Most people have already experienced problems when it comes to sleep, sometimes our minds are restless, and our bodies can’t rest enough or at all. Our brains are complex, they don’t stop working for 24/7 to keep us alive by keeping our vital functions working properly but the problems start when we can’t stop thinking even while at night.
Everyone has had at least one bad night of sleep during their lifetimes due to numerous factors, it could be due to an illness, stress or even not feeling tired enough. Punctually this will happen to everyone, the problem is when it keeps happening repeatedly and has serious repercussions in your work or school.
Our stressful lifestyles with work and school are prone to develop sleep conditions. Stress can lead to overthink and over worry about issues that probably didn’t needed that much attention or won’t be solved until the day after. Unfortunately, our brain isn’t that easy to control and sometimes we might need a little extra help to get enough sleep.
Not getting enough sleep has consequences for you, your productivity lowers and you feel tired all the time. If this situation repeats for an extended period, it will have devastating consequences for you and your health.
1. What is a Sleeping Disorder? How Can it Be Characterized?
Specialists call a sleeping disorder a condition that has an impact on your daily sleep schedule. Although it is considered normal to have some difficulties when trying to sleep if it happens occasionally, it is considered a problem if it happens regularly and people end up waking up exhausted (feeling like they haven’t rest) and feel too tired during the day. It is a debilitating and frustrating experience since you feel tired because you haven’t slept enough but even though you feel too tired, you can’t sleep at night. You see yourself in a never-ending cycle of exhaustion and lack of productivity since you need to sleep to get your work well done but you simply can’t rest enough even though you are extremely tired, and then the cycle repeats itself.
As you can’t keep getting enough sleep day by day you are arming yourself and start having trouble controlling your mood, don’t have enough energy for the day, can’t work properly and start having a tough time dealing with stress. Besides, currently not having enough sleep has a detrimental effect on your physical health, making you gain weight! Besides you’ll have problems at your work or school since you aren’t able to perform at your maximum potential.
Before looking for the help of a doctor you can try by yourself try to understand your sleeping patterns, make slight changes in your everyday habits that are warming your sleep. If that doesn’t help you can look for help with a specialist that will help you understand the root of your problem and improve your sleep quality with treatments specially designed for you.
2. Symptoms of a Sleep Disorder
Unfortunately, everyone has or will experience occasional sleeping problems any time during their lifetime. It will probably be just a passing problem, maybe one or two nights and you’ll easily come back to your normal sleeping routine. The problem is when it becomes a bigger issue and having trouble sleeping affects your daily life.
There are some symptoms that can help you diagnosing a sleep disorder: if you feel sleep or irritable during the day, have difficulty staying still while doing activities that require concentration, have difficult or feel tired while driving, other people constantly tell you that you look tired, have a slow reaction to impulses or actions, have a tough time controlling your emotions, feel the need to take a nap during the day or constantly require caffeinated beverages to keep awake you might suffer from a sleep disorder.
3. Causes of Don’t Stop Thinking When Trying to Sleep
Besides stress there are many sleep health conditions that make people struggling in getting a good night of sleep. There are a few diseases that can range from common to rare.
In the group of health conditions that make you don’t stop thinking while trying to sleep is insomnia. This condition is caused by stress, taking some types of medication, dealing with anxiety, depression, drugs or even alcohol. People whom suffer from insomnia feel falling asleep harder. This can be an occasional situation but if it happens repeatedly it can be considered a chronic condition and need medical assistance.
Other conditions like sleep apnea (a disease caused by a partial blockage of the throat that cause stop breathing for short periods of time while sleeping), restless leg syndrome (a disease characterized by an urge need to move the limbs, occurring mostly during periods of rest), REM sleep behavior disorder (sudden and intense movements when trying to fall asleep), sleepwalking (walk while sleeping, or even performing regular daytime activities while sleeping) and narcolepsy (a condition that causes excessive and uncontrollable daytime sleepiness).
You can also be experiencing circadian rhythm sleep disorders and that is why you can’t stop thinking while you are trying to sleep. Everyone has a natural biological rhythm, imagine that you have a clock that regulates the day, the 24 hours, and that defines the wake and sleep times, that regulation is known by circadian rhythm. That rhythm is controlled by extern factors that indicate to your brain when you should rest or keep doing your daily activities. Light is one of the main factors that influences your circadian rhythm. When you have less light you have around you, your body releases melatonin, a hormone that makes you feel the need to sleep. When you have too much light around you, your brain blocks that hormone, telling you that you should be awake.
If for some reason your circadian rhythm is disrupted, you may experience disorientation and sleepiness when you shouldn’t. The disruption of the circadian circle is commonly associated with sleeping problems and disorders and psychiatric issues like depression, bipolar disorder and winter blues.
Most people main reason for not getting enough sleep is excessive stress, but in some cases, there is a health problem hidden behind having a challenging time sleeping. If you feel like you might have one health condition that is keeping you from sleeping correctly you should look for the help of a doctor.
4. Effects of Not Getting Enough Sleep
When you sleep, your body recovers from the daily waste of energy. If you can’t sleep you are not allowing your body to rest and your cells and systems to restart their functions every day. Not sleeping enough can affect your life in many distinct aspects, on your work or school but specially on your health. This situation should never be dragged since it has terrible consequences for you and everyone around you.
Not sleeping enough can cause accidents! Studies have shown data that proves that not sleeping enough lead to as much car crashes as by DUI. Also, not sleeping enough is related to accidents and injuries at work.
Sleep has an essential role in learning since if you rest enough you’ll have more attention, concentration, reasoning and be able to solve problems easily. Also, while sleeping your brain consolidates memories. If you don’t have enough rest, you’ll have a tough time learning and feel like you are being get behind.
