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. The Science of Sleep: Lessons from a UK Study

    May 24, 2013

    lack of sleep

    by Angus Carbarns

     

    You slip the PJ’s on, switch the light off and as your head hits the pillow after a long day you fall into a deep, restful slumber… at least, that’s the dream – but a third of the population gets by on just five or six hours sleep a night and bedtime has become a nightly struggle. Read to find out how to sleep longer and better, and why sleep is so important.

     

    Why sleep matters

     

    Margaret Thatcher may have been able to get by on just 4 hours of shut-eye a night, but for us mere mortals, a good night’s sleep is crucial to help us feel our best. The dangers of a lack of sleep are enough to keep us up at night worrying: sleep deprivation has been blamed for stimulating the creation of the sinister-sounding ghrelin which makes us eat more and put on weight, is linked to an increase risk of stroke, heart disease and high blood pressure and can affect our performance at work (Bill Clinton has said that ‘every important mistake I’ve made in my life, I’ve made because I was too tired’).

    Worryingly, recent reports suggest that British schoolchildren aren’t concentrating in class because they’re not getting enough kip – and researchers from Berkeley in California say it may even contribute to marital woes.

     

    Britain’s sleep deficit

     

    Unfortunately, it seems many Brits are getting by with far too little sleep, opting to play catch-up at the weekend to make up for the lack of sleep.

    A recent sleep study has found that we’re a nation of eternal snoozers who are too sleepy to get up as soon as our alarm goes off. One in ten of respondents to their survey hit the snooze button up to five times before lugging themselves out of bed, with 14% waiting for the very last minute to get up.

    But some don’t even make it out of bed in time, with one in ten people owning up to having missed a job interview because they slept in and a whopping 25% sheepishly admitting to having received a warning from their boss for being late.

    So how can we get a more restful night and bound out of bed in the morning with enthusiasm instead of lethargically hitting snooze again?

     

    5 tips for better sleep

     

    1. Lights off

    Let’s face it, we’re a society addicted to our gadgets. If you turn to your phone or tablet to check out what’s happening on Twitter before nodding off or take an e-reader instead of a paperback to bed to help you wind down, stop.

    According to the sleepcouncil.org.uk, being exposed to even the slightest glimmer from an electronic gadget can disrupt our body’s natural circadian rhythms, keeping you awake at night.

    Bright lights, whether it’s from a streetlight or a phone, suppresses melatonin (the sleepy chemical) so invest in some decent blackout blinds and a good eye mask. You can even get some eye masks that are filled with lavender to help you feel even more tranquil and ready to get some zzzs.

     

    2. Switch off your thoughts

    Many people struggle to nod off because their minds are racing with worries about what to say in that meeting the next day or going through a mental to-do list for the weak. And with the economic downturn, many Brits are kept up worrying about how to pay their bills or if they’re going to lose their job.

    Break the cycle by writing things down on paper to get niggling worries out of your head. If you’re plagued with recurring feelings of anxiety, it may be best to try simple cognitive behavioural therapy exercises, or even speak to a therapist or a friend to get it off your chest.

     

    3. Get moving

    It may be the last thing you feel like doing when you’re chronically tired, but going for a gentle jog or doing some form of light exercise in the evening will help you wind down and sleep more deeply. If running’s not your thing, try to slot in time for yoga – the mindfulness and breathing techniques you’re taught in a yoga class will help you chill in no time.

     

    4. Snack to snooze

    Being too full or too hungry will affect your sleep, so you want to aim to eat a light snack a few hours before bed that’s just enough to satiate any hunger pangs.

    Go for foods that contain Tryptophan which converts into serotonin, a clever chemical that helps you deal with stress and anxiety and turns into melatonin at night which helps you sleep. Tryptophan tends to be found in foods that are high in protein like turkey, pumpkin seeds, chicken and cheese. Yes, you heard that right – it’s a myth that cheese will give you nightmares.

    Though many people unwind with a glass of wine before bed to help them doze off, alcohol severely disrupts the quality of your sleep — stopping you from getting REM (the holy grail of the sleep world). If you crave a reward after work and feel a bit frazzled, try a bubble bath with a few drops of lavender oil or go for a run instead.

    5. Get into a routine

    Try to get into the habit of heading to bed at the same time every night and banish any distractions like work or TV from the bedroom after a cut-off point so your body gets used to winding down at a certain time.

    And everyone knows that it’s quality, not quantity that matters when it comes to sleep. Your body goes through various sleep cycles during the night, and you’ll feel groggy if you wake up at the wrong point during a cycle, even if you’ve been asleep for a while. One sleep cycle typically lasts about 90 minutes, so decide when you need to wake up and work out when time to go to bed to get about four or five complete cycles.

    Do you have problems getting to sleep at night? Share in comments what worked for you?

     

    Author Bio: Angus Carbarns is a freelance writer and Psychology and Sociology graduate.  Since graduating, Angus has worked predominantly alongside individuals on the autistic spectrum in an educational capacity.  This article was inspired by a recent study conducted by hotel chain Premier Inn.

    Image Credit: Ashley Webb

     


  3. Put Insomnia To Bed With These Tips

    April 27, 2013

    insomnia

    Image Credit: Brian Wolfe

    by Chris Mayhew

     

    Anyone who has ever suffered from this problem will know just how infuriating and frustrating it is to lay awake at night trying to get to sleep. There is nothing worse than laying there watching the time tick by, knowing that every second is another second of sleep you have missed out on and that you are going to be exhausted the next day.

    There are a lot of things that are said to bring on insomnia but it seems that it can hit you at some of the most unexpected times. And although it feels like there is nothing you can do at the time; there are many ways you can prevent this from occurring. Here are just a few ways you could try and put insomnia to bed for good.

    Have Strict Bedroom Rules

    Sometimes it can be difficult to do, but in order to get into a good sleep routine you need to set out some rules surrounding the bedroom. If you are struggling to rest easy at night then you need to make sure the bedroom is reserved for sleeping and sleeping only. This includes removing all technology that could keep you wired and only going to bed when you feel tired enough to sleep.

    Replace Old Furniture

    Because a bed or mattress can slowly deteriorate over time; sometimes you don’t even notice how bad it has gotten until you check properly. An uncomfortable mattress could result in many hours of sleep being lost and a new one could be just what you need.

    Also, as we get older it can be harder to get comfortable in bed and so you may want to upgrade from an ordinary one to an electrical adjustable bed. An electrical adjustable bed will allow you find your own angle of comfort and is sure to improve your standard of sleep.

    Eliminate Stimulants

    Although other resources will tell you that drinking alcohol can help you sleep; this is only true if you drink enough to make you pass out which isn’t good for your health. Alcohol and other stimulants also reduce the quality of your sleep so even if you do drop off it will still leave you feeling groggy in the morning. Avoid caffeine, nicotine and any other stimulants prior to going to bed otherwise your mind will be racing.

    Leave Problems At The Bedroom Door

    Everybody has problems in their life and it is likely to be these that are keeping you up at night. Therefore you should do your best to not take them with you to bed. This obviously isn’t an easy thing to do but try and relieve any stress that you might have by taking a bath or fully relaxing in whatever way suits you. If you have any smaller issues, try and sort them out before you head off to bed and leave any larger problems until the morning.

    Author Bio: Chris Mayhew has suffered from insomnia a lot in the past, trying a lot of things on this list, and wants to help others who are suffering from this problem. He is working for Theraposture who supply a large range of adjustable furniture to help you get a good nights sleep.


  4. 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