Frequently having trouble sleeping can be a frustrating and debilitating experience. You sleep badly at night, which leaves you feeling dead-tired in the morning and whatever energy you have quickly drains throughout the day. But then, no matter how exhausted you feel at night, you still have trouble sleeping. And so the cycle begins again, taking a serious toll on your mood, energy, efficiency, and ability to handle stress. Ignoring sleep problems and disorders can damage your physical health and lead to weight gain, car accidents, impaired job performance, memory problems, and strained relationships. If you want to feel your best, stay healthy, and perform up to your potential, quality sleep is a necessity, not a luxury.
The natural internal clock that controls our 24-hour cycle of sleep and waking, circadian rhythms are easily upset by changes in schedule, and they're greatly affected by light and darkness. Jet lag is the best known circadian rhythm disorder, but this sensitive inner clock can also be disrupted by changes in routine resulting in an erratic sleep schedule.
Specialists in Sleep Medicine were originally certified by the American Board of Sleep Medicine, which still recognizes specialists. Those passing the Sleep Medicine Specialty Exam received the designation "diplomate of the ABSM." Sleep Medicine is now a recognized subspecialty within internal medicine, family medicine, pediatrics, otolaryngology, psychiatry and neurology in the United States. Certification in Sleep Medicine shows that the specialist:
In the UK, knowledge of sleep medicine and possibilities for diagnosis and treatment seem to lag. Guardian.co.uk quotes the director of the Imperial College Healthcare Sleep Centre: "One problem is that there has been relatively little training in sleep medicine in this country – certainly there is no structured training for sleep physicians." The Imperial College Healthcare site shows attention to obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSA) and very few other sleep disorders. Some NHS trusts have specialist clinics for respiratory and/or neurological sleep medicine.
Research suggests that hypnosis may be helpful in alleviating some types and manifestations of sleep disorders in some patients. "Acute and chronic insomnia often respond to relaxation and hypnotherapy approaches, along with sleep hygiene instructions." Hypnotherapy has also helped with nightmares and sleep terrors. There are several reports of successful use of hypnotherapy for parasomnias specifically for head and body rocking, bedwetting and sleepwalking.
What to do: Talk to experts about sleeplessness, and you'll be told to practice good "sleep hygiene." What this means is that you need to take your lack of sleep seriously and look at your sleep habits and physical surroundings to see what might be preventing you from sleeping well. Start with your evening habits: What do you do in the hours before bed? Eliminate late-night eating, drinking, and computer use and your chances of falling asleep quickly and sleeping soundly are much greater. Use the last hour before bed to do things that relax you, like taking a warm bath, meditating, or reading.
What to do: Ask your doctor if your restless leg syndrome might be caused by another health condition or by a medication you're taking. Diabetes, arthritis, peripheral neuropathy, anemia, vitamin B deficiency, thyroid disease, and kidney problems can all contribute to restless leg syndrome. Medications that can cause restless leg syndrome as a side effect include antidepressants, antihistamines, and lithium. Treating the underlying condition or changing medications may banish the symptoms. Restless leg syndrome has been linked to deficiencies in iron and B vitamins, particularly folate, so talk to your doctor about boosting your intake of these nutrients.
Narcolepsy is characterized by “sleep attacks” that occur during the day. This means that you will suddenly feel extremely tired and fall asleep without warning. The disorder can also cause sleep paralysis, which may make you physically unable to move right after waking up. Although narcolepsy may occur on its own, it is also associated with certain neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis.
According to one meta-analysis, the mean prevalence rate for North America and Western Europe is estimated to be 14.5±8.0%. Specifically in the United States, the prevalence of restless leg syndrome is estimated to be between 5 and 15.7% when using strict diagnostic criteria. RLS is over 35% more prevalent in American women than their male counterparts.
None of these general approaches is sufficient for all patients with sleep disorders. Rather, the choice of a specific treatment depends on the patient's diagnosis, medical and psychiatric history, and preferences, as well as the expertise of the treating clinician. Often, behavioral/psychotherapeutic and pharmacological approaches are not incompatible and can effectively be combined to maximize therapeutic benefits. Management of sleep disturbances that are secondary to mental, medical, or substance abuse disorders should focus on the underlying conditions.
Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that involves excessive, uncontrollable daytime sleepiness. It is caused by a dysfunction of the brain mechanism that controls sleeping and waking. If you have narcolepsy, you may have “sleep attacks” in the middle of talking, working, or even driving. Although no cure yet exists, a combination of treatments can help control symptoms and enable you to enjoy many normal activities.
A catch-all term for the inability to fall or stay asleep, sleeplessness is -- as sufferers know -- a very serious problem. It's sleeplessness whenever something, whether it's physical pain, anxiety, or an underlying condition, prevents you from falling asleep within a reasonable amount of time or staying asleep long enough to achieve a good night's sleep.
Keep a pen and paper next to your bed. If you're often kept awake by racing thoughts and worries and you tend to make to-do lists in your head, keep a pen or pencil and a small pad of paper handy and write them down. As you put each item down on paper, imagine yourself setting aside that concern. (Again, use a book light; don't turn on the overhead or a bright bedside light to write.)