"Practical Ideas for Sleep Problems and Disorders" has been edited and reviewed by psychologist R. Y. Langham, M.M.F.T., Ph.D.
So, next time you see someone sleeping...whisper, "The creature is regenerating itself." George Carlin, Brain Droppings. As Carlin playfully sums it up, sleep is the necessary period of time that we pass about one-third of our life doing, when the body regenerates itself.
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) states that sleep contributes to a healthy immune system and contributes to healthy hormonal regulation. The NSF accurately states that sleep affects "how we look, feel and perform on a daily basis, and can have a major impact on our overall quality of life."
By contrast, a perpetual lack of sleep can be detrimental to one’s health. So what can you do if you can't sleep at night? What are your options if you never seem to sleep well? If you have these issues, you are not alone. In fact, the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that 50 to 70 million U.S. adults have sleep or wakefulness disorder (CDC. January 2014).
Although sleeping pills are often the go-to treatment for sleep problems, there are practical measures that you can take to help you get a good night's rest on a regular basis without resorting to pills.
If you want to sleep soundly, keep the television (along with other electronics) out of your bedroom, exercise during the day (rather than at night), and refrain from consuming caffeinated beverages (i.e. soda, coffee, or caffeinated teas) before bed. These are a few simple steps that can help you (or your child or teen) to get a better night's rest.
Insufficient Sleep - The Effects On The Body
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), insufficient sleep is associated with a variety of chronic conditions (i.e. diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, lupus, and depression) — all of which threaten our nation's health. Inadequate sleep is also linked with the onset and progression of these diseases.
It can also complicate and/or interfere with the management of other chronic conditions. Sufficient sleep, on the other hand, has become a recognized, essential component in chronic disease prevention, management, and health promotion.
The amount of sleep you get each night directly affects your ability to function and perform at an optimal level. If you are up all night due to insomnia or the inability to stay asleep, you will more than likely be groggy and/or sleepy the next morning.
How Can You Get a Good Night's Sleep?
The promotion of regular sleep is known as sleep hygiene
Listed below are simple sleep hygiene tips that can help you rest peacefully or sleep better at night:
- Go to bed at the same time each night, and rise at the same time each morning.
- Go to sleep in a quiet, dark, and relaxing room — one that is neither too hot nor too cold.
- Rest on a comfortable bed, and use it only for sleeping and not for other activities such as: reading, watching television, and/or listening to music.
- Remove televisions, computers, smart phones, mp3 players, X-box consoles (in the case of teens or children), and other "gadgets" from the bedroom.
- Avoid physical activity a few hours before going to bed.
- Avoid large meals or caffeine before bedtime.
- Get regular exercise during the day, if possible. Exercising at night will interfere with your ability to fall asleep.
- Listen to soothing music before bed or while trying to fall asleep.
- Avoid caffeine in any form during the evening, and drink a glass of warm milk before bed.
- Write in a journal. Include all of your preoccupations, worries, excitements, and concerns before going to bed. Writing in a journal will help release stress so that you can rest peacefully. If you are religious, say a prayer or read the Bible or other spiritually soothing material shortly before bed. In other words, do whatever it takes (excluding drugs, alcohol, and sleep aids) to ease your busy, racing mind.
- Do not rely on sleeping pills. They can ultimately interfere with your quality of sleep, and can cause dependency.
According to Wayne H. Giles, M.D., M.S. & director of the division of adult and community health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, "Sufficient sleep is not a luxury; it is a necessity, and should be thought of as a vital sign of good health."
Types of Sleep Disorders
Sleep disorders affect many people.
Major sleep disorders include:
Insomnia - the inability to fall or stay asleep that can result in functional impairment throughout the day.
Narcolepsy - excessive daytime sleepiness, combined with sudden muscle weakness. Episodes of narcolepsy are sometimes called "sleep attacks," and may occur in unusual circumstances.
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) - an unpleasant "creeping" sensation associated with aches and pains throughout the legs that can make falling asleep and staying asleep difficult, if not impossible.
Sleep Apnea - interrupted sleep caused by periodic gasping or "snorting" noises, or a momentarily suspension of breathing.
Can Television Contribute to Sleep Problems in Children and Adults?
"...children who have televisions in their bedrooms are often irritable and drowsy the next day, and this makes them more difficult to cope with... the half-hearted notion that television will make parenting easier is a false economy. And parenting is made even more difficult because of what children watch on television."
Remotely Controlled: How Television is Damaging Our Lives by Dr. Aric Sigman - Book Review
Remove the television from all bedrooms. Why? This can help your child get a better night's rest. Adults can also benefit from removing the television and other electronics from their bedrooms.
