are suffering from.

    Step 3: Build a Network of Support

    There is no doubt that patients who have a support system will experience far better success rates with their treatment of mental illness. Coping with the stress and added anxiety of a mental illness is easier when you have friends and family members who can take some of the burden away from you. It is important to build a support network and to involve these people in your treatment, so they can know how to help you cope. If your family and friends are aggravating your symptoms and making your condition worse, they might not know what to do to help you manage your condition. Sit down and talk with them, and explain to them how they can help you cope with different types of situations.

    Step 4: Make Lifestyle Changes

    Sometimes our lives are a source of undue stress, and this can easily aggravate any type of health problem, especially a problem like depression, ADD, or bipolar disorder. Clinical psychologists recommend taking the time to evaluate your life and look for ways to reduce your stress levels, which will hopefully help alleviate some of the problems you are dealing with. If work is particularly stressful, try to sit down and talk to your employers about your condition.

    See if there is anything they can do to help make the work environment more productive and less triggering for your illness. Make changes to your thinking, positive thinking is the best remedy for anxiety and depression. It is equally important to make sure your home life is as balanced and stress free as can be as well. Have your family members lend a hand, so you can cut down on the stress at home. Making changes to your lifestyle can reduce your level of stress and ultimately make it easier to cope with the symptoms of your illness.

    Author Bio: Valerie Johnston is a health and fitness writer located in East Texas. With ambitions of one day running a marathon, writing for Healthline.com ensures she keeps up-to-date on all of the latest health and fitness news.

    Image Credit: Mark Sebastian


  3. Psychologist Advice: Treat Insomnia with CBT

    March 25, 2013

    insomnia

    Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mtsofan/7218989202/

    by Joanna Fishman

     

    There are more than 70 medically recognised sleep disorders, but insomnia is one of the most common.  As many as 90% of people will suffer from some kind of sleep disturbance during their lifetime, with 30% of people suffering from a severe form.  Insomnia, in its simplest incarnation, is the inability to get enough sleep, either because of being unable to get to sleep, or because of waking too soon.  Naturally insomnia can lead to tiredness during the day and a lack of concentration, but it is also associated with anxiety and depression, especially when it is longstanding.

     

    Treatment

     

    Insomnia can be caused by a large number of factors, both physical and psychological.  Medication can be prescribed by health professionals, but sleeping tablets can become addictive and are not a long-term solution, especially if there is no underlying medical cause for the insomnia.  Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) conducted by a psychologist or psychotherapist can offer a drug-free solution to insomnia.

     

    CBT is a psychotherapeutic treatment/taling therapy for many different emotional and psychological conditions.  It works on the basis of helping to reprogramme the mind to prevent it from falling into timeworn patterns.  By helping the sufferer to see the cycle that they are in, it provides alternative pathways to break the cycle.  The therapy is goal-orientated and follows systemic patterns to break the bad habits that the insomnia sufferer has unwittingly fallen into.  [1]

     

    How it works

     

    When an insomnia sufferer begins a CBT programme [3], their attitudes towards sleep will be assessed and the main issue relating to sleep problems will be focussed on.  There are then three stages that are worked through to try and rebalance the body’s need for sleep.

     

    1. Stimulus control

    In the same way that a baby is taught to associate its cot with sleeping, so an insomniac must learn to associate the bed with only sleep.  The bed should only be used for sleeping in; not reading, working or watching the TV.  The sufferer must go to bed only when tired, and if they don’t fall asleep within ten minutes of getting into bed, they must get up and move to another room, to prevent falling into the pattern of trying to sleep and not managing to.  They must also get out of bed at the same time every day, regardless of how much sleep they have had.

     

    1. Sleep hygiene

    Sleep hygiene does not actually relate to physical cleanliness but to the clean and undisturbed rituals surrounding going to bed.  Things that could cause one’s sleep environment to become unhygienic include noise pollution from television, light pollution from video games or stimulant pollution from caffeine, tobacco or alcohol.  During CBT, the insomnia sufferer is asked to focus particularly on the 4-6 hours prior to bed and must keep these hours clean of things that could interrupt their sleep.  They are encouraged to do something calming such as reading or having a bath, in order to prepare their body for sleep.

     

    1. Sleep restriction

    Restricting the amount of sleep that an insomnia sufferer is allowed to have may seem like a contradiction at first, however, CBT aims to balance out the person’s need for sleep and their desire to sleep with the amount of sleep that they get. Much of the anxiety surrounding insomnia is down to the stress from knowing that you are not getting enough sleep in order to function properly.  Lying awake for hours worrying about not sleeping only makes matters worse.  In order to get the balance right, CBT looks at the ratio of sleep efficiency.  Sleep efficiency (SE) is calculated using the following formula:

     

    SE = Total Sleep Time/Time in Bed

     

    Therefore, in order to increase a person’s sleep efficiency, their time in bed must be reduced.  A person undergoing CBT will be instructed to alter their time in bed by 20-minute increments until they reach the desired goal of a Sleep Efficiency value of more than 90%.  This can lead to the person being very tired when they first start out, and it can take weeks or months for the goal to be achieved, but by reducing the amount of time that they are in bed, when they do get to bed, they will fall asleep quickly and sleep well, rather than being in bed for a longer time, without sleeping as long.

     

    CBT has been shown to have between an 80% and 90% success rate [2] for insomnia sufferers.  Although the patient must be committed to the therapy and may find some of the stages hard, particularly the restricting sleep stage, the steps are relatively uncomplicated and easy to understand.  By addressing the issue of insomnia as a whole body issue rather than just a medical one, CBT often gets to the bottom of the sleep issues, rather than just masking them with medication.  Because of this, CBT has become a very popular way to treat insomnia, and its success rate is conclusive evidence that it is a viable and effective treatment.

     

    Author Bio: Joanna Fishman writes for Associated Counsellors & Psychologists Sydney. Her blog, www.counsellingsydney.com.au/blog tackles a range of topics relevant to mental health, emotional wellbeing and relationships.

    References:

    [1] http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/hot-topics/cognitive-behavioral-therapy-insomnia

    [2] http://sleephealthcme.com/pictures/1030_CBT-I%20eD%20gLAUSERfor%20Sleep%20Health%202012%20Conference.pdf

    [3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_behavioral_therapy_for_insomnia