About 90% of people who suffer with insomnia have another health condition, sleep disorders are usually associated with heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes.
Not getting enough sleep may be causing you problems in your relationship since not resting enough has been reported to lower libido and gives you less interest in sex. Not having enough energy usually lowers the testosterone (in men) and estrogen (in women) levels, reducing the sex drive.
Sleepiness gets you depressed, it has been liked to symptoms of depression since people associated with depression or anxiety usually sleep less than six hours at night. Insomnia is strongly lined to depression since they feed on each other: if you don’t sleep right your symptoms of depression get worse and you start having even more difficulty so sleep. It ends up in a vicious cycle.
Skin aging is also associated with the quality of your sleep, people who miss a few nights have experienced sallow skin and puffy eyes. When in a chronic situation of sleep loss, the skin loses its shine, you get fine lines and dark circles under the eyes. If you don’t get enough sleep your body releases cortisol, that breaks the skin collagen (a protein that keeps the skin’s smoothness and elasticity). Also, not resting enough will make your body release too little human growth hormone; when released in the regular levels, this hormone increases muscle mass, thickens skin and strengthen bones.
Have you been feeling forgetful? It might be because you can’t sleep enough. During sleep it happens an event called “sharp wave ripples”, a process that is responsible for the consolidation of the memory were the information learned is transferred from the hippocampus to the neocortex of the brain, place where the long-term memories are stored.
Have you been noticing some extra-pounds? Not sleeping enough will increase your hunger and appetite, leading to obesity. Studies have shown that sleeping less than six hours every day have a chance 30% higher to become obese than people who sleep from seven to nine hours. Short times of sleep are associated with a decrease in the hormone leptin and an increase in ghrelin. Ghrelin hormone stimulates hunger and leptin gives the information to the brain that you are already satiated, suppressing your appetite. Also, not getting enough sleep increases the cravings for high fat and high carbohydrate foods.
Lack of sleep also increases the risk of death, studies have shown that people whom slept for 5 to seven hours have a doubled risk of death from all causes but with a focus for cardiovascular diseases.
When you are having a poor sleep quality you might have a wrong interpretation of events, therefore you’ll have a tough time make the right judgment and act wisely. People whom suffer from sleep deprivation are especially prone to make poor judgments, studies have shown that people who get as little as 6 hours (or less) of sleep lowers your alertness and performance, making you do the wrong choices since you aren’t able to think on all the options available.
If you have been feeling any of this effects in your life you have probably suffering from sleep deprivation for a while now, it is extremely important for you to recognize that you have a problem and start your journey to treat it.
5. Treat Your Problem and Start Sleeping Right
The first step to treat a sleeping disorder is to identify and understand your problem. Only this way you can easily understand what’s wrong and change in your everyday habits.
To start we recommend you keeping a sleep diary, there you can register all your daily and night time habits. This will allow you to understand if you are sleeping enough and what are your habits and how can they influence your bed time. A good sleep diary should include the time you went to bed and the time you got up, the total sleep hours and the quality of sleep (poor, enough or good), a record of everything you have done since you woke up (“wake up, got up, had breakfast, went to work”, etc.), the type of food you had and the respective amounts (foods, liquids, caffeine, alcohol with the respective times of consumption), the feelings you are having and mood before bed (if you feel happy, sad, stressed, anxious don’t forget to write it down) and all the medication you have (don’t forget the dosage and the time). All the details matter since small behaviors can ruin a night of sleep. After registering all your behaviors for about a week you might notice that you have some repetitive actions that might be harmful for your sleep, like that cup of coffee during the afternoon of that glass of wine during dinner.
Another way to get yourself to sleep better is by improving your daily habits. Besides getting a better sleep, good habits are to keep so you can be healthy and protect yourself from many diseases. Try to keep a consistent sleep schedule, have exercise regularly, limit or stop having alcoholic and caffeinated drinks, stop smoking and try having a stress-free life. Besides having a better sleep, you’ll also improve your general health.
You should also develop a relaxing bedtime routine, so you can prepare your mind and body for having a good night of sleep. Stay in a room which is quiet, dark and cool. Avoid having heavy meals, too many fluids, alcohol or caffeine. Take a warm bath before going to bed, read a soft book and listen to soothing music. Don’t use any screens for at least one hour before going to bed. You can also try to have a cup of chamomile tea to help you calm down.
If you suffer from a sleeping disorder you probably wake up at night and the hardest part is getting to sleep again. As soon if you wake up try to meditate, focus on your breathing or use any other relaxation technique you feel comfortable with. If you wake up worried about something that will happen the next day try to get it out of your mind and focus on other things, overthinking won’t solve it. But if you take longer than 20 minutes to fall asleep again, get up; try to relax out of your bed so your brain doesn’t recognize your bed as a place to think and be awake.
6. Looking for Professional Help
After trying to solve the problem by yourself and you don’t seem to get any better you should look for specialized help. Look for an appointment with a sleep specialist if your main sleep problem is feeling sleepy all day and the changes you have made on your routine haven’t improve your sleep quality, you gasp or stop breathing during sleep, you usually fall asleep in inappropriate times. When talking to the doctor give the more information possible, specially the one you have registered on your sleep diary.
The doctor will observe measurable values in your sleep pattern, brain waves, heart rate, rapid eye movements (REM) by monitoring all this data using special devices. It might be weird sleeping attached to a machine with wires around you, but this is one of the quickest ways to get all the data needed in a quick way. Besides, all this data is determinant to understand the main reason of your problem and therefore the sleep specialist will be able to design a treatment program specially designed for you to have better results solving your problems.
In extreme cases it might be needed a special therapy with the usage of medication.