Some of the most prevalent problems people suffer from in the 21st century are chronic sleeping disorders. Given the nature of life in the 21st century, congested living, a fast pace lifestyle and all sorts of problems that consume our daily lives, it’s no surprise that we suffer from ailments unique to our century and times. Understanding the nature of sleeping disorders and being in a position to deal with them, whether it’s on the individual level through homemade remedies or through the assistance of professional help,- aided by medication and other modern innovations-, it’s important to know that there is now a plethora of potential solutions for sleeping disorders.

Are sleep disorders treatable?

Entire industries have been built upon promises to cure the ailment of sleeping disorders, whether its sleep apnea, outright insomnia, or even more common annoyances like snoring. Finding the right solution for your sleeping woes it critical to improving standard of living and quality of life. Not being able to get a good nights shut-eye can become a peeve that turns from a mere annoyance to an outright problem that can affect work, family, and even valuable relationships. There are a host of home-remedies in addition to medications which have proven to be successful in numerous cases, and have been subjected to widespread use. Most likely whatever your particular case may be, it isn’t anything new. It’s more than likely that someone before you has experienced a similar problem and has more than likely found ways to cope with whatever particular condition you may be suffering from. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel, especially when most of the necessary information has been documented and solutions already found.

Sleep deprivation and health

The first thing to consider when trying to get to the bottom of your sleeping disorder is your health condition. Are you a healthy person? Do you exercise regularly? Are you obese? Does your diet mainly comprise of fast food? These are just some of the questions that may not only help your medical practitioner put their finger on your problem, but can allow you to make a relatively basic assessment of your own health condition.

According to a research reported by the Daily Mirror and highlighted by the NHS, almost 30% of the UK is sleep deprived.1 The data was based on a report by the Mental Health Foundation in which they sought to show a connection between mental health and sleep deprivation. The connection between mental illness and sleep deprivation is very real and strong. Understanding the fact that the human body is interconnected in so many ways is one of the first steps to improve your understanding of how your own body works. In addition, the above mentioned research made the connection between mental health, sleep deprivation and relationship issues.

Am I getting enough sleep?

Generally, doctors and medical practitioners have come to a collective consensus on the average amount of time necessary for the human body to get enough rest. According to the Sleep Foundation, an authority on issues concerning sleep and sleep deprivation, it’s recommended that the average adult get between 7-9 hours of sleep.2 Too little sleep can mean that you develop a sleep debt (which we’ll talk about a bit later), and this can potentially lead to chronic sleep deprivation if extreme. Too much sleep (meaning in that you sleep regularly more than ten (10) hours daily) and you may need to be assessed for a sleeping disorder. Ten (10) plus hours or more is too much sleep for an average adult. Unless recovering from an illness or making up sleep debt, more than ten (10) hours on a regular basis is unquestionably extreme.  

Sleep is generally used as an indicator of one’s overall health. Human beings spend approximately one-third of our lives asleep and getting enough rest is something that’s of critical importance from birth to old age. The need for sleep varies depending on numerous different factors, ie. the younger you are the more sleep is necessary, if injured more sleep is necessary for recovery etc.

The following are some general guidelines as it concerns the amount of sleep ideal for people of particular ages and who fall within specific age groups. Although there can be variations given certain circumstances these estimates are considered accurate.

General guidelines as it refers to getting enough sleep:

  • Toddlers – (under two years of age) – generally require about 11-14 hours a day.
  • School-age children – under thirteen (13) years old require 9-11 hours a day.
  • Teenagers (ages 14-17) – need about 8-10 hours each day.
  • Most adults need 7 to 9 hours a night for ideal amount of sleep, although some people may need as few as 6 hours and would be still able to function relatively well.
  • Older adults (ages 65 and older) – need 7-8 hours of sleep each day.

Note: Women in the earlier months of pregnancy may sometimes need a couple more hours of sleep than usual.

