Sleeping Disorders: How to Self-Diagnose - Self-Treat and Get to Sleep.
If you have trouble sleeping, the chances are you've tried every trick in the book. From sipping herbal teas to counting sheep, it's now time to prioritise your sleep.
For some, lack of zzz's doesn't come with an overnight fix solution. Working night shifts, travelling through different time zones are obvious causes. Some are physical, such as those with kidney disease, type 2 diabetes and lung disease. Others are mental, including emotional stress, psychiatric disorders and depression. It can also be a result from the pharmaceutical and illegal drugs you may be consuming. Your weight, typical blood pressure and lifestyle. Physical changes that occur as we get older are all part of the ageing process.
The stress of relationships and exams — receiving bad news. Writers and inventors unable to switch off due to constantly thinking of new stories and inventions. The constant checking of social media website notifications can disrupt sleep patterns.
The inability to sleep can be genetic or even hereditary. Some sleep disruption tends to resolve without any treatment.
Either way and whatever your problem/s are, the information below will help you eliminate the stress of not sleeping and help you sleep like a 'sleeping' baby again, although I cannot guarantee you sweet dreams!
My Insomnia and Sleep Apnea Experiences
While suffering for three years with sleep deprivation, I had this sharp constant stabbing pain in my lower right abdomen which was happening when I was sitting at work and while in bed. I thought it was appendicitis, but after many scans and check-ups, my doctor finally diagnosed it as a 'nerve related' pain.
This pain was only occurring while I was sitting at work doing stressful chores and also while trying to sleep. It took a while before the penny to finally drop. This nerve-related pain was the result of stress — the stress of working, and the stress from struggling to sleep. This was the first time I was aware of "stress-related" medical problems.
I also had black puffy eyes, was always depressed — constantly feeling groggy, and did not feel great knowing my health was deteriorating.
More by this author. What Causes Dark Circle, Bags and Puffy Eyes and How To Remove Them
I wanted to know how damaging stress was and what was happening inside my body I could not feel. How to avoid it, and how to improve the quality of my sleep. This led to further research to find out what I could do to self-help and self-treat my problems.... which worked.
- How Damaging and Deadly can Stress be?
- The Effects of Sleep Deprivation
- Did I Have a Sleeping Disorder - List of Sleeping Disorders
- What Happens if I Told My Doctor?
- What a Good Night's Sleep Does for the Brain
- How can I Self-Treat a Sleeping Problem/Disorder?
Tips & Advice 1-6
- Last Resort: How to Remove the Stress of Not Sleeping and Help get to Sleep
- Final Thoughts
1. How Damaging and Deadly can Stress be?
As a child, I would laugh when I heard that people were 'taking time off work due to stress.' Fast-forward 30 years, and I can totally relate to stress-related mental and physical problems.
But not all stress is bad. Our bodies are designed to cope with stress, and some types can be very beneficial for us. Its how we deal with it that matters. But constant and severe stress will take its toll on the most resilient person.
When someone dies from the consequences of 'lack of sleep' or 'stress-related illnesses', their death certificate may say, they died from 'heart disease', 'stroke' or 'suffered a heart attack.' It will not say they died of 'stress' or 'lack of sleep'.
2. The Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Two-thirds of a cat's life is spent asleep compared to one-third of a human and even less for insomniacs.
The most serious potential problems associated with chronic sleep deprivation are the stuff of nightmares! High blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity and depression, and linked to a range of psychiatric conditions and disorders.
It can also affect your appearance, lower sex drive, ruin relationships and cause a number of life threatening medical problems.
3. Did I have a sleeping disorder? List of sleep disorders
I discovered many types of sleep disorders, each with its own acronym and symptoms. Some are mild, moderate and others can be severe. The good news is that each disorder can be cured or at least relieved.
- Insomnia (I), sleep deprivation, sleeplessness also known as insufficient sleep is the most common sleeping disorder/syndrome where sufferers have difficulty falling or staying asleep which could be the result of one or a combination of reasons. If you think you're suffering from one or a combination of the following sleep disorders, you may need to be tested with the help of your health professional to determine which disorder you have (if you have one). Home remedies and lifestyle modifications may not completely cure the following disorders, but can help to relieve the symptoms to improve the quality of your sleep as well as treating any underlying condition you may have. Insomnia infers that you can’t get to sleep or stay asleep. Sleep Apnea and other disorders happens while you are sleeping.
