Health care professionals recognize sleep disorders as a significant problem, resulting in a number of chronic illnesses, as well as automobile and industrial accidents. The result of sleep deprivation is a significant number of serious injuries and disabilities annually. The health consequences related to chronic sleeping disorders include obesity, diabetes, heart disease and depression.
In the United States, according to the CDC, one quarter of the population (50,000-70,000 people) report inadequate sleep, with 10% reporting chronic insomnia. The average adult requires 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night; however, the NIH Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey found 37.9% of the 74,451 people surveyed reported getting less than seven hours of sleep per night.
There are a variety of contributing factors to restless nights, ranging from day to day stressors to underlying sleep disorders.
Sleep disorders causes include:
- Sleep apnea
- Chronic insomnia
- Restless leg syndrome
- Fatigue during the day
- Working very long hours
- Increased stress
- Noise from the TV, outside traffic or barking dogs
- Sick crying baby or child
- Being too hot or too cold
- Drinking too much alcohol
Chronic insomnia is a disorder which causes frequent sleeplessness. It affects different people in different ways. Some people have a hard time falling asleep, while others have difficulty staying asleep, and some have a combination of both types. The problem results in waking up tired, which will sap your energy and adversely affect your job performance and everyday life.
Medications may also negatively affect the quality of rest; medications such as Ritalin, corticosteroids, antidepressants, medications for hypertension or heart problems, and several over-the-counter medications, contain stimulants. Several OTC products including decongestants, weight loss products, and medications include sleep altering caffeine.
Some medical conditions will also wake you up often, such as frequent urination, breathing difficulties, arthritis, heartburn, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Insomnia problems also increase with age, affecting a greater percentage of women, however, older people require the same amount of sleep.
Sleep disorders Treatment
An effective treatment for sleep disorders is referred to as cognitive behavioral therapy. This program addresses behaviors and thoughts that inhibit a restful night of sleep. Therapy aims to eliminate anxiety, negative thoughts or worries that keep you awake. It is imperative to change some of your lifestyle habits that have an effect on sleep.
These changes include:
- Attempt to go to sleep and wake up about the same time each day
- Do not eat large meals just before bedtime
- Drinking caffeine late in the day negatively affects your sleep
- Avoid alcohol or nicotine within four hours of bedtime
- Avoid naps after 3 PM
- Do not exercise within two hours of bedtime
- The bedroom should be dark, quiet and a comfortable temperature
- Do something relaxing during the 30 minutes prior to bedtime, which might be listening to music or reading, instead of watching a scary or violent movie on TV
- If you are not asleep 20 minutes after lying down, get up and do something calming for a short period of time, then try to sleep again
- Relaxation training is very successful for many people
- Try the OTC nasal strips to help prevent snoring
Changing ingrained lifestyle habits that impair your sleep is a method of therapy referred to as sleep hygiene. Since sleep disorders are usually a symptom and not a disease, cognitive therapy is preferable to treating the problem than medications. Sleep medications are addictive, although a few have been approved for long-term use, however, they do not solve the underlying problems. Ideally medication would only be used for a short-term treatment to provide relief for someone undergoing extremely high stress or grief.