If you’re dealing with sleeping disorders, or know someone having issues with getting rest it’s sometimes difficult to find out whether it’s due to an underlying condition, for example: anxiety, mental illness, cancer, heartburn etc. It’s important to firstly contact a doctor and get checked out as soon as possible. Most sleeping disorders have underlying causes which can be identified by a medical professional. Once a doctor is able to identify whether or not there is an underlying factor affecting your sleep, then a potential solution for your problem can be found and the necessary recommendations made.

There are a host of sleeping disorders which exist, going through all of them is an almost impossible task. However, we’ve attempted to whittle them down to some of the most important ones out there. Here are some of the most prevalent sleeping disorders out there today.

Types of sleep disorders

Narcolepsy – Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder which affects the way in which the body controls sleep and wakefulness. It comes in the form of what is called ‘sleep attacks’. In otherwise normal waking hours a person suffering from narcolepsy can find themselves falling into deep sleep instantaneously. The condition usually goes undiagnosed and untreated.

Insomnia – One of the more well-known sleeping disorders, insomnia is characterized by either difficulty trying to fall asleep or staying asleep. It ranges from acute to the more severe chronic insomnia. It can also be divided into primary and secondary insomnia. Primary insomnia means that a person is having issues with sleep that’s not directly associated with any underlying illness. Secondary insomnia refers to sleeping issues coming to the fore primarily as a result of an underlying illness eg. asthma, heartburn, cancer or other illnesses.

Apnea – Sleep Apnea is a disorder in which people suffering from this condition stop breathing during sleep. In some extreme cases one may stop breathing up to hundreds of times. The cause of apnea is mainly due to the brain not receiving sufficient oxygen while sleeping. This condition is a serious problem which can make sleeping extremely uncomfortable.

Sleep paralysis –  This form of sleeping disorder is characterized by a temporary paralysis and an inability to move when you’re waking or falling asleep. It’s a feeling of being conscious but being unable to move. It’s not harmful and should pass in seconds or maybe minutes. It can be very frightening but it’s guaranteed to pass.

Parasomnia – Generally considered a relatively rare condition (partially due to the condition not being diagnosed), parasomnia refers to abnormal things that happen while one is asleep. Nightmares, sleep walking, night terrors, or even seksomnia (characterized by an individual engaging in sexual acts while still asleep) can be characteristics of parasomnia.

Snoring –  One of the more common sleeping disorders, snoring can affect anyone and any age group. Although proven to be more common among men and those who are overweight, snoring occurs when the flow of air through the mouth or nose is obstructed. This obstruction can be caused by numerous different factors, eg. obstructed nasal pathways, bulky throat tissue, or poor muscle tone in the throat and tongue (most prevalent among the obese).

What is sleep debt?

Over a period of time, when someone hasn’t had sufficient sleep there is almost a build up in our ‘sleep debt’ column per se. The human body functions in a quite unique way when sleep is in question. Understanding the notion of repaying your sleep debt is a relatively new phenomenon.3 According to Harvard University Health Research, one should consider settling their sleep debt as best as possible to ensure that their body regains a degree of balance. For example, if over the week you’ve lost about 10 hours in sleep, consider putting in a couple extra hours over the weekend.

The cumulative effect of not getting enough sleep can lead to a growing sleep debt. Repaying one’s sleep debt is critical to one’s overall health. Sleep is a critical part of one’s well being and ensuring that you’ve had a sufficient nights rest could be the difference between having a productive day or even a more productive and healthy life in the long run.

Some studies have shown that sleep deprivation can have almost catastrophic effects on the human body, especially when one doesn’t repay sleep debt. Although sleep obviously doesn’t trump food and water in the hierarchy of necessities for humans, the fact of the matter is that human beings can’t live without it. Research has proven that a lack of sleep over long periods can result in loss of immune function, illness and most certainly death – laboratory experiments with rats have confirmed this to be the case.

How can I avoid sleep deprivation?