- Sleep Apnea/Apnoea (SA) is a condition where one's breathing gets interrupted or stops during sleep. Signs of SA are snoring, choking, difficulty in breathing and gasping for breath because the muscles in the upper throat relax during sleep and the tissues close in and block the airway. This is common among people who have a narrow throat. More than 52 percent of people who have SA are overweight. Snoring can be a sign of a sleeping disorder or something more serious. Mild sleep apnea does not always need to be treated. If you want to get checked, there is a Apnea-Hypopnea (AHI) index/score. 5 to 15 is a sign of mild sleep apnea. 15 to 30 is moderate. 30 and higher is considered severe. Sleep apnea is also associated with having large tonsils or adenoids. Surgery can trim down your soft palate and uvula, remove your tonsils and reposition some muscles of the soft palate. This has about a 25% to 35% success rate. Nose clips and strips can be purchased to help stop snoring, but does not help with any underlying condition you may have.
- Sleep/Night Terrors (S/NT) is a similar condition to obstructive sleep apnea. S/NT causes feelings of panic and intense fear while still asleep. These can be triggered by underlying conditions such as abnormal breathing patterns during sleep - severe problems are sweating, heavy breathing and an increase in heart-rate. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), hypnosis or relaxation therapy can help relieve symptoms.
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a disorder which causes the breathing to stop hundreds of times during sleep. It is caused by a blockage in the airway causing a pause or cessation of airflow. If you think you have OSA, then a home-testing device can be a quick and convenient way to have it confirmed. Some people may need to be treated with a different kind of positive airway pressure therapy that uses a stream of compressed air to support the airway during sleep.
- Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) is a disorder where the breathing stops and starts during sleep because the brain doesn't send the correct signals to the muscles that control breathing. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy is a treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. For most people, CSA is a common treated with the use of a CPAP device.
- Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS) is a rare sleep disorder which is caused by the narrowing of airwaves which disrupts sleep patterns. Symptoms of UARS are like those of OSA and can be treated with the use of a CPAP device and/or lifestyle changes.
- Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD). Repetitive movement of the limbs during sleep may be associated with arousal activity in the brain during sleep. Benzodiazepines are the common forms of medications used to treat PLMD, the same as those used to treat restless leg syndrome (RLS). A type of sedative that should only be used for 2-4 weeks.
- Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). A neurological disorder that presents as an uncontrollable sensation in the arms or legs. Medication will be prescribed, as well as the following tips and advice further down the page.
- Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS) is a common circadian rhythm sleeping disorder which affects the bodies daily rhythms when sleep is delayed by 2 or more hours beyond the appropriate bedtime. This delay in falling asleep causes difficulty in waking up at the desired time. Chronotherapy is used to shift the sleep time in accordance with your preferred schedule. For example, if you cannot sleep at bedtime, delay your bedtime each night until you reach your desired bedtime hour.
- Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders (CRSD). The internal body-clock affects people who frequently rotate shifts, work or sleep patterns. Melatonin medication can help adjust the body's internal clock. Simple solutions are to maintain regular sleep-and-wake patterns and avoiding naps.
- Rapid Eye Movement (REM) is when individuals physically act out their dreams or engage in movements or abnormal activity during sleep such as kicking, waving arms around while dreaming. Medications are used to treat REM, but lifestyle changes can help reduce or even eliminate this problem.
- Sleep-Disordered Breathing (SDB) is related to several chronic conditions in which partial or complete cessation of breathing occurs throughout the night which includes pauses in breathing and insufficient ventilation during sleep. A CPAP machine with nasal continuous positive airway pressure can help.
- Microsleep (M) is where individuals suddenly falls asleep at home, work or when driving. It can last for a fraction to a few seconds which is not ideal when driving or operating machinery. Simple cures are improving the quality of your sleep and lifestyle changes.
- Sleep Paralysis (SP) is a condition where one wakes up in the night, unable to move and often experiences bizarre and frightening hallucinations. They will be aware of their surroundings but unable to move or speak which can be quite frightening. It's not harmful and should pass in a few seconds or minutes.
- Fatal Familial Insomnia (FFI) is a very rare genetic degenerative brain disorder. It is characterised by an inability to sleep (insomnia) that may be initially mild, but progressively worsens, leading to significant physical and mental deterioration and increasing the symptoms of other medical problems. There is no cure for FFI. Sleep medications may provide temporary relief for some people, but they don’t work long term, though sleep aids and lifestyle changes may provide some relief.