What About Sleeping Pills?
Nine million Americans, according to CBS news (quoting a CDC study), are using sleeping pills. Some use them regularly, while others may only resort to occasional use. Can they help you or your child sleep soundly at night
? That depends on whom you ask.
Some doctors prescribe sleeping pills like candy, while others encourage patients to try natural methods to fall asleep. Do note that it is common to experience sleep difficulties if you are taking certain psychiatric medications.
Although sleeping pills are popular, they can still be dangerous. It is easy to become dependent on them in order to sleep, and when that occurs, a viscous cycle can ensue. Moreover, overdosing on sleeping pills is not uncommon, and these sleep aids are often used in suicide attempts
and actual suicides.
Suicide is the 5th leading cause of death in China. Of all the people who attempted suicide from 1990 through 2002, approximately 28% (4,103) ingested anti-anxiety medications
or sleeping pills. According to a Swedish study, elderly people, prescribed sleeping pills or sedatives, have a four-fold higher risk of suicide from overdose than those who are not prescribed sleep aids. The study concluded that there is an extremely high rate of psychotropic drug
(i.e. sedatives and hypnotics (sleeping pills)) prescriptions being written for elderly patients. When sleeping pills are readily available, it appears to contribute to the higher suicide risk.
According to another study on sleeping aids, "These medicines are prescribed quite widely to treat depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbance in older people."
Sedatives such as: diazepam, alprazolam, and buspirone, and sleeping pills like nitrazepam, flurazepam, zopiclone, and zolpidem can negatively affect an individual’s mental and physical health, especially if the person is elderly.
Some sleep aids can cause aggressive behaviors, even though they were designed to calm people. These prescription drugs for sleep can also lead to an accidental or intentional overdose.
According to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA), ADHD medications can also trigger insomnia and sleep disorders.
"Sleep aids ... not for long-term use. Research shows that sleep quality suffers with sleeping pills. Medicated sleepers don't remember waking up during the night because most sleep aids also induce minor amnesia. And because sleep medication shortens the cycles of deep, restful sleep, insomniacs taking sleeping pills continue to exhibit signs of irritability and fogginess."
Sleep disorders are often misdiagnosed as ADHD. Sleep problems are often at the root of a bipolar disorder diagnosis.
Conclusion - Sleep Problems and Sleep Disorders
Most people can overcome sleep problems without drugs by taking practical measures. Keeping active during the day, exercising regularly, avoiding too much television, cutting out alcohol and smoking, removing electronics from the bedroom, and maintaining a clean and orderly home will more likely result in a good night’s rest.
Listening to soft and/or relaxing music, reading light and positive material at night, using earplugs, praying, and drinking a cup of chamomile tea an hour or so before bed can also contribute to a better night’s sleep.
Many mental health professionals feel that sleeping pills should never be prescribed to children. They believe that introducing sleep aids to children can set children up with a disadvantageous life pattern; it reinforces the idea of taking pills in response to problems. It also creates a weak or unhealthy foundation for adolescents who typically experience a plethora of emotional highs and lows. Parents should do everything they can to ensure that their children have a secure, stable, loving, supportive, clean, safe, and orderly home. If parents remove electronics from their child’s bedroom and adopt a “TV off” policy at least 1.5 to 2 hours before bed (including the computer, video games, and movies), their children will sleep better and function at a higher level the next day. В
Lastly, ADHD medications can contribute to poor sleeping habits in children, and while some (irresponsible or uniformed) physicians often prescribe sedatives or hypnotics to "help" children sleep, this is not in the child's best interests. The best thing parents can do for their children is make sure they have a balanced, secure, and healthy life.
References - Sleep Problems and Sleep Disorders
1. Anders, Carlsten, Margda &
Waern. (2009). Are sedatives and hypnotics associated with increased suicide risk of suicide in the elderly? BMC Geriatrics, 9 (20)
. Retrieved from http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2318/9/20
2. CDC: Nearly 9 million Americans use prescription sleep aids. (2013, August 29). CBS News
3. Insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic sleep. (2014, January 13). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/Features/Sleep/
4. Overcoming ADHD without medication: A guidebook for parents and teachers
. (2012). AYCNP
5. Roggli, L. (2009). ADHD sleep: Sweet dreams or nightmare. Attention Deficit Disorder Association.
6. Sleeping pill suicide risk for older people. (2009). Guardian
. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/besttreatments/2009/jun/04/sleeping-pill-suicide-risk-for-older-people
7. Suicide and attempted suicide --- China, 1990-2002. (2004). Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5322a6.htm