Dec 17, 2010

How to overcome insomnia

I myself suffer from insomnia that is why i have a special feature on this topic. Are there ways to treat this condition without having to take any medication?Let us explore insomnia together and learn how to overcome this condition.

 INSOMNIA:  causes and treatment

Are you always awake at night and cannot force yourself to sleep no matter how long you close your eyes and lay on bed? Your mind is always drifting and seem to be awake. You might be suffering from insomnia. So what is insomnia per se?

Insomnia includes any combination of difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, intermittent wakefulness and early-morning awakening. Episodes can be transient, lasting as long as 2 weeks (short-term), or be long-lasting (chronic).

A person suffering from insomnia may be noticed having posture changes, dark circles under the eyes, disoriented, gets tired easily, irritable or having reduced energy level. Insomnia may also trigger depression.

Causes of insomnia in adults:
·        Aging
·        Physical illness ( e.g.,  enlarged prostate, cystitis, COPD, arthritis, heartburn, toxic goiter, heart or lung problems)
·        Depression
·        Anxiety or stress
·        Alcoholism or abruptly stopping alcohol after long-term use
·        Poor sleeping environment such as excessive noise or light
·        Exhilaration or excitement
·        Frequent urination
·        Medications, such as thyroid medicine, ephedrine, phenylpropanolamine, theophylline
·        Illicit street drugs, such as amphetamines and cocaine
·        Restless leg syndrome
·        Stimulants taken in the evening (nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, food)
·        Counterproductive sleep habits (sleeping too much during the day, early bedtimes, excessive time spent awake on bed)
·        Shift work
·        Jet lag
·        Lack of exposure to sunlight


Prior to opting to take medications for insomnia you should try to change your sleeping habits first. Treatment should be based on the cause of insomnia. Try some of these tips:
1  1.  Avoid emotional upset or stressful situations before bedtime. 
    2.  Avoid using alcohol in the evening. 
    3. Avoid caffeine for at least 8 hours before bedtime. 
    4.  Give up smoking; nicotine is a stimulant. 
    5.   Eat a light snack before bedtime. 
    6.  Exercise regularly, but not 2 hours before going to bed. 
    7.  Establish a regular bedtime, but don’t go to bed if you feel wide awake. 
    8. Relax by reading, taking a bath, or listening to soothing music before going to bed.
    9. Take your TV or computer out of the bedroom. 
   10. Use the bedroom for bedroom activities only.  Once in bed, use creative imagery    and relaxation techniques, e.g., deep breathing, yoga or meditation to keep your mind off unrestful thoughts. 
   11. Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet and cool. Use earplugs or eye shades if needed.

Foods that Help or Harm Your Sleep

Here are the list of foods that you can eat at night and which ones to avoid for a restful slumber: 

1. 1. Tryptophan-rich foods
Dairy products contain tryptophan which is sleep-inducing substance. Other examples are poultry, bananas, oats and honey. 

2.   Carbohydrate-rich foods
Carbohydrate-rich foods complement dairy products by augmenting the level of tryptophan in the blood. Late night that might help you to snooze include a bowl of cereal and milk, or yogurt and crackers.

3.   Snack at bedtime
A little food on your stomach may help you fall asleep, but keep it small, otherwise it can make you uncomfortable  and prevent you from sleeping. 
4.  High fat-food
Avoid high-fat foods such as burger and fries. People who indulge on high-fat food not only gain weight, but they also experiences a disruption of their sleep cycle. 
5. Caffeine
Caffeine sources not only include coffee, but cola, tea, chocolate and decaffeinated coffee as well. Even moderate caffeine can cause sleep disturbances.

6. Alcoholic beverages
Alcohol may help you sleep faster, but you may experience frequent awakening, thus less restful sleep, headaches, night sweat and nightmares.

7. Heavy, Spicy Foods
The digestive system slows down when you sleep, that is why lying down with a full belly can make you uncomfortable. Moreover, spicy food can cause heartburn.

 8.  Protein-rich foods
Protein-rich foods are harder to digest, making it a poor choice for a bedtime snack. 

9.  Fluids
Curtail your fluid intake before bed to avoid frequent urination a t night.

References for posts on sleep disorder :
1.     American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Sleep Disorders.
2.     Centers for Disease control and Prevention.2010. Key Sleep Disorders.
5.     http://www.

Dec 12, 2010

Types of Sleep Disorders

What is sleep disorder?
Sleep disorders involve any difficulties related to sleeping, including difficulty falling or staying asleep, falling asleep at inappropriate times, excessive total sleep time or abnormal behaviors associated with sleep.

Types of sleep disorders
There are more than 100 different sleep disorders. I am just going to cite the more common sleep disorders here:

1.   1. Insomnia – a short term or chronic inability to get high quality sleep. It is a  common sleep problem and can be caused by a variety of things including stress, a change in time zones, an altered sleep schedule or poor bedtime habits.  