- Sleep Inertia (SI) is the tiredness and groggy feeling (sometimes lack of motivation) we experience when we wake up in the morning — especially if we have not had a good nights sleep. (SI) should last between 15 - 30 minutes. Any more than that is a sign you're not getting enough sleep, or you're getting too much sleep which is not good - or another problem which needs to be addressed.
Orthosomnia (O) is a condition among people who seek the perfect sleep - which can make you lose sleep trying to perfect it.
Look out for the above (acronyms) in the '1-6 tips and advice' sections below to help cure and/or relieve your sleeping disorder/s.
4. What Happens if I Tell my Doctor?
Any good doctor should identify any underlying health condition that is causing your Insomnia. My doctor would prescribe me sleeping pills or antidepressants, even though I had never complained of depression. I never realised there were devices that were available on the NHS or purchased online. Or a sleep clinic for professional testing was an option.
Severe sleep disorders can be treated with 'CPAP therapy' or 'polysomnography' (PSG). A test/study performed by a specialist who will observe you as you sleep and record data about your sleep patterns to measure brain waves, skeletal muscle activity and blood oxygen levels — heart and breathing rhythm and eye movement to identify if you have a sleep disorder. However, lifestyle changes can help cure insomnia without the need for medications, CPAP devices or sleep surgery.
A friend diagnosed with severe sleep apnea and was sent to a sleep clinic at his local hospital. They gave him a sleep oxygen device with vibration alert and temperature monitor which woke him when the amount of oxygen dropped below his defined threshold. His latest version of the CPAP machine reports his sleep patterns to the clinic via the internet. The built-in monitor reminds him to adjust his sleep posture to open his airway so that he can breathe easier and sleep better. He has been happy with the results but not everyone is. See below: 3/6: Gadgets - Tech - Mindfulness (CPAP).
Once diagnosed with sleep apnea, you can be fined up to £1,000 if you don’t tell DVLA about a medical condition that affects your driving, and can be prosecuted if you’re involved in an accident as a result. Not ideal for people with driving jobs.
Work-related injuries and vehicle accidents from drowsy workers and drivers are responsible for crashes, injuries and deaths every day which is another reason for drivers and anyone working with machinery to improve their sleep.
If you're experiencing chronic insomnia, daytime sleepiness, sleepwalking or sleep-related breathing difficulties and it's affecting your mental and physical health, your doctor should recommend an overnight sleep study to analyse your brain activity and body movements as you sleep, but only if everything you have tried yourself has failed.
5. What a Good Night's Sleep Does for the Brain
6. How Can I Self-Treat my Sleeping Disorder?
Aside from any underlining medical problems you may have, It's you, not your doctor who should know how good or bad you're living (lifestyle). What foods, drinks, medication and recreational drugs you're consuming each day — how much stress and personal problems you may have.
You or your doctor won't know if you're suffering from a specific sleeping disorder unless you have recorded yourself sleeping, by using night-vision audio and video cameras to observe your sleeping habits, eyes and body movements to capture every movement of your body in every position while in bed — and sleeping on a material thin enough to observe body twitches and/or any slight movements while under the covers.
The health shop suggested various products which could help improve my sleep. The main ingredients in all health shop products contained either lavender, valerian, rose hips and magnesium or a combination of them. Their strongest product (which cannot be sourced from the diet) contained 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) which is made by the body from the amino acid tryptophan, which is then changed into the neurotransmitter known as serotonin which plays an important role in sleep.
My chemist suggested sleep products similar to the health shop, as well as over-the-counter pharmaceutical drug called diphenhydramine, also known as Benadryl which is an antihistamine used to treat a number of medical health problems including Insomnia.
I did not want to be diagnosed with a sleeping disorder, or take medications, attend sleep clinics or have various devices attached to me while trying to sleep. There must be something I could do to naturally get a good nights sleep!
Over the last 3 years I researched, tried, tested, experimented with everything possible to improve my sleep quality. From the traditional, obscure to thinking outside the box.
The overwhelming scientific evidence and studies based on clinical trials and experiments (including myself) that sleep disorders can be naturally cured following the tips and advice below.
1/6 Things To Do During The Day
2/6 Things To Avoid During The Day
3/6 Gadgets - Tech - Mindfulness
4/6 Winding Down
5/6 Preparing To Sleep
6/6 Going To Sleep
- Last Resort: How to Remove the Stress of Not Sleeping and Help get to Sleep
- Final Thoughts
1/6. Things To Do During The Day
"For mind, body, soul and sleep, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. I am 99% positive that aromatherapy massages and physical weight training exercises eliminated all the subtle twitches and violent spasms my body was experiencing while in bed".
