We all know that sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together. But what if our health issues emanate from sleep problems itself? The importance of a good night’s rest may not be as popular as eating a well-balanced meal, but adequate sleep is very important because of its vital effects on our overall physical health, emotional well-being, brain function and many others. The only time our bodies are able to repair, reset and regenerate is through sufficient sleep which entails an adequate number of hours coupled with the quality of sleep.
Most Common Sleep Disorder
Insomnia is the most common type of sleep disorder and is affects so many adults that is now been considered as a global public health concern. Sleep-deprived people actually become a concern at work, school and society in general because of the possible negative output it can generate. Another interesting finding is that sleep disorder is one of the most common complaints in any medical practice.
Because of insomnia, most people turn to medication for quick relief which may consequently evolve to dependency and addiction. The risk of sleep medications resulting in dependency and addiction means the need to consume more medication extends beyond the doctor’s prescription in dosage and frequency. Sleeping pills are not meant to treat insomnia or other sleep problems as their long-term use can cause serious and dangerous side effects to one’s health without resolving the root cause of the problem. Multiple gastric problems, daytime impairment and drowsiness, constant body weakness, memory and performance problems, weight gain are just some of the side effects of sleep medications if you consume them beyond the doctor’s prescription. The dependency also causes the development of an anxiety when one runs out of the pills and this becomes a vicious cycle that is difficult to break.
What People do to Sleep Better
People who have sleeping problems, out of desperation, resort to various methods and quick fixes without consulting a specialist. It is somehow easier to deal with them on a daily basis than having to go through the lengthy yet appropriate process of diagnosing the root cause and treating it accordingly. However, these temporary measures may not really be helpful at all and can actually cause serious problems when they are used long term. The following are the most misconceived common relief measures that most people do to sleep better:
- Alcohol. It is the most common substance people use to help them fall asleep. It does not require prescription. It is relatively cheaper than medication and is easily accessible. Even consuming it in small quantities, consistently with frequency the intake of alcohol disrupts a very important aspect of our bodies – the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm plays a role in the regulation of the many functions of the body such as metabolism, immunity, energy, sleep, sexual drive, cognitive functions and mood. Serious problems arise from its disruption.
- Screen time. Many people’s bedrooms are equipped with a TV, computers, and everyone has cellphones or another gadget. Another common quick fix and habit for many to help them fall asleep is watching something or browsing the internet. You may think it helps you fall asleep, but it actually delays the onset of sleep and it suppresses the production of melatonin which is a hormone that controls our sleep cycle. Certain products may also trigger and activate the brain to cause emotional stress which definitely does not help the body to be relaxed in order to sleep.
- Eating heavy meals prior to sleeping. This habit disrupts sleep by working up our metabolism even when it’s not supposed to.
Effective Sleeping Aids that Help Improve Sleep Quality
Due to the prevalence of insomnia and other sleeping disorders, many experts have focused on finding natural ways to help people sleep better, whether it is falling asleep or sleeping longer. Here is a compilation of some of the proven ideas to help one sleep better.
- Watch what you ingest before going to bed. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, heavy meals and too much liquid before bedtime.
- Avoid screen time. Movies, shows, news, articles and other updates only act as a distraction and may trigger stress or heightened emotions.
- Do some exercise during the day but not before bedtime.
- Follow a routine. Go to bed and wake up at a certain time every day.
- Create an environment conducive for sleep according to your preference. Generally, a quiet, dark or dim and a room temperature that is not too cold nor too warm contributes effectively to relax the body in preparation for sleep. Finding a comfortable and suitable pillow and blanket and sleepwear also helps.
- Do not nap too long in the afternoon.
- Take a relaxing bath or shower prior to bedtime.
- Manage your stress and try to develop the habit of clearing your head before bedtime. Find a method that works for you to take away the stress, negative emotions or worry to help prepare the mind for sleep. Practice a relaxation technique, listen to soothing music, read a short story, or pray.
- Focus on relaxation, not sleeping. Often times, when we are too conscious that we have not fallen asleep yet, we constantly check the time, and this creates more anxiety and is not helpful in falling asleep. When your goal is to get your body and brain relaxed, it will naturally wind down and you will fall asleep.
Despite these measures which offer effective relief and solutions, nothing can take the place of a proper assessment by a professional to diagnose the root cause of one’s sleeping disorder in order to ascertain whether it is of a pathologic cause or psychologic/psychiatric in nature. There are so many reasons why sleep disorders occur, and only a thorough, honest and transparent evaluation can assist a specialist on the best course of action. Once the root cause or causes are identified, the exact treatment and relief measures can be determined. It is true that most of times medications are an integral part of a phase of management. Solving this problem requires accountability and full compliance to follow the doctor’s prescription to the letter and cooperating by helping one’s self in order to avoid worsening the problem.