The days are getting shorter. Darkness is coming sooner. With the change to standard time approaching soon, it is a good time to discuss sleep.
Estimates place the rate of sleep disorders between one-third and one-fifth of the U.S. population. Most people sleep eight out of 24 hours per night. At that rate, a 60-year-old has slept for 20 years. Yet we really don’t know the complete function of sleep. Why do we spend one-third of our time doing it?
It was thought that sleep’s purpose was to relieve fatigue. However, astronauts in weightless conditions experience no muscle fatigue, yet they sleep. NASA tells that the importance of sleep schedules for our astronauts is such that, often, sleeping pills are utilized. Many researchers believe the theory of the tide, the sun’s setting and rising, daytime vs. nighttime and other factors have a sense of rhythm in common. There is an ebb and flow of sleep vs. wakefulness. There had also been an ancient theory that sleep existed to prevent us from wandering around in the dark and bumping into things.
Types of sleep disorders
Insomnia is most common. Insomniacs complain of difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep or having unwanted early morning awakenings. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress and other impairments in important areas of functioning.
Narcolepsy amounts to irresistible attacks of sleep that occur during daytime. The brief loss of muscle tone and the intrusion of elements of rapid eye movement, such as visual images, accompany this disorder. Often, an intense emotional experience, even laughing, can trigger an attack of narcolepsy.
Sleep apnea is a very common breathing-related sleep disorder and there are different sub-types of it. Commonly, in the sleep lab it is shown that a person with sleep apnea stops breathing up to 100 times per night. There is a disruption of sleep into brief, partial wakefulness and gasping for air by loud snoring.
Treatment of sleep disorders can be examined from behavioral, cognitive and biological perspectives.
Behavioral techniques of sleep hygiene include having a set bedtime and rising time, seven days per week. General relaxation techniques such as abdominal breathing exercises and meditation are helpful and similar to “counting sheep.” Abstinence from exercise, alcohol and caffeine consumption for about three hours prior to sleep time is said to be beneficial.
What we tell ourselves when lying awake trying to sleep also matters. For example, it is important not to catastrophize, as in thinking: “I’ll never make it through tomorrow without sleep.” A better line of thought would be something like, “I’ll manage tomorrow, I have before, I’ll be tired but I’ll get through it.”
Also, try not to have the bedroom temperature too warm or too cold. Try 65-70°F. Also consider a “white noise” device which produces a hum or distracting noise from the rest of the house noises and helps sleep induction. Simple room fans or an air conditioner may work as well.
These amount to appliances and medications. With sleep apnea, many experience relief with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure treatment device). Another device is a dental-like appliance worn at night which can work by keeping the airways open. Weight loss is also recommended for those with sleep apnea in order to reduce fatty tissue surrounding the respiratory passage.
Usually, forms of benzodiazepine, i.e. valium, are used. Others are called Dalmane, Restoril, Halcyon and Ambien. However, these are usually tried for short-term use, to stabilize the sleep/wake cycle. Other medications of a different class such as elavil and trazodone, etc., are being used on a relatively more long-term basis. For daytime drowsiness, Provigil has been shown to increase alertness throughout one’s daily work hours. Many times, it is not needed on weekends or during non-work hours.
Consider a consultation at St. John Hospital Providence Hospital in Novi, which houses a comprehensive Sleep Disorder Institute.
Source: Hometown Life