- Exercising the mind will help tax the brain enough, so when it's time to sleep, your brain should be exhausted. Reading or studying something new keeps the brain flexible and produces even more brain cells. Plus, the white matter in your brain called 'myelin' helps electrical impulses to transmit efficiently along the nerve cells which could help with age-related cognitive and memory. (I) (SA) (OSA) (PLMD) (RLS).
- Exercising the body. We all know the importance of daily physical activities to help eliminate a multitude of health problems. My training has made me fitter, stronger, more flexible, given me more confidence, and I am usually exhausted by bedtime. When I don't feel like exercising I dance (Basically, I move around a lot) Avoid performing vigorous physical exercises or brain-training games too close to bedtime as it will have the opposite effect. (I) (SA) (OSA) (CSA) (PLMD) (RLS).
- Excessive body weight is associated with sleep apnea and losing just 10 percent of your body weight, then reaching a healthy weight can cure or drastically relieve your insomnia and a multitude of other health-related problems you may not be able to physically see or feel. (I) (SA) (OSA) (CSA (PLMD).
- Foods to aid sleep contain all kinds of molecules such as amino acids and natural sedatives. Some keep us awake and alert, others have the opposite effect. Foods which help control the body's internal clock to regulate sleep contain Melatonin, the sleep hormone, are cherries, walnuts, pineapples and kiwi fruit. Tryptophan is found in almonds and cheese, and lactucarium, in lettuce. Avoid sugary foods at night because they will keep you awake. Ensure you eat your last meal or snack at least 2 to 3 hours before going to bed. If you can't, ensure you chew your food properly for easier digestion. (I) (SA).
- Vitamins & minerals (V&M) play an important role to our waking life, just as much as sleeping. Ideally, the following are best consumed in their natural food form; Magnesium contributes to a reduction in tiredness and fatigue. Tryptophan; once absorbed by our bodies is converted to serotonin which helps control mood and sleep. Biotin; a great way to help aid a good night’s rest. Melatonin; as hormone naturally produced by the body. The herb Valerian (as used by Hippocrates) has a mild sedative effect which relaxes the nervous system and is known to be a mild sedative. Note: Always read the labels: Some V&M should not be used with other medications including, depressants or when pregnant, breast-feeding or about to have surgery. Vitamins and minerals in foods. (I) (SA) (RLS).
- Daily meditation is a great way to relax anyone's mind that races around at 1000 MPH. Or fixated on thoughts we don't want to continually think. Find a meditation style that suits you. I incorporate mindfulness meditation for breathing. Zen's meditation to help my muscles and body relax and to stop the minds aimless stream of thoughts and Tai Chi for a mild yet effective physical exercise. (I) (SA) (SP).
- Yoga exercises are like foods. Some can energise, others can help relax you. The relaxing yoga techniques can help you fall asleep faster and help you return to sleep more quickly if you wake up in the middle of the night. Yoga for better sleep. (I) (SA) (OSA) (RLS).
- Stop sitting for so long. Just because you have a sitting room, it doesn't mean you have to sit in it all day! Sitting (a sedentary lifestyle) for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity had similar risks of dying from smoking and/or obesity related problems. I detested watching TV commercials. Now that's my cue to get up, move and get physical. (I) (RLS).
- Go outside every day especially if you spend most days indoors will work wonders for anyone's health. Lack of physical activity and staying in each day is not healthy especially if spent sitting down and inactive for too long which can be a killer in itself! Walk in the park, along rivers or by ponds where nature is and avoid polluted busy areas if possible. (I) (RLS).
- Daytime Naps. To nap or not to nap, that is a question. Leonardo da Vinci's sleep schedule included 20-minute naps every four hours. He died at the age of 67, possibly of a stroke. (See 2/6 Avoid daytime naps) (I) (RLS).
2/6. Things To Avoid During The Day
"When science becomes common sense. Things to 'avoid' during the day is just as important as things to 'do' during the day."
- Avoid daytime naps! Studies have shown that the timing and duration of a nap, as well as your age, blood pressure and cholesterol levels are important factors to how beneficial naps are. The long history of nap studies is extensive and ongoing. However, having an afternoon nap once or twice a week made people less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke, depending on many factors including one's experience in napping. Recent studies suggest elderly people should avoid napping during the day to avoid an increase in heart disease and cancer. The science behind napping during the day. (I) (CRSD).
