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Resisting A Rest: Common Sleep Disorders

woman peeking out from under bed coversMost people have experienced the odd night of poor sleep due to stress, excess caffeine, or excitement. Usually, these sleepless nights lead to a grumbly, groggy, brain-foggy next day. It doesn’t feel good. Now, imagine experiencing that day after day after day.

For many Canadians, that’s a reality. There are a number of disorders that cause people to lose precious hours of sleep. Lack of sleep feels unpleasant and leads to decreased efficiency, increased anxiety, and can even change your physiology!

The good news is, many of these sleep conditions can be countered and normal sleeping patterns can be regained.

Insomnia

Insomnia is probably the best-known sleeping impairment. It’s defined by an inability to fall asleep, easily interrupted sleep, or early waking (without the ability to fall back asleep). Usually, these nights are followed by excessive daytime sleepiness, and symptoms such as increased moodiness, difficulty concentrating, and an increased sense of clumsiness.

Compared to past generations, we spend far more time in front of screens. A culprit contributing to insomnia may be the use of smartphones before bed. Light emanating from your phone shuts down the pineal gland, a very small part of your brain responsible for producing melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that tells our bodies to fall asleep.

Checking Instagram to calm down as you snuggle into bed is actually powering down the part of your brain required to initiate sleep.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea occurs when your body loses the ability to breathe while sleeping. If you share a bed with someone, maybe you’ve heard them suddenly gasp, make choking sounds, or stop breathing altogether. This happens due to soft tissues blocking the airway and/or a discoordination of the breathing center in your brain.

Inadequate oxygen can create physiologic changes including mental health problems (depression/anxiety/mood swings/irritability), decreased ability to learn and remember, blood pressure changes and increased stress on the heart.

A “Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Device” is the most common tool used by people with sleep apnea. The CPAP is fitted to the nose and blows a continuous stream of air to help keep the airway open.

Perhaps, while settling in for the night you’ve experienced a strong urge to move your leg and no matter how you position yourself you just don’t feel comfortable. This sensation is so common it’s been titled “Restless Leg Syndrome” or RLS.

Sometimes restlessness subsides after a few minutes. But some people can’t erase this sensation and it becomes so bothersome that it keeps the person from falling asleep. This could happen as single, isolated bouts. And unfortunately for some, it is a recurring problem.

It’s estimated that RLS is felt by 15% of Americans, and twice as common in women. Like most conditions, there are triggers that exacerbate it (drinking alcohol or caffeine, or intake of nicotine increases the jitters). Exercising and stretching before bed may help to calm down spastic muscles and curtail the need to move. If you experience this syndrome, maybe try going for an evening walk before bed!

Tell us about how you’ve overcome troubled sleeping. We want to know what tips you can offer the community to help with some of these common sleep conditions. Add your comment below… it might change someone’s night!

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