I have written a blog about insomnia before – Is insomnia making your desperate
- but here are some new facts about this dilemma and how the lack of sleep impacts on our health.
Over time the lack of sleep can lead to these problems
• Weight gain
• High blood sugar levels and the increased risk of diabetes
• Brain damage
He says “The consequences of sleep deprivation are so intense because your circadian rhythm has evolved over hundreds of generations to align your physiology with your environment, and your body clock assumes that, like your ancestors, you sleep at night and stay awake during daylight hours. If you confuse the situation by depriving yourself of enough hours of sleep, you send conflicting signals to your body.”
In addition to the health risks listed above, too little sleep can also
• Increase your risk of cancer by altering the balance of hormones in your body
• Accelerate aging
• Increase your risk of heart disease and stroke
• Raise your blood pressure
• Speed up tumor growth as it has been found that tumors grow 2 to 3 times faster in laboratory animals with severe sleep dysfunctions
Sleep researchers across the US have also discovered
• A single night of sleeping only 4 to 6 hours can impact your ability to think clearly the next day
• Sleep deprivation can cause changes in your brain activity similar to those experienced by people with psychiatric disorders
• As your body does most of its repair work during sleep, not getting enough of it can impair your immune system leaving you less able to fight off diseases of all kind
One of the reasons why Americans are not getting enough sleep is because they have a set time that they have to get up in the mornings for getting to work and other commitments but they just don’t go to bed earlier enough the night before to ensure that elusive “eight hours sleep”. So there is a very simple, and easily remedied, solution.
Americans need to go to bed earlier!
But a lot of people actually suffer from insomnia or restless leg syndrome (RLS) which can become very debilitating. If you suffer from insomnia, you may find it difficult to fall asleep in the first place, you may wake up too early, you may keep waking up all through the night or may just wake up feeling unrefreshed. RLS is a condition caused by a disorder in the central nervous system that may increase with age and can also appear during the last months of pregnancy. RLS is unpleasant sensations in the legs and an uncontrollable urge to move (even while you are trying to rest) in order to relieve these feelings in your legs. These sensations can vary from just plain uncomfortable, to irritating to really painful.
Medical conditions and/or lifestyle are usually the cause of insomnia
Many of these causes are common to both conditions:
• More than 2 alcoholic drinks of cups of coffee close to bedtime can change sleep structure
• Environmental changes such as going on vacation or sleeping in different surroundings
• Eating a large meal close to bedtime
• Jet lag
• Other sleep disorders such as RLS or obstructive sleep apnoea
• Conditions such as kidney disease, heart failure, asthma, painful arthritis
, cancer or hormonal imbalances during menopause or pregnancy
• And of course just worrying about not being able to sleep so that the insomnia becomes part of a vicious cycle
You can also improve the situation by
• Cutting out caffeine, alcohol and tobacco (or at the very least drastically reducing their use)
• Taking iron supplements if you are low in iron
• Start an exercise program where you have 5 minutes leg stretching and walking about every hour when you are working, plus a brisk 30 minutes walk every day - swimming and jogging are good too
• As RLS can occur during a long car trip or flight, make sure you exercise and stretch as well as walking around as frequently as possible
• At bedtime, relax with meditation, yoga or deep breathing
• Have a warm, soaking bath
• Make sure you have a comfortable bed, in a comfortable room with the minimum of light, noise and extremes of temperature while the room should be well ventilated
If either of your conditions is really severe and nothing helps, consult a sleep specialist. The important thing is to avoid sleeping pills as they can become very addictive and do not help to alleviate the underlying causes of insomnia or RLS.
Sleeping pills are the most prescribed medication in the world!