- Avoid nicotine like the plague. "Nocturnal Sleep-Disturbing Nicotine Craving" (NSDNC) is characterised by craving for cigarettes during sleep times. Smoking or consuming nicotine in any form takes smokers longer to fall asleep, and they wake up more frequently. Cutting down or stopping will increase your quality of sleep and hopefully life expectancy. I just wish I had given up smoking long before I received the news of a smoking-related lung and heart disease! (I) (SA) (OSA).
- Avoid taking medications, especially when not needed. Medications raise carbon dioxide levels in the blood and body and deprive the body of an adequate oxygen supply which interferes with sleep, as well as cause so much damage within the body. Example; why take Beta Blockers to lower blood pressure when you can do it naturally by losing weight, eating healthily and exercising! (I) (RLS).
- Avoid stressful people by any means possible. I made a conscious decision to avoid a family member, two friends and many acquaintances (toxic people) because they caused me too much stress/pain. I even moved property because of the stress of living below a former annoying neighbour. If I had to change jobs, I would — anything for a stress-free healthier pain-free happier life. (I) (S/NT).
3/6. Gadgets - Tech - Mindfulness
"Gadgets, tech and mindfulness is about finding something that works for you to bring calm and control in your life."
- Sleep tracker devices used to track sleep patterns can be good and bad. The good; they help to check your heart rate, breathing, snoring and the amount of sleep you get, and how restless your body is while sleeping which works for some. The bad; it can increase insomnia to the point of orthosomnia (the constant checking and worrying about achieving results), like those who get stressed when they don't reach the 10.000 steps required from wearing a fitness tracker, and dieters obsessed with tracking and counting their calorie intake. (I).
- CPAP devices can help or hinder your progress. From trying to get used to wearing the device, fine-tuning it, and perfecting the adjustments made to the settings on the machine isn’t the easiest task. For some, using a CPAP machine causes more problems including a dry mouth, skin irritations, nasal congestion and nose bleeds. If all else has failed to help you sleep, there is only one way of finding out, and that's by trying it. However, sleep surgery may be a final solution to help your breathing or snoring problems if a CPAP device and all lifestyle changes have failed. Surgery options. (I) (SA) (OSA) (CSA) (UARS) (SDB).
- Using a humidifier. Singer Mariah Carey surrounds her bed with many humidifiers. They can also help those using CPAP therapy to enhance airflow quality better than your body can humidify on its own. A humidifier helps to produce moisture and eliminate the dry air that can cause irritations including dry skin, itchy eyes and irritated nasal passages. How humidifiers help you sleep. (I) (SA).
- Hypnosis, if you can afford it, can treat many problems such as smoking, anxiety & stress, weight control, confidence, phobias, gambling as well as insomnia to relieve anxiety and stress to help the body and mind relax. (I)
- Acupuncture has been demonstrated to be an effective treatment for insomnia and is available on the NHS. (I).
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy-Insomnia (CBT-I) is a natural and common method of treating insomnia without medication. Available via GP referral. (I) (M).
- CBD is one of the main cannabinoids in the cannabis plant which has been shown to improve the sleep of those suffering from Insomnia. However, research on CBD and its effect on sleep and other medical problems is still in its infancy. Various CBD products are widely available. (I).
- Aromatherapy oils can work wonders for almost anyone. Smelling the right aromas can make us feel good, some bring back memories, others help to aid sleep. The most popular are Lavender, Valerian, Bergamot and Roman Chamomile. These oils also help to treat so many other medical problems from allergies, anxiety depression, infections, as well as aid sleep. Note: Some people will be allergic to some oils. Skin inflammation, dry, red, itchy skin is the most common, so observe and unusual symptoms over the first few days of use. Aromatherapy oils and their uses. (I).
- A Calpol Vapour plug is a device that plugs into your electrical socket and contains a blend of aromatic oils including lavender, chamomile, camphor and eucalyptus. These oils help to soothe and comfort adults or children to help ease breathing. Calpol Vapour plug reviews. (I).
4/6. Winding Down
"Winding down is critical in preparing for bed. Time to completely forget past, future and just enjoy and relax in the present".
- Avoid caffeine in tea, coffee, energy drinks and sodas, especially in the evening as it will interfere with the process of falling asleep and prevent deep sleep. Instead, have a warm, milky drink or herbal tea made from valerian, chamomile, ginger, passionflower or peppermint which can help with anxiety and insomnia.(I) (SA) (RLS) (DSPS).
