Sleep Health-Diagnosing Sleep Problems with Several Simple Steps
Sleep used to be thought of as a simple passive state, however it is now known that sleep is a dynamic process, and our brains are quite active during sleep. Studies have repeatedly shown that quality sleep is indeed necessary for survival. Sleep affects our physical and mental health, and is essential for the normal functioning of all the systems of our body, perhaps most importantly, the immune system. Neurotransmitters control whether one is asleep or awake by acting on nerve cells in different parts of the brain. Neurons in the brain-stem actively cause sleep by inhibiting other parts of the brain that keep a person awake.
I don't think a day goes by that I don't hear someone complain about their sleep, or lack of it, the preceding night. According to the National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research, close to 40 million Americans suffer from long-term sleep disorders and another 20-30 million experience occasional sleep problems. Whether it's a major sleep disorder or just an isolated stressful night one in awhile, there are numerous disadvantages to missing your straight eight. Not only is it incredibly frustrating to lie awake all night worrying about an unfinished project at work or your teenage daughter's new boyfriend, when sleep problems get in the way of your daily routine and hamper your ability to function, you may be suffering from more than just a sleepless night or two, you may be grappling with a bonifide sleep disorder.
What Helps you Sleep?
Several Simple Steps - Be Aware of your Symptoms
So, is it just a passing annoyance, a more serious sleep disorder, or something inbetween? Sometimes, just becoming more aware of your daily habits and symptoms can give you an idea of what you are dealing with:
- Are you overly irritable during the day?
- Are you tired, dosing off while stting still, reading, during lectures or movies?
- Do you have difficulty concentrating?
- Do you need that Starbucks to get through the morning ...and afternoon?
- Do you react slowly
- Do you fall asleep while driving?
- Are you told that you look exhausted?
- Do you feel the need to nap daily?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be experiencing some type of a sleep disorder. You can of course, consult your physician, especially if your sleep symtoms accompany health concerns however, you can also do some amateur experimentation by making a few relatively minor adjustments to your lifestyle, possibly solving the sleepless saga without going the sleep study route! (more about that in a later hub). Some slumber deprived sleep detectives keep a sleep diary, (click to print out the Sleep Foundation's version) similar to the sample chart below, with the hope that a pattern of some sort emerges, thus allowing one to make the necessary changes, solving the problem or at least identifying the probable cause.
What did you do, When, Total Time
What did you drink, When, How Much
Happiness, Sadness, Stress, Anxiety
Food & Drink
What , When: Dinner, Snacks?
Medications & Sleep Aids
When, What, How Much
Medication, Relaxation, How Long?
When, Where, How Long?
Coping with Sleep Problems
During the Day
Consume Little or No Caffeine
Use Bedroom for Sleep or Sex Only
Avoid Alcohol or Nicotine
Don't Drink or Eat too Close to Bedtime
Excercise-Not within 3 Hours of Bed
Establish Regular Bedtime & Routine
Establish Regular Wakeup Time
Practice Yoga/Meditation-Reducing Stress
Create Dark, Sleep-Inducing Environment
Keep Sleep Diary
Minimize Noise, Add White Noise Machine?
Insomnia (Latin for no sleep) is the inability to get the sleep that you need to wake up feeling rested. Insomnia is the most common sleep complaint and can last for a few nights or for a few years. Although it can sometimes be considered to be a sleep disorder, insomnia is usually a symptom of some other disease or condition. The National Sleep Foundation reports that one half of all insomnia cases are stress related. Left untreated, insomnia can lead to more serious problems such as poorer overall health, depression, anxiety and increased work absenteeism.
Because of this, it is important to make an effort early to determine the cause of your sleepless nights! There are a number of approaches, as noted above, the first would be to document your symptoms by using a sleep diary or journal so you can increase your understanding of what may be contributing to your lack of slumber. If there don't seem to be any health related causes, most likely a revision in your day or night time behavior as shown in the chart to the right, "Coping with Sleep Problems", could have a positive impact so that further treatment may not become necessary. If it does however, the sleep diary (click to print out the Sleep Foundation's Sleep Diary for your own use) will be a helpful tool that you can share with your Doctor so they will be able to accurately diagnose the issue and recommend a treatment plan.
More Great Sleep Hubs
- Sleep Disorders and Sleep Problems:When to call the Doctor
Are you experiencing more than an occasional sleepless night? Sleep "disorders" are too numerous to name so read up on the signs to look for and when you may need to call the Doctor!
- How to Select the Perfect Pillow for Your Sleep Style
Finding a pillow that gives you the perfect supportive little head bed that it needs can be challenging to say the least. Use these tips to find the best pillow for your slumber style!
- Is There A Relationship Between Insomnia And Artificial Sweeteners?
The brain becomes excited by these products, indicating that the bloggers instincts were on target...robertatalloni