Sleep deprivation is one of those things that many of us have no control over. Say you’re lying in the bed, with work in the next 7 hours or so but you just can’t seem to get any shut-eye. Consider some of the following options as potential remedies below:

  • Have a place specially reserved for sleep: Maybe when you were younger, with much less obligations, more free time, and different priorities, you were probably able to sleep on command. Not anymore. It’s important to set aside a specific place for sleeping and even meditation. An area or room that’s completely dedicated to calm and soothing thoughts.
  • Develop a rhythm and pattern: Having a specific time when you go to bed helps to develop a natural timer in your body. Once you develop a pattern and rhythm to your sleeping, it would get easier to go to bed regularly and wake up regularly. Develop routine!
  • Nap during the day only if necessary: Stay away from those day time naps, they’re not only counter-productive but makes night rest more difficult to achieve. Although one ought to shy away from the notion that sleep is a luxury, getting just enough ought to be your priority.  
  • Avoid caffeine later on in the day: Although generally caffeine is a stimulant that’s ideally best avoided, you may need your morning jolt to get on with your work day. If this is the case, try to stay away from coffee completely after lunch time. Even more so and most importantly any time around the period when you’re planning to sleep, keep your distance from the caffeine. In fact, keep coffee to the morning time and stay away from it after lunch.
  • Get regular exercise (preferably in the morning): Getting sufficient exercise is critical to maintaining overall health and well-being in addition to starving off a host of diseases and ailments. Couple this with the fact that by getting enough exercise you effectively prepare your body for a good night’s rest.

Who is most at risk?

Here we will briefly consider various demographic groups that are at risk of getting affected by various sleep disorders.

Women

Women who are caring for newborn babies in addition to juggling family life and career find themselves missing out on certain things – most of all sleep and physical rest. The sleeping patterns of a toddler can sometimes be inconsistent therefore placing the onus on the parent, most likely the mother, to have to care for the young one(s).

The reality is that mainly women find it most difficult to catch up on lost sleep and get the necessary amounts of rest. One of the great misconceptions as it concerns sleep is the notion that it is some sort of a luxury. Infact, sleep is as important to the human body as is exercise or a well-balanced and nutritious diet. For women, getting help in taking care of your newborn and making sure to put aside a designated period in the day (most preferably night-time) to get your rest is critical.

Children

Children are another group who’re at risk of serious health problems if they do not get the sufficient rest needed. Sleep is critical to physical growth and children should get as much sleep as possible so as to ensure that the natural processes take place.

Furthermore, children who are well-rested have a much stronger immune system. Toddlers in particular produce growth hormones while they’re asleep. This contributes to building muscles, bones and ensuring the proper development of blood vessels. Rested children are generally happier, more alert, and overall healthier than those who don’t get sufficient rest.

Adolescents/College Students

One of the most at-risk groups, outside of women, who suffer from sleep deprivation are usually college students and adolescents. At an age when the natural desire for independence is bursting at the seams, older teens may prefer to spend more of their time glued to the TV, phones, or computer for lengthy periods of time as opposed to getting that necessary shut-eye. Helping your son or daughter to understand the importance of sleep, in addition to putting limits on  there use of social media would go some way to ensuring greater health for them in the present and the future.

In the case of college students, late night partying and late night studying can take the place of the much needed shut eye. College students have a propensity to live by the motto of: “go hard or go home”, and this can have a detrimental impact on their health and academics. Although during college, and youth in general, there is time and space to have a great deal of fun, it can prove to have a negative impact on one’s health in the present and future. Ensuring that one makes up for the lack of sleep after long night outs is important to overall success as a student and would prove vital to maintaining health later on in life.

Your health Your responsibility

Quite frankly, we’re all at risk of serious health problems if we do not get enough rest. However, although adults are better conditioned to deal with the stress and physical toll of not having enough rest it’s still a necessity – like food and water – to get sufficient amounts. Getting sufficient rest ought to be a priority for both young and old.

The concept of sleep debt is that even though one may not be getting sufficient rest on a regular basis, it could still be made up. The human body would feel just as fresh.

So make sure and get the necessary shut eye whenever you can.

  1. Sleep Problems in the UK – NHS
  2. How Much Sleep do we Need – Sleep Foundation
  3. Repaying Sleep Debt – Harvard Health Publishing

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