Sleep is a state of consciousness associated with rest and recuperation for the body and mind. People vary in the amount of sleep they need, depending on their age, lifestyle, diet, personality and environment. Generally, as individuals grow older they tend to sleep less and have more broken sleep. Newborn babies sleep for around 16 hours out of every 24, while adults average seven hours and the elderly only six.
A sleep disorder is a medical disorder of a person’s sleep patterns. Some sleep disorders are serious enough to interfere with normal physical, mental and emotional functioning. A lack of quality sleep can increase risk of accidents, affect relationships and physical and mental health.
Numerous sleep disorders have been identified by clinicians. Some of the more common ones include:
- Insomnia: A short term or chronic difficulty in falling asleep and/or staying asleep when no other cause is found for these symptoms. This is the most common sleep disorder in adults.
- Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS): An inability to awaken and fall asleep at socially acceptable times but no problem with sleep maintenance, a disorder of circadian rhythms.
- Sleep apnoea: The upper airway is blocked, causing airflow and breathing to stop for a time during sleep.
- Hypopnea Syndrome: Abnormally shallow breathing or slow respiratory rate while sleeping
- Narcolepsy: Extreme tiredness with intermittent sleepiness during the day, which can include involuntarily falling asleep at inappropriate times.
- Jet lag: a different time zone disrupts the body’s internal clock, which takes a few days to reset. Working night shift can mimic the symptoms of jet lag.
Signs which may indicate the presence of a sleep disorder include:
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Irritability or sleepiness during the day
- Difficulty staying awake when sitting still, watching television or reading
- Falling asleep or feel very tired while driving
- Difficulty concentrating
- Tiredness noticed by others
- Slow reactions
- Strong emotions
- Impulse to nap almost every day
Causes of sleep disorders
Sleep disorders are sometimes caused by other underlying factors. These may include:
- Changes in life style, such as shift work change
- Back pain
- Chronic pain
- Environmental noise
- Drug side effects
- Drug withdrawal
- Hormone changes
Treatment for sleeping disorders
A number of different treatment modalities are available to assist people with sleep disorders. The choice of a specific treatment depends on the person’s diagnosis, medical and psychiatric history and preferences. Sleep disturbances that are secondary to mental, medical, or substance abuse disorders are managed by treating their underlying conditions first. For more serious sleep disorders, it is recommended that a person consult a specialized sleep clinic. However, for more common sleep difficulties such as insomnia, typical treatments include:
- relaxation training
- behavioral/ psychotherapeutic treatments
- neurofeedback training
Many of these can be used in combination. This combination needs to be individually developed to suit the needs of the person with the disorder.
Listen And Learn Centre specializes in providing neurofeedback training to assist clients who are experiencing insomnia. Neurofeedback involves the placement of wire sensors on an individual’s head to measure the electrical rhythms of their brain (EEG).
The technique of using neurofeedback to teach relaxation has been found to be very effective in helping some people to sleep. Neurofeedback is also an effective non-medication option to help restore normal sleeping patterns. Individuals with sleeping difficulties who have undergone neurofeedback training have reported that it helps to quiet the “chatter” of the mind and relax the body and so that sleep is more easily achieved and maintained throughout the night. For more information about how neurofeedback works, go to our neurofeedback pages.
Sleep hygiene – What you can do to help
In addition to undertaking sleep therapies, you can help get a better night’s sleep by:
- avoiding beverages that contain caffeine such as tea and coffee;
- avoiding other stimulants such as alcohol before sleep (excess alcohol may appear to help people get to sleep initially, but may cause waking after a few hours);
- avoiding meals or large snacks just before going to bed;
- following a regular sleeping and waking routine
- keeping your bed just for sleeping;
- not going to bed too early unless you need to wake up very early;
- not taking naps during the day or, if you do take a nap, keep it short (about 15 minutes);
- exercising during the day or late afternoon and relaxing before going to bed; and
- practising relaxation techniques.
Would you like to know more?
Contact the centre.