- Alcohol (the odd tipple) can actually promote sleep by affecting a person's sleep homeostasis. Although excess amounts of alcohol over long periods will give drinkers more chance of their sleep being disrupted. (I) (SA) (OSA) (RLS) (DSPS).
- Writing 'to do' lists a few hours before sleeping can organise your thoughts and clear your mind of any distraction. See 6/6 - Needing to make more notes while in bed.
- Unresolved arguments will keep anyone awake. Try to resolve them long-before going to bed or avoid the people who constantly cause them, even if it means divorce! (I).
- Avoid using electronic devices for at least an hour before sleeping, unless it's a 'mobile app' to aid sleep. (I) (DSPS).
- Massages daily or once a week is an organic and a very pleasurable way for anyone to feel relaxed. Ideally, if you can't afford a masseuse or masseur or aromatherapist, try asking a friend or loved-one — or do it yourself. Not as pleasurable but just as effective. (I) (RLS).
- A warm relaxing bath with aromatherapy oils will help your body to reach a temperature and aroma that's ideal for rest. If you shower, apply some 'diluted' aromatherapy oils to your body afterwards. (I) (RLS).
- Colours have a tremendous effect on the mood of individuals. Blue coloured bedrooms have been scientifically proven to help calm and relax the mind. The worst colours to sleep are brown, grey and purple. (I).
Yawning during the day is your brain telling you that it’s overtaxed and needs to rest from over-working or because you have not had enough sleep. Ideally, you want to be yawning prior to going to bed. (see 5/6 - 'yawning late at night'. (I).
5/6. The bedroom
"The bedroom should be transformed into a sleep friendly restorative sanctuary. Create a peaceful environment, and you'll be nodding off in no time."
- Dimming the light in your living room as the time gets closer to sleeping because exposure to bright light throughout the evening inhibits the natural production of melatonin, which can make it harder to fall asleep. (I). See 6/6 - Bright light therapy.
- Noise-cancelling foam ear plugs will not remove all external noise pollution, especially when passing emergency service sirens pass by! But they can help to reduce and even isolate external noise. My first pair worked very well until they became too painful and itchy to use. After trying various brands and materials, I swapped my hard foam ear plugs to a softer more comfortable brand which works, and is comfortable for my ears shape and size. (I).
- Noise-cancelling wireless earplugs lets you adjust the level of noise cancellation to suit your environment. Or "Noise Masking Sleepbuds" which have soothing sounds or stories using narrated scripts — or gentle hypnotic music and sound effects to help you relax. (I).
- Calm app has sleep sounds designed to help you focus, relax and sleep. Michael Buble, who suffers from Insomnia, is a big fan of "Calm app" and falls asleep to Matthew McConaughey's voice every night. (I).
- Double-glazed windows helped me to reduce the external noise without any gadgets. Luckily for me, my landlord paid for them. (I).
- Exercising your tongue and mouth can help to reduce sleep apnea symptoms by performing some oral exercises which strengthen the muscles of the throat and to clear the airway. (I) (SA) (UARS).
- Change your sleep scheduled by experimenting. Try going to bed later, or earlier and find out what time is best and stick to it. Record any TV programs you may miss and watch them the following day. (I) (DSPS).
- Bedroom temperature. The ideal bedroom temperature should be between 60 and 67 °F / (15 and 19 °C) for optimal sleep. Moderate your room temperature with duvets, pyjamas/nightie as well as your thermostat to regulate heat. For more reasons than to help sleep, why a colder room is better than a hotter room. (I).
- Never use sleeping pills. Pharmaceutical drugs can cause havoc on the body and should never be taken unless 100% required! The side effect to many medications includes insomnia! Pills may help temporarily, but trust me, will make sleeping harder in the long-run. Inspiration to help quit pharmaceutical. (I) (SA) (OSA).
- Spinning around on my bar-stool or office swivel chair (do at your own risk) always makes me very light-headed to the point of passing out and is a great way to change my non-tired mood before going to sleep into tired. Novelist Emily Bronte walked around in circles until she fell asleep. (I).
- Yawning late at night is a sign your body needs rest. Take advantage and go to bed.
- Feng Sui. The bed is the most important piece of furniture in the home. For those who practice Feng Sui, the beds position has even more importance depending on which direction it faces. From east, west, south or north, and everywhere between, each direction has pros and cons. Charles Dickens slept facing north to improve his creativity. Feng Sui bed position advice. (I).
