Identify Your Sleep Impairment
One of the challenges of treating a sleep impairment is first recognizing that you have one. Many of us shrug off the symptoms, refusing to treat them as anything serious. In some cases, we may tell ourselves “get more sleep,” but this is easier said than done.
To be successful, you need to make a concerted effort to fix the mounting problem: a lack of sleep. If not, then the only thing that will pass is time. Here’s a quick primer of common sleep disorders to give you a head start on identifying your sleep deprivation issues:
Insomnia: A common sleep disorder that’s defined by sleepless nights. You may have difficulty getting to sleep and/or staying asleep and as a result, you often wake up feeling tired. Fatigue is a warning sign, which can lead to irritability, drowsiness, and daytime sleepiness.
Sleep Apnea: Though there are three types of sleep apnea, the most common is “obstructive sleep apnea,” which occurs when enough air isn’t able to get through your mouth/nose and into the lungs.
As a result, your breathing will grow shallow and in some cases, cease completely – at least for a few seconds. This tells your body to re-trigger the breathing process, so you may snort, cough, or snore.
You’ll resume sleeping, but it’s been interrupted, so the quality isn’t there and you’ll begin seeing signs of sleep deprivation. Not everyone who snores suffers from sleep apnea.
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS): If you suffer from RLS, you’re literally unable to rest your legs, just as the name implies. For a number of reasons – including a burning, crawling, or a tingling sensation – you may feel the need to attend to your legs. By moving them, the sensation is addressed, but the result is a restless sleep.
Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD): Similar to RLS, if you have PLMD, then you move often during sleep. However, unlike RLS, the movement is involuntary. The limbs move periodically in twitches or jerks.
This usually takes place in the legs, but for some, the arms are also affected. These movements – though you may be unaware of them – lead to restless sleep. Upon waking up, the deprivation is apparent through the moodiness, fatigue, or drowsiness that you feel.
Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS): If you’re suffering from DSPS, it seems as if your circadian rhythm (an internal 24-hour cycle) is off by half a day, and you’re unable to sleep during nighttime hours. As a result, you need to sleep during the day, which can seriously interfere with your lifestyle – from work to quality time spent with the family.
Narcolepsy: A dangerous disorder defined by excessive sleepiness during the daytime, as well as periods when the body’s muscles are weakened into a state of cataplexy. You’re at risk when you’re doing everyday tasks, like driving a car from Point A to Point B, since a narcoleptic attack could occur at any time.
In addition to these sleep impairments, there are also others – such as snoring, seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.), night terrors, and sleepwalking. All of them can lead to sleep deprivation and each is sure to have a physical, mental, or emotional impact on your life.
It’s important that if a sleep disorder is present, that you identify and address it quickly. You may have to try different methods to find a solution that works best for you.
Which Sleep Aids Are Best?
If you ask anyone who’s had a problem getting enough sleep how they feel, they will readily admit how it can wreak havoc on the body. Without the proper amount of sleep, you don’t feel well and you can’t function right, either.
But if you’ve done all you can to bring on a good night’s sleep – like having a comfortable bed, sleeping in a darkened room and avoiding anything that stimulates the senses like caffeine – and you still can’t sleep, then you need some extra help.
If you can’t sleep because there are noises keeping you up at night and you don’t like earplugs, then use a machine that produces white noise or use a CD that has soothing nature sounds like crashing ocean waves or the sound of gentle rain.
You can also find some extra help to get to sleep by using sleep aids. There are many different types you can get and some are natural and some are not. If you want to use natural sleep aids, you can try herbal supplements. You can also try exercises to relax or engage in forms of meditation.
There are also natural food choices that can help you get to sleep. You can try having some warm milk before bed or drinking some chamomile tea. Some foods, such as those containing magnesium, can help you get to sleep.
A natural sleep aid that you can take is melatonin, which helps prepare the body for sleep. It’s an all-natural aid without the groggy, morning-after side effects and you can buy it in pill form.
But over the counter medications can also be helpful so that you can get the sleep that you have to have for a healthy lifestyle. One popular and effective kind contains doxylamine. This is an ingredient that causes drowsiness. You can buy this product inexpensively.
Whichever sleep aid you decide to choose if you pick a medication there are three points you need to be aware of. First, you need to know what the side effects are. You don’t want something that’s going to interfere with your waking hours and you don’t want side effects like headaches that leave you feeling uncomfortable and cause you pain when you wake up.
Secondly, you need to understand the addictive quality of the medication versus how long you plan to take it. Some sleep aids are better for long-term use than others are. Finally, sometimes sleeping pills can actually cause sleeplessness when you’re finished taking them – so you want to make sure you know if the medication has a cycle effect.
Sleep Disorder Affecting Shift Workers
This is a fairly common form of sleeping disorder among medical professionals, police officers, and firemen. This is attributed mostly to people who change their work schedules and sleeping times around frequently. You’ll find this often in college students when they’re changing semesters and quarters when they get new schedules and can sometimes throw sleep patterns off.
Meaning if you were used to getting up early one semester and then you get to sleep late on another it can throw your sleeping patterns off, which can make you feel disoriented and confused which is the main cause for why people get up and retire late, and are late for their jobs and classes because they’re not giving themselves enough time to adjust between schedule changes.
This is why when a job or school schedules change it’s ideal to give yourself adequate time to make the adjustment so that it doesn’t throw you off physically, so you’re able to wake up and retire at a reasonable time so you can make it work and school on time.
This is why it’s not always wise to constantly change your schedule whenever possible because if you do it too much you’re going to confuse yourself on whether you’re coming or going. There are some people who’re jobs switch their schedules around so much that it can throw someone completely out of synch because the hours start to get rather conflicted when they’re coming and going and not making time for other things like having a life or maintaining their priorities outside of their job and school.
This also can happen if you’re running between more than one job and school because if you’re going to a job during the day and then running to another job at night it can throw you off as well. People are advised to give themselves so much time between things in order to make the full transition into the new schedule or time frame so they’re not feeling overwhelmed and stressed out since stress can play a huge thing in work-related insomnia. The stress comes from having to make so many drastic changes too fast and at one time.
This is why people get burned out quickly and dealing with the physical things like indigestion and other things because they’re pushing themselves too hard and sometimes forcing themselves to do things that aren’t even normal and is considered unhealthy.
College students who are like this tend to gain or lose weight because of the stress they’re under to switch from one thing to another and not giving themselves a chance to really adjust fully to a schedule or lifestyle change. Even people who work as nurses and doctors occasionally go through this. Because hours are rather strange, and that can throw off the pattern your body has become custom to when to rise and retire and if you interfere with that, it can make you feel weird which can also affect appetite and mental focus and concentration which most people deal with the disorientation of switching things around too fast.