Natural Solutions for Better Sleep
Do you lay awake for hours, tossing and turning in bed, trying to get better sleep?
Do you wake up frequently at night or too early in the morning?
Do you feel like you could sleep for days and still wake up sleepy?
If you answered yes to any of the above, you may be suffering from sleep disorder.
Research has shown that nearly half of adults in the developing countries have experienced sleep problems at some point in their lives. There are three main categories of sleep disorder: insomnia, sleep apnea and narcolepsy.
The best commonly known sleep disorder is Insomnia which comes in three forms: difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, and waking up too early.
Transient or short-term insomnia (lasting for a few nights) normally occurs in people who are temporarily experiencing one or more of the following:
Environmental noise (e.g. a partner snoring)
Extreme temperature change in the surrounding environment (e.g. air-conditioner which is too cold)
Sleep/wake schedule problems such as those due to jet lag, medication side effects, shift work or other night time activity e.g. clubbing until past normal bed-time
Excessive consumption of caffeine, alcohol, or other substances
Meanwhile, chronic insomnia (which typically lasts a few months) often results from a combination of factors, including underlying emotional or physical disorders. One of the most common causes of chronic insomnia is depression. Physical causes include arthritis, kidney disease, heart failure, asthma, and restless legs syndrome.
The second common sleep disorder is Sleep Apnea, which is a disorder where breathing stops for brief periods during sleep, typically accompanied by loud snoring. People with sleep apnea do not get enough oxygen during sleep.
Sleep apnea can be due to an obstruction in the throat during sleep or a delay in the signal from the brain to breathe. The narrowing of the upper airway can be a result of several factors including inherent physical characteristics, excess weight, and alcohol consumption before sleep.
As a result, the person suffering from sleep apnea will wake up briefly to breathe, sometimes hundreds of times during the night. This leads to:
Waking up unrefreshed or having trouble staying awake during the day
Waking up with headaches
Waking up in the night with the sensation of choking or gasping for air
Waking up sweating
Insomnia - problem staying asleep
Narcolepsy is a disabling sleep disorder that affects the control of sleep and wakefulness. It may be described as an intrusion of the dream sleep (called REM or rapid eye movement) into the waking state.
The four classic symptoms of the disorder are excessive daytime sleepiness; cataplexy (sudden, brief episodes of muscle weakness or paralysis brought on by strong emotions such as laughter, anger, surprise or anticipation); sleep paralysis (paralysis upon falling asleep or waking up); and hypnagogic hallucinations (vivid dreamlike images that occur at the onset of sleep). Disturbed nighttime sleep, including tossing and turning in bed, leg jerks, nightmares, and frequent awakenings, may also occur.
Treatment of Sleep Disorder:
First, diagnose and treat underlying medical or psychological problems.
Identify behaviors that may worsen the sleep disorder and stop (or reduce) them.
Use behavioral therapy and/or pharmacotherapy (which is not recommended for chronic conditions).
Some common behavioral therapy used by health professionals are:
Relaxation Therapy. This is extremely effective in reducing or eliminating anxiety and body tension. As a result, the person's mind – and body muscles – is able to relax, and ne can enjoy better sleep.
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Sleep Restriction. Some people suffering from insomnia spend too much time tossing in bed, trying to sleep. Some therapists may recommend a sleep restriction program that at first allows only a few hours of sleep during the night. Gradually the duration is increased until a more normal night's sleep is achieved.
Reconditioning. Another treatment that may help some people with insomnia is to recondition them to associate the bed and bedtime with sleep. For most people, this means not using their beds for any activities other than sleep and sex (some therapists even recommend that the bed is not used for sex as they say one possible cause of insomnia may be due to performance anxiety).
As part of the reconditioning process, the person is usually advised to go to bed only when they feel sleepy. If unable to fall asleep, the person is told to get up, stay up until sleepy, and then return to bed. Throughout this process, the person should avoid taking naps, but instead wake up and go to bed at the same time each day. Eventually the person's body will be conditioned to associate the bed and bedtime with sleep.
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