Having Trouble Catching Those Z's?
If you have spent a sleepless night, you know it can make the following day difficult. Most people get less sleep per night than is necessary to stay healthy and alert. However if you have ongoing issues, there is help. By improving your sleep hours, your waking hours should improve as well.Many Americans suffer with transient or chronic insomnia, or other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea.
What Are the Symptoms?
The most commonly reported symptoms of insomnia include:
- Taking a long time to fall asleep at bedtime
- Difficulty staying asleep, with frequent or early awakening
- Daytime sleepiness or fatigue
- Trouble with memory and concentration
- Decreased work productivity
- Waking up fatigued, with a headache and feeling unrefreshed
- Waking up frequently and having trouble falling back to sleep
With sleep apnea, the sleep partner often reports loud snoring and pauses in breathing followed by gasping, a choking sound, or coughing. Daytime effects of sleep apnea may be more persistent. Symptoms last longer than those of occasional insomnia. Sleep apnea is associated with several health complications, such as high blood pressure
, cardiovascular diseases, and early death.
What Are the Causes?
Sleep apnea, often associated with obesity
, is caused by periodic airway collapse. This may be linked to enlarged tonsils or weak throat muscles. Jawbone abnormalities that impair airflow at rest, even in people who are thin, can also disrupt sleep.Other health problems that may disrupt sleep include restless leg syndrome
, gastroesophageal reflux disease
(GERD), and chronic pain.Taking certain medications can also increase the risk of insomnia. Some examples include those used to treat high blood pressure
, Parkinson's disease
, and thyroid disorders.
While sleep problems can be due to an underlying medical disorder, it is also important to consider a mental health condition. Psychological causes of sleep disorders include stress, depression, anxiety
, and substance abuse (including alcohol
, alcohol, and smoking
are common culprits in sleep disturbance as well. Even the habit of having a nightcap to relax in the evening can impair your sleep. Though it may help you fall asleep faster, alcohol actually interferes with restorative sleep phases later in the night.The same can be said for nicotine. How long you can go without a smoke after you wake up? If you cannot go more than 30 minutes, you may awaken at night with nicotine withdrawal.Night-shift work or rotating shifts can throw off your normal sleep-wake rhythm. Working long hours and having jet lag can also lead to insomnia. A disrupted schedule often includes irregular diet and exercise, both of which are important for good rest.