Everyone has a restless night from time to time, and there are a number of reasons why this may occur. Perhaps you’ve consumed the ‘wrong’ food or drinks before bed, maybe you’re managing a big project and your mind is working overtime, or your bed is just not that comfy.
Or perhaps there’s something more serious going on.
Sleeping disorders affect around 6% of the adult population, and often go undiagnosed or treated as we brush the problem under the carpet and try to get on with our busy lives. Sleep deprivation can have significant long-term health consequences – it’s important to nip it in the bud now so you can rest well!
So how do you know if you may be suffering from a sleeping disorder and what can you do about it?
Here are 5 signs that you may have a sleeping disorder:
1. You regularly feel ‘groggy’ or extremely tired throughout the day
2. You’ve had problems getting to sleep, or staying asleep, for more than 1 month
3. You feel really tired at unusual times in the middle of the day, like whilst driving or reading
4. You suffer from other conditions, like anxiety, depression or chronic pain as they may lead to, or result from a sleeping disorder
5. You suffer from night terrors or nightmares, snore or sleep talk/walk.
If you answered yes to any of the above, what should you do?
Change your habits and environment
Are you exercising enough? Is there too much light flowing into your room? Does your kitty cat sleep on your bed (or head) each night? Aim for relaxing activities before bedtime, like a warm bath and listening to slow music. A few basic changes in your daily routine or home environment can often help you get more Z’s.
Take sleeping pills
Sleeping tablets are not always the best approach and are also not a long-term solution. While sleeping medication may assist in getting you to sleep, it can also make you drowsy the next day and sometimes your quality of sleep suffers. Talk to your Chemist, and only use low dosages for short periods of time to see if your sleeping pattern can get back to normal.
Keep a sleep diary
Monitoring the times or day/night that you are having problems sleeping and the circumstances around them will help identify any common patterns. Note the times you wake, your activities before bedtime and any other environmental factors. For instance, you may find that eating a late dinner will often result in you waking up an hour or two after falling asleep. Certain food types may trigger this and can then be avoided. The diary will also help your doctor in determining the best treatment plan forward.
See your GP
A common cause of sleeping problems is stress – this can be related to work, finances, relationships, health, career or a combination of many things. Your Doctor can help you minimise your stress levels, however, there are also medical conditions that cause sleeping problems – these are neurological conditions that require treatment. Your GP can help determine if you may suffer from any of these conditions and may also refer you to a sleep specialist or sleep clinic for diagnosis and treatment.
COMMON SLEEP DISORDERS
• A common sleep disorder affecting approximately 3% of adults, characterised by poor sleep quality due to difficulties falling asleep, returning to sleep and staying asleep.
• Can be acute (sleep loss over a short period of time) or chronic (sleep loss for at least 3 nights per week for more than 1 month).
• May lead to depression, lack of energy, forgetfulness, troubles concentrating, mood and behavioural changes and excessive daytime sleepiness.
• Also quite common, sleep apnea is caused by breathing problems during sleep, which then forces your brain to wake you from your slumber
• Breathing can be completely or partially blocked, which in turn causes snoring, choking or gasping
• Approximately 4% of Australian adults suffer from sleep apnea but many do not realise, and will continue to feel tired regularly without diagnosis or treatment
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
• A neurological disorder that triggers an overwhelming need to move your leg (or other body part) while resting, hence disrupting sleep
• Affects around 1.2% of adults to differing degrees
• Can result in sleep deprivation, excessive daytime sleepiness, cognitive impairment and depression.
• A neurological disorder that affects your brain’s ability to control its sleeping/waking cycle
• Affects approximately 0.05% of the Australian adult population
• Often results in sudden excessive daytime sleepiness, which can last for several seconds or minutes, even if you’ve had plenty of sleep the night before
• May cause hallucinations or sleep paralysis (the sensation of waking up yet not being able to speak or move your body).
In some instances, non-pharmacologial treatments such as cognitive therapy or relaxation techniques can be used to address sleeping disorders. Other times, medications are also recommended to aid sleep however such drugs are often avoided by Medical Practitioners due to concerns with drug dependency and tolerance.
If you are concerned that you may have a sleeping disorder or have had problems sleeping for more than 1 month, talk to your Doctor today. You could feel more energetic, happier and healthier on a daily basis!
Statistics and research above is in reference to reports by Access Economics for Sleep Health Foundation “Re-awakening Australia – The economic cost of sleep disorders in Australia, 2010” and “Wake up Australia – the value of healthy sleep”.