Monday, April 28, 2014

Sleep - What should be natural evades so many of us

The expression "sleeping like a baby" can be confusing. While it's true that babies can and do sleep very deeply, they also can wake up because of the slightest sound if it comes at the right/wrong time. How many sleep-deprived parents ended up tiptoeing around their babies after spending hours trying to get them to sleep - only to have the doorbell or phone ring moments later?

When we were children, we often fought the need for sleep. We wanted to stay up a little longer, read one more chapter, watch one more television show - anything to keep from going to bed. You never know what we might miss if we're sleeping! As teens, many of us didn't want to go to bed, but once we were in it, it could take dynamite to get us out. But then as adults, as our lives become more complex, we have more responsibilities, sleep often begins to evade us. We don't have time to go to bed when we would like, we toss and turn, and have to get up much earlier than our body would like. What went wrong?

Research into sleep and its effect on our health is ongoing and the results are interesting. In 2008, Harvard University published an article called The Hidden Cost of Insufficient Sleep. The author discusses some of the physical effects that lack of sleep can cause, such as obesity and heart disease. This really came as no surprise to many people who do live with sleep issues. This article from Norway, Insomnia can cause fibromyalgia, (2011) also discusses the issue.

Insomnia or interrupted sleep can also have an effect on our mental health. A study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that people who experienced insomnia had a higher risk of developing depression than did those who did not have insomnia. Another article examines the relationship between insomnia and depression: Is Chronic Insomnia a Precursor to Major Depression?

There is also, of course, a lot to be said about how certain health issues cause sleep problems. Someone with fibromyalgia, for example, may be very fatigued but unable to sleep because of pain or sensory issues. Someone who is anxious or depressed may not be able to get to sleep or stay asleep. Other conditions that cause chronic pain or even those that cause inconveniences, such as having to wake up several times a night to urinate, all cause interruptions in sleep that then means a restful sleep has not happened.

So is there hope? Sleep isn't taken seriously enough by many people but it should be. If you are having difficulty sleeping, speak to your doctor about it. Keep a journal with the number of hours you've slept, observations from your sleeping partner if you have one, and how you feel every day. Armed with this information, you may have a better discussion with your doctor or nurse practitioner about what is happening.

Sleeping pills do help many people, but there are other issues involved with medications for sleep, so if a non-medication method can be helpful, it is usually best to try those first.

Do you have trouble sleeping? If so, what do you do for it? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section and maybe we can learn from each other.

Previous posts about sleep on my blog:

1 comment:

Kathy said...

I have fibromyalgia, since 1996. Last year I went for a sleep study & was diagnosed with sleep apnea (after complaining to my doctor for a year about fatigue night sweats etc.) I am now on a CPAP machine and overall feel much better. While I still have FM and other chronic illnesses and still awaken at night for other reasons, I have more energy and less fatigue overall, no more night sweats, night time panic attacks, and peeing several times a night, loud snoring, etc. I would encourage anyone with daytime sleepiness, unrefreshing sleep, after being in bed 8 hrs or more and still feeling exhausted when you wake up, and other symptoms of sleep apnea, to get a sleep study done.