- Sleeping in separate beds can improve sleep and relationships. I was waking-up in the early hours of the morning, but as soon as I became single my sleep improved. Thinking back, my partner may have been an insomniac and was waking me every time she was tossing and turning in bed — or from her restless leg syndrome she may have had. The solution would have been purchasing a double bed, made out of two separate mattresses which allowed each of us to move around without disturbing each other and each with its bespoke firmness to suit our needs. (I).
6/6. In Bed
"In bed and being asleep is the equivalent of putting a mobile phone or electric car back on charge to recharge your mind and body for ultimate performance and health."
- A comfortable mattress and pillow. You'll never know what real comfort is if you never experience it, because mattresses and pillow technology have become smarter. For me, it was a nightmare trying to find the right mattress and pillow for my weight, size and comfort needs. Should I buy a sponge, gel or memory foam? Or would a spring or dual spring or pocket-spring be comfortable? Should I buy a Hybrid mattress which combine two or more support materials? Perhaps a waterbed would be ideal! When you're out-and-about, or during your work lunch-break, pop into your local bed store or IKEA and have a lay-down. I would love to have taken advantage of the many mattress companies who offer a '100-night risk-free trial', but I am too accident-prone and worried I'd stain it making it non-returnable, or getting sea sick from bouncing around on a waterbed. Worried I'd puncture it and upset my landlord and the neighbours below! Thankfully, all I needed was a memory foam topper. (I).
- Suitable bedding materials are as important as having the right pillow and mattress. I never realised how heavy and painful my previous duvet was until I purchased a non-feathered variety. As for sheets, cotton is absorbent and pulls moisture from your skin. Silk or satin sheets are well worth the investment considering we spend a 3rd of our lives sleeping. Silk sheets are made of a hypoallergenic material which is resistant to dust mites and better at regulating temperature. Satin sheets can help anyone with allergies or those who are suffering from Eczema. Buying an anti allergy mattress protector (which are cheap) is a great way to ensure the bed bugs don't bite! (I).
- Boring thing to listen to and watch used to help me fall asleep, but it soon became a chore trying to find something new and boring to listen to or watch each night. Plus, I'm more environmentally and financially aware of electrical items being left on unnecessarily, preferring to use other organic and natural way to sleep. Best sounds to fall asleep. My friend would always fall asleep watching his favourite film or programme. When he woke up, he would go to bed. (I).
- Don't have a bedroom clock in view. Constantly waking-up and seeing the time will only cause unnecessary stress and make trying to fall sleep again much harder, and more stressful knowing how late or early it is. (I).
- How long should we sleep for? Like shoe-sizes, we are all different, sometimes a size 6, 7, 8 or 9 fits. Former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher managed to sleep for 4/5 hours each day, and she lived until the ripe old age of 87. Italian painter Leonardo da Vinci slept for 20 minutes every four hours. If unsure about how many hours you need, try experimental sleeping for more or less time and see how your body feels throughout the day. I thought I needed 8-9 hours, but 5-6 works for me which gives me extra hours each day to live life. (I) (SP).
- Sleeping too much is linked with the same health risks as sleeping too little. Oversleeping health risks.
- Avoid snoring by side-sleeping because sleeping on your back makes you more prone to snoring as it compresses the upper airway. When you sleep on your back, your jaw recedes, the tongue falls back and there is more oval shape of the upper airway. Side sleeping reduces the compression of your airways and can help snorers and their partners to get a good nights sleep. For severe snorers, surgery can trim down the soft palate and uvula, remove the tonsils and reposition some muscles of the soft palate. The only positive from snoring is at least you're sleeping! The negative? You could be keeping a partner awake. (OSA) (SDB) (SP).
- Needing to make more notes. I used to use a pen and paper (which required light and physical effort). I then used my mobile phone to record notes (which required light). Now I use an old Dictaphone with a "noise activation feature" which will only activate with sound. This is a great way to discover if you snore. Also, the Dictaphone will record any audible noises throughout the night. Including neighbours having heated argument in the early hours of the morning and emergency service sirens.
- Sleep schedule. Going to bed and waking-up at the same times every day, even on the weekends to keep the body clock ticking correctly. (I) (S/NT) (CRSD) (M) (SP).
- Sleeping position. There is no right or wrong way of sleeping. Whichever position you feel most comfortable with is key. For sleep paralysis (SP), studies suggest not lying on your back. (I) (SP).
