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.
In addressing sleep disorders and possible solutions, there is often a lot of buzz surrounding melatonin. Research suggests that melatonin is useful in helping people to fall asleep faster (decreased sleep latency), to stay asleep longer, and to experience improved sleep quality. In order to test this, a study was conducted that compared subjects that had taken Melatonin to subjects that had taken a placebo pill in subjects with primary sleep disorders. Researchers assessed sleep onset latency, total minutes slept, and overall sleep quality in the Melatonin and placebo groups to note the differences. In the end, researchers found that melatonin decreased sleep onset latency, increased total sleep time, and improved quality of sleep significantly more than the placebo group.[49][50]
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."[55] The Imperial College Healthcare site[56] 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.
Primary sleep disorders are most common in men and women over the age of 65. About half of the people claim to have some sleep problem at one point. It is most common in the elderly because of multiple factors. Factors include increased medication use, age-related changes in circadian rhythms, environmental and lifestyle changes [3] and pre diagnosed physiological problems and stress. The risk of developing sleep disorders in the elderly is especially increased for sleep disordered breathing, periodic limb movements, lestless legs syndrome, REM sleep behavior disorders, insomnia and circadian rhythm disturbances.[3]
Although more research should be done to increase the reliability of this method of treatment, research suggests that music therapy can improve sleep quality in acute and chronic sleep disorders. In one particular study, participants (18 years or older) who had experienced acute or chronic sleep disorders were put in a randomly controlled trial and their sleep efficiency (overall time asleep) was observed. In order to assess sleep quality, researchers used subjective measures (i.e. questionnaires) and objective measures (i.e. polysomnography). The results of the study suggest that music therapy did improve sleep quality in subjects with acute or chronic sleep disorders, however only when tested subjectively. Although these results are not fully conclusive and more research should be conducted, it still provides evidence that music therapy can be an effective treatment for sleep disorders.[47]
Even if you’ve struggled with sleep problems for so long that it seems normal, you can still learn to sleep better. You can start by tracking your symptoms and sleep patterns, and then making healthy changes to your daytime habits and bedtime routine. If self-help doesn’t do the trick, you can turn to sleep specialists who are trained in sleep medicine. Together, you can identify the underlying causes of your sleeping problem and find ways to improve your sleep and quality of life.
^ Keckeis, Marietta; Lattova, Zuzana; Maurovich-Horvat, Eszter; Beitinger, Pierre A.; Birkmann, Steffen; Lauer, Christoph J.; Wetter, Thomas C.; Wilde-Frenz, Johanna; Pollmächer, Thomas (2010). Finkelstein, David (ed.). "Impaired Glucose Tolerance in Sleep Disorders". PLoS ONE. 5 (3): e9444. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0009444. PMC 2830474. PMID 20209158.
^ Hirshkowitz, Max (2004). "Chapter 10, Neuropsychiatric Aspects of Sleep and Sleep Disorders (pp 315-340)" (Google Books preview includes entire chapter 10). In Stuart C. Yudofsky; Robert E. Hales (eds.). Essentials of neuropsychiatry and clinical neurosciences (4 ed.). Arlington, Virginia, USA: American Psychiatric Publishing. ISBN 978-1-58562-005-0. ...insomnia is a symptom. It is neither a disease nor a specific condition. (from p. 322)
People who have insomnia don't feel as if they get enough sleep at night. They may have trouble falling asleep or may wake up frequently during the night or early in the morning. Insomnia is a problem if it affects your daytime activities. Insomnia has many possible causes, including stress, anxiety, depression, poor sleep habits, circadian rhythm disorders (such as jet lag), and taking certain medications.
In people who have restless legs syndrome, discomfort in the legs and feet peaks during the evening and night. They feel an urge to move their legs and feet to get temporary relief, often with excessive, rhythmic, or cyclic leg movements during sleep. This can delay sleep onset and cause brief awakening during sleep. Restless legs syndrome is a common problem among middle-aged and older adults.
Apnea means "no airflow." Obstructive sleep apnea was thought to be a disorder primarily of overweight, older men. But abnormal breathing during sleep can affect people of any age, any weight, and either sex. Researchers now know that in many cases of sleep apnea, the obstruction in the airways is only partial. Most people with sleep apnea have a smaller-than-normal inner throat and other subtle bone and soft-tissue differences.
The neurodegenerative conditions are commonly related to brain structures impairment, which might disrupt the states of sleep and wakefulness, circadian rhythm, motor or non motor functioning.[22][24] On the other hand, sleep disturbances are also frequently related to worsening patient's cognitive functioning, emotional state and quality of life.[24][27][28] Furthermore, these abnormal behavioural symptoms negatively contribute to overwhelming their relatives and caregivers.[24][27][28] Therefore, a deeper understanding of the relationship between sleep disorders and neurodegenerative diseases seems to be extremely important, mainly considering the limited research related to it and the increasing expectancy of life.[22][28]
What to do: See a doctor, who will likely first check you for underlying conditions related to PLMD. Diabetes, thyroid disorders, anemia, and a number of other conditions can cause PLMD. If you do have another condition, the doctor will treat it and see if the PLMD goes away. The next step is to control the involuntary movements with medication. Drugs that suppress muscle contractions work well for preventing PLMD. The doctor may also prescribe medication to help you sleep more deeply, with the idea of preventing the involuntary movements from keeping you in light sleep.
Get back to sleep when you wake up at night. Whether you have a sleep disorder or not, it’s normal to wake briefly during the night. If you’re having trouble getting back to sleep, try focusing on your breathing, meditating, or practicing another relaxation technique. Make a note of anything that’s worrying you and resolve to postpone worrying about it until the next day when it will be easier to resolve.

Both night terrors and sleepwalking arise during NREM sleep and occur most often in children between the ages of 3 and 5 years old. A night terror can be dramatic: Your child may wake up screaming, but unable to explain the fear. Sometimes children who have night terrors remember a frightening image, but often they remember nothing. Night terrors are often more frightening for parents than for their child. Sleepwalkers can perform a range of activities -- some potentially dangerous, like leaving the house -- while they continue to sleep.
In addressing sleep disorders and possible solutions, there is often a lot of buzz surrounding melatonin. Research suggests that melatonin is useful in helping people to fall asleep faster (decreased sleep latency), to stay asleep longer, and to experience improved sleep quality. In order to test this, a study was conducted that compared subjects that had taken Melatonin to subjects that had taken a placebo pill in subjects with primary sleep disorders. Researchers assessed sleep onset latency, total minutes slept, and overall sleep quality in the Melatonin and placebo groups to note the differences. In the end, researchers found that melatonin decreased sleep onset latency, increased total sleep time, and improved quality of sleep significantly more than the placebo group.[49][50]
What to do: This condition requires evaluation by an otolaryngologist, who can look at your nose, mouth, and throat to see what's interrupting your breathing and how to repair that process. You'll also need a sleep test in which your oxygen levels are measured. Often, the first treatment doctors will recommend is a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device, a specially designed nasal mask that blows air directly into your airways. Studies have shown CPAP masks to be extremely effective in treating sleep apnea. However, many people don't like wearing them -- and, of course, it doesn't work if you don't wear it.
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