Sleeping problems

It is common to have temporary problems falling asleep or to have undisturbed sleep. However, if you are experiencing constant sleep deprivation that is beginning to affect your daily quality of life, it may be time to consider seeking help. There are a variety of measures and strategies you can try to improve your sleep.

Sleep difficulties refer to abnormal sleep habits and can be manifested in different ways.

Here are some examples:

  • Insomnia: This means difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep throughout the night.

  • Sleep Apnea: A condition where breathing pauses occur during sleep.

  • Restless legs: This manifests as leg cramps which can make it difficult to fall asleep.

  • Narcolepsy: A disease that causes involuntary sleep attacks during the day.

Sleep plays a crucial role in the recovery of the body and brain. During sleep, important hormones are secreted, including growth hormone, which is particularly important for children's growth. Adults usually need between six and nine hours of sleep per night, but this varies from person to person. Teenagers usually need more sleep, while older people can get by with less.

It is normal to have a bad night every now and then, but if poor sleep becomes a persistent phenomenon and starts to affect your daily functioning, it may be time to consider seeking help.

Causes of difficulty sleeping:

  • Stress and worry: Severe stress can activate the nervous system and prevent relaxation, making it difficult to fall asleep. Stress-related sleep can become shallow, with repeated awakenings during the night.

  • Disturbing surroundings: Noise from children, a snoring partner or neighbors can disturb sleep. City dwellers can also be affected by traffic noise.

  • Snoring and sleep apnea: Snoring can disturb both the snorer and those nearby. Severe snoring can be a sign of sleep apnea, where short pauses in breathing occur during the night, affecting oxygen uptake and leading to daytime fatigue. Investigation is required to diagnose sleep apnea.

  • Alcohol: Alcohol can facilitate falling asleep, but make sleep shallow and restless. Alcohol can also result in early awakening and worsen snoring problems.

  • Nicotine and caffeine: Both nicotine and caffeine can make it harder to fall asleep. Some people are more affected by caffeine than others and may have trouble falling asleep if they consume it late in the day.

  • Illnesses and health problems: Pain, joint pain, leg cramps and breathing problems, whether related to chronic diseases or temporary conditions like the common cold, can affect sleep. Certain illnesses, such as stroke, heart failure, Parkinson's disease, anxiety, depression and dementia, can also disrupt sleep.

  • Diurnal rhythm disturbances: Jet lag and shift work can disrupt the natural circadian rhythm and thus affect sleep.

  • Unknown causes: Sometimes it is difficult to determine why sleep difficulties occur. Sleep problems can be complex and individual. In case of long-term or severe sleep problems, it is wise to seek professional help for evaluation and treatment.

Symptoms of sleep problems:

If you experience long-term sleep problems can affect your everyday life in several ways:

  • Difficulty performing everyday tasks: Your ability to manage daily activities, memory function and concentration can be negatively affected.

  • Mood control: Lack of sleep can lead to increased sensitivity and reactions such as anger, irritation and depression.

  • Unintentional sleep during inactivity: You may experience that you falling asleep involuntarily in sedentary situations, such as watching television or attending meetings.

  • Feeling tired in the morning is not necessarily due to insufficient sleep. Sleep consists of different phases and if you are awakened during deep sleep, you may feel particularly tired and have difficulty waking up. It is therefore important to assess your sleep quality based on how you feel later in the day.

    There are several measures you can take yourself to improve your sleep quality:

    • Regular exercise: Physical activity promotes good sleep, but avoid vigorous exercise right before bed.

    • Timed meals and sleep: Try to eat and go to bed at the same time time each day to stabilize your circadian rhythm.

    • Stress management: Reduce stress through relaxation exercises or mindfulness.

    • Weight loss: If you snorers, weight loss can reduce the problem.

    • Light control: Avoid bright light in the evening so as not to disturb your circadian rhythm. Screen displays from computers and mobile phones can also negatively affect your sleep.

    • Limit daytime sleep: If you are tired during the day, limit your naps to no more than 30 minutes so as not to disturb nighttime sleep and your circadian rhythm.

    • Avoid nicotine, alcohol and caffeine: These substances can negatively affect your sleep.

    • Mentally relaxing activities: Try writing down your worries and to-dos on a piece of paper to calm your mind before bed. Relaxation exercises and mindfulness can also be helpful.

    • Preparation for sleep: Create a calm and comfortable sleeping environment. Avoid working in bed and keep the room cool, quiet and dark. Remove clocks and cell phones if they stress you out and make it difficult to relax.

    If you still experience severe sleep problems after trying these measures, it may be wise to seek professional help.

    Treatment of sleep problems:

    There are different treatment options for sleep problems: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be effective for different types of sleep problems. CBT focuses on increasing understanding of your sleep problems and helping you develop relaxation skills as well as establishing regular sleep patterns.