2.   2. Sleep apnea disorder – this is a disorder wherein breathing stops or gets very shallow while you are sleeping. Each pause in breathing typically lasts 10 to 20 seconds or more, and the pauses can occur 20 to 30 times or more an hour. This is a very serious sleep disorder, and can even be life-threatening.

Symptoms of sleep apnea include frequent gaps in breathing during sleep, gasping or choking for air, loud snoring, feeling unrefreshed after a night’s sleep and excessive daytime tiredness.

A common type of sleep apnea is obstructive apnea, wherein the causes are generally physical in nature. This includes obesity, large tonsils or adenoids, nasal congestion or blockage or a unique shaped head, neck or chin.

CPAP, a mechanical device worn while sleeping which provides continuous air pressure to keep the airway open, is the most recommended treatment for moderate to severe apnea. Losing weight, elevating the head of the bed or sleeping on your side, dental appliances and surgeries are other treatment options. 

  3.Snoring - caused by narrowing of your airway, either from poor sleep posture, excess weight or physical abnormalities of your throat. Snoring is different from sleep apnea. It may accompany sleep apnea, but not always.

Sleeping on your side, elevating the head of your bed, or losing weight are some of the self-help remedies for mild snoring.

4.   4. Restless leg syndrome (RLS) and Periodic Limb Movements in Sleep (PLMS)
Restless leg syndrome is a disorder causing an almost irresistible urge to move the legs or arms. The urge to move when lying down is due to uncomfortable, tingly sensation in the affected limbs.

Periodic Limb Movement Disorder is a related condition involving involuntary, rhythmic limb movements, either while asleep or awake.

RLS can occur on its own or related to other medical conditions like anemia, kidney disease, pregnancy or thyroid problems, Parkinson’s or alcoholism.

Lifestyle changes and nutritional supplements are among the treatment for RLS and PLMD.

5.   5. Narcolepsy – a neurological that causes extreme sleepiness and may even make a person fall asleep suddenly and without warning. People with narcolepsy lacks in hypocretin, a brain chemical which regulates sleep and wakefulness. Narcolepsy maybe genetic, but also appears to be influenced by environmental factors.
Symptoms of narcolepsy include intermittent, uncontrollable episodes of falling asleep during daytime, excessive daytime sleepiness, sudden, short-lives loss of muscle control during emotional situation (cataplexy).

6.   6. Night terror – a sleep disorder in which a person quickly awakens from sleep in a terrified state. It usually occurs during deep sleep, during the first third of the night. The cause is unknown, but may be triggered by fever, lack of sleep, or periods of emotional tension, stress or conflict. It is fairly common in children ages 3-7, but may also occur in adults.

7.   7. Sleepwalking – a disorder that occurs when a person walks or does another activity while they are asleep. Sleepwalking or somnambulism most often occurs during deep, non-REM sleep early in the night.

8.   8. Bruxism -  Involuntarily grinding or clenching of the teeth while sleeping. The cause of problematic bruxism is unknown, though several conditions are known to be linked to bruxism, including digestive ailments and anxiety.

Dec 5, 2010

Understanding Sleep Disorder

Many people nowadays are afflicted with sleep disorder.  Among them are celebrities. In fact, they are more susceptible because of the pressure and rigorous schedule they are dealing with in their daily lives. Some famous people who are known to have suffered from sleep disorder are Napoleon Bonaparte, Winston Churchill,  Isaac Newton, Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Margaret Thatcher, Charles Dickens, Cary Grant, Marilyn Monroe and many more.  Michael Jackson made headlines around the world in 2009 due to his untimely death which came as a consequence of overmedication with sleep-inducing drugs. He was an insomniac. Many of the celebrities mentioned above had sleep disorder coupled with bouts of depression.

The benefits of deep, relaxing sleep every night are universally accepted. People are able to function physically and mentally more effectively and productively. There are people who sleep very little because of the demand of their work. In doing so they disregard the potential damage they are doing to their body. Insufficient sleep in the long run takes its toll on one’s health.

Contrary to popular belief, older adults do not need to sleep less as they age. Like young people, they require between seven and nine hours of sleep nightly.  However, it is the pattern of sleep that tend to change with age. Older adults spend less time in deep (slow-wave) sleep and more time in non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, which causes the frequent waking throughout the night. Our internal clock also changes, causing us to wake earlier in the morning and feel more tired in the evening.

There are many causes of sleep deprivation. The stresses of daily life may intrude upon our ability to sleep well. We might also be trading sleep for more work or play. There could also be pre-existing medical conditions that could be disrupting sleep.  However, it is critically important to realize that sleep deprivation is often due to unrecognized sleep disorders.

There are short and long-term consequences of sleep deprivation.  Included in the short term-effects are decreased performance and alertness, memory and cognitive impairment, stress relationships, poor quality of life, occupational and automobile injuries.  Sleep disorder increases the risk of serious and chronic health conditions, including depression, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and obesity. It also weakens the immune system. Based on research, the number of white blood cells decreases, leaving the body unarmed against infection. People who sleep less than four hours per night are three times more likely to die within the next six years.

To be continued…