Sleep it out

March 23, 2018 Lifestyle Diseases 10277 Views


For middle-aged Smita Kulkarni, the seemingly perfect homemaker, life was pretty good. Her son had secured admission in one of the best engineering colleges and she and her husband had also made arrangements for his accommodation at a hostel. Smita felt that now she would be at peace and would sleep the minute they would reach home. But something was amiss. She continued to feel tired during the day and the urge to have short naps persisted; but the minute she would lie down, she would be restless and wide awake. Trying to stay calm, Smita tried taking deep breaths, listening to soothing music and even went for a few meditation sessions with her friends. One of them suggested, “Smita, you need to learn to relax. Why don’t you begin yoga, it will help you take things easy.”

Neither Smita nor her friend realized that her symptoms indicated a sleep disorder, mainly characterized by snoring, fatigue etc. In fact, many people overlook snoring as a serious impediment to good health and ignore it.

Another case is of an executive who typically endures a high level of stress. Meet Anil Majumdar, Regional Sales Manager for a telecom company where every single day is fraught with dipping ROI and how to increase it, irregular meal times, commuting woes; compounded by weekly jetlags, unhealthy hotel food and the occasional party with unlimited drinks.

Anil began to have difficulty in falling asleep and this began to reflect in his work as a lack of concentration. He also started to get anxious and irritable over little things, so much so that his colleagues began to distance themselves from him. With increased isolation and not belonging to a clique, further aggravating his condition, Anil was headed towards a breakdown. While these lifestyle factors worsened his sleep disorder, there are many other pointers that prevent people from having a night of rest and waking up feeling refreshed.

Causes of sleep disorders

  • Breathing problems
  • Frequent urination in the night
  • Arthritis, aches, and pains
  • Digestive problems causing insomnia

Both for Anil and Smita, resetting their sleep schedule would help immensely. First and foremost, the light affects our body clock the most. It’s the signal to the brain the one that commands flicking on or off the melatonin switch – the sleep hormone. How much sleep you get or don’t get depends on how you work with your body clock. This body clock changes according to age so typically sleep patterns vary for children, teenagers, and senior citizens. Pulmonologist and Chest Physician says that a newborn child requires 17 hours of sleep – that’s normal. But this isn’t the norm for a teenager who would sleep for 10 hours or maybe less. In old age, people doze off to sleep in the mornings or indulge in afternoon siestas. Their total sleep time would be just 7 hours.

Some simple steps to solve sleep problems

  • Keeping a sleep diary or using a sleep tracker can be beneficial as the first step in diagnosing a sleep disorder as it helps to record the sleep pattern of an individual.
  • Sleeping on your belly can hinder you from sleeping beside straining your neck as well as your lower back. In fact, 7% of people in a study conducted in the US, are tummy sleepers, who sleep with their arms around a pillow. However, sleeping on your back may also cause lower back problems and further intensify sleep apnea and snoring.
  • You should avoid sleep bingeing. Late nights throughout the week and sleeping in on weekends to catch up, is destructive. Instead, a routine is recommended whereby you have fixed hours of sleep.
  • Chart a healthy diet with more vegetables and fish, less tobacco, alcohol, sugar, and caffeine with the latter best being avoided towards evening. Carbohydrates should be limited before retiring for the night.

Diagnosis of sleep disorders

In order to ascertain whether sleeping pills should be prescribed, or anti-allergents should be given to cure possible allergies which lead to respiratory problems and consequently snoring, it is important to diagnose the underlying cause.

A physical exam is needed to obtain the medical history of someone suspected of sleep disorder.

  •  It is necessary to measure and graph brainwaves, oxygen levels, and body movements and their corresponding effect on how they disrupt sleep. Polysomnography and an electroencephalogram can do this too.

Many hospitals across the country have dedicated cells to treat sleep disorders, under medical experts. Consult a neurologist today. 

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