- Level-headed. I have not found any scientific research or experiments to associate which position the head (brain) should be in for ultimate sleep. I do remember a sleep/dream specialist saying, "if you want to remember a dream when you awake, stay in the same position," because the more tossing and turning I did, made it harder to sleep, that's why it's best to be as comfortable as possible when in bed, to keep the head in the same position.
- Deep breathing for 5-10 minutes each day will help activate your parasympathetic system (the rest and digest system) and relax and lower the heart rate in preparation for sleep. Close your eyes and relax. Breathe through the nose slowly and deeply. Stay focused on your breath as it fills your lungs, expanding the rib-cage. With each exhale relax and let your mind come to rest. Continue for 1-5 minutes to unwind, relieve stress and enjoy a deep and restful sleep. (I) (SA).
- Muscle relaxation techniques are one of the easiest and mindful things to do to relax a tense stiff body. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. With each expel of air, relax each muscle and limb from your head to your toes. (I) (SA) (RLS).
- Bright light therapy (photo-therapy) works by stimulating cells in the retina that connect to the part of the brain that helps control circadian rhythms (hypothalamus). The exposure to bright light at specific times will help reset the body's sleep clock, and help with 'Seasonal Affective Disorder' (SAD). (I) (DSPS) (CRSD).
- Sex or self-gratification (preferably the sex:) can actually make it easier to fall asleep because having an orgasm releases a hormone called 'prolactin', which makes you feel relaxed and sleepy. (I).
- Urine and drinking bottles. One bottle of water, preferably in a plastic reusable bottle with a built-in straw to rehydrate with in any position you're laying in. And one bottle (similar to hospitals) to relive yourself without having to leave the bed. Be careful not to confuse the two bottles while half-asleep! (female urine bottles are available)
- Rolling up your eyes. Known as "Bell's phenomenon" (also known as the palpebral oculogyric reflex) is related to loss of consciousness. When you sleep, your eyes naturally roll back in your head, To naturally replicate this while awake, lay down and roll your eyes back intentionally, and slowly slower the breathing with each inhale and exhale of breath to relax your mind and heart rate to help sleep. (I) (REM).
- Imagination/visualisation. I imagine 'prosphenes' (the moving stars and patterns you see when the eyes are closed). This has a calming effect on my mind, and takes my mind off stressful things by mentally travelling through the galaxy, observing the moving specks of bright lights, shapes and flashes of colours.
- Cuddle a teddy bear, or a suitable pillow is very comforting and has helped me and many people feel comfortable and get to sleep. (I)
- Rocking yourself to sleep is usually seen as a mental health problem, but can be very effective and addictive. This can be done in bed or using a hammock. Rocking to sleep. (I).
- If you cannot sleep, get out of bed is the advice which is always given which makes sense. Instead of tossing and turning, just accept your body is not tired and leave the bedroom to find something relaxing to do until you feel sleep, then go back to bed. (I).
Last Resort: How to remove the stress of not sleeping and help get to sleep
When we cannot sleep, the temptation is to try harder to sleep. We then realise we're trying too hard to sleep, so we try not to try. We then become anxious and stressed.... worried we won't get enough sleep — perform less at work and feeling groggy. This makes the body produce more cortisone (the stress hormone) and not only does that make you feel more alert, it also interferes with the body's production of melatonin (the sleepy hormone) that prepares the body to sleep.
My top tip is to implant fake thoughts Into your mind. This has stopped the painful stabbing pains I experienced when I got stressed and worried when I couldn't get to sleep.
How it works. When the stress and frustration of not sleeping kicks-in, the trick is to imagine it's not late at night, but It's First Thing In The Morning (IFTITM) — that feeling we get with that extra lay-in time we try to squeeze in every morning when we awake — enjoying being in a warm comfortable bed regardless of sleeping or not - and using the "Imagination/visualisation" trick above also works wonders.
So, every-time the stress or worry kicks in because you cannot sleep, just imagine and keep telling yourself, IFTITM and I can assure you, you will relax enough to alleviate the stress of not sleeping, to help fall asleep.
Each human and sleep preferences are unique. What works for the goose will not always work for the gander, so experiment and find out what works for you.
Doing something is always better than nothing
Whatever you decide to do or avoid, use or sniff. Whatever gadgets or tech you choose to have attached to your body and, however, and whoever you sleep with, the good news is, doing something to improve your sleep will improve your sleep, as well as your overall health and hopefully have.... sweet dreams!
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
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