Did you know that a good night’s sleep is crucial for one’s health and well-being? When your sleep is interrupted, you are likely to suffer from sleep disorders, which means an inconsistence in your sleeping cycle or pattern.
“I no longer sleep at night. I will go to bed and find myself awake until 2am or even 4am. Other times, I wake up and move around the house yet during the day, I am sleepy although utmost, I still sleep soundly for just one hour,” Carol Atuhairwe shares.
This, according to Dr Michael Rusoke, a general physician, is called sleep insomnia, a sleep disorder characterised by lack of sleep.
Dr Solome Bakeera, a family doctor, says the DSM5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) also known as the psychiatry ‘bible’ identifies three main types of disorders which are; insomnia, hypersomnia and sleep arousal disorders.
Dr Bakeera says insomnia is simply defined as the dissatisfaction with the quality (hours) and or quality of sleep. She notes that for someone to say that they have insomnia sleep disorder, they need to have had the symptoms for three months.
“The quantity of sleep that is recommended for an adult is between seven to eight hours. Sleep has two components; it needs to be a continuous and not interrupted. Part of the disorder can be when you have fragmented sleep and the other is not sleeping within 15 to 30 minutes of going to bed. The other is you waking up in the night and being unable to sleep again,” she says.
She adds: “For example, when you wake up at 4am yet you slept at 10pm and you cannot fall asleep again, that also affects the quality of your sleep. Thus a combination of all these symptoms and signs happening independently or combined is what is referred to as sleep insomnia sleep disorder.
It should also be noted that when we have adequate sleep, it restores the normal functioning of the body or how our organs such as the brain, kidneys and heart work. All these improve during sleep. Dr Bakeera explains that when you sleep, your heart beats less, your body repairs. Thus, when you do not have enough sleep, the normal functioning of the body is affected.
Dr Rusoke defines sleep apnea as a sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts.
“You snore loudly and feel tired even after a full night’s sleep,” he says.
Rusoke explains that the main type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, the more common form that occurs when throat muscles relax.
According to Rusoke, sleep apnea signs and symptoms include loud snoring, episodes in which you stop breathing during sleep and this can be reported by another person, awakening with a dry mouth, morning headache, irritability, difficulty paying attention while awake and gasping for air during sleep, among others.
Management of sleep apnea includes lifestyle changes such as losing weight or stopping to smoke. It is advisable that if you have nasal allergies, you treat them too.
“If the apnea is moderate to severe, interventions such as use of continuous positive airway pressure, a machine that delivers air pressure through a mask while you sleep or surgery can be used,” Rusoke advises.
Dr Sabrina Kitaka, a paediatrician, shares that sleep disorders in children and adolescents are common; even infants may have sleep disorders.
Some of the effects on the health of the children include academic, behavioural, developmental and social difficulties, weight abnormalities, and other health problems.
She notes that these can also impact family dynamics and parental or sibling sleep. Children may suffer from problems falling or staying asleep; physiological problems such as obstructive sleep apnea, abnormal or disruptive behaviours during sleep such as sleepwalking or other parasomnias symptoms that occur near sleep onset such as restless legs syndrome, and daytime symptoms such as excessive sleepiness and cataplexy (a medical condition in which strong emotion or laughter causes a person to suffer sudden physical collapse though remaining conscious) among others.
Some of the effects include poor performance at work, fatigue, memory difficulties, concentration problems, depression and other an increased risk of mortality.
Tips on getting better sleep
Stick to a sleep schedule
Set aside no more than eight hours for sleep. The recommended amount of sleep for a healthy adult is at least seven hours. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Try to limit the difference in your sleep schedule on weeknights and weekends to no more than one hour. Being consistent reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle.
If you don’t fall asleep within about 20 minutes, leave your bedroom and do something relaxing. Read or listen to soothing music. Go back to bed when you are tired. Repeat as needed.
Do not go to bed hungry or stuffed. In particular, avoid heavy or large meals within a couple of hours of bedtime. Your discomfort might keep you up. Caffeine and alcohol deserve caution, too. The stimulating effects of caffeine take hours to wear off and can wreak havoc on quality sleep. And even though alcohol might make you feel sleepy, it can disrupt sleep later in the night.
Create a restful environment
Create a room that is ideal for sleeping. Often, this means cool, dark and quiet. Exposure to light might make it more challenging to fall asleep. Avoid prolonged use of light-emitting screens just before bedtime. Consider using room-darkening shades, earplugs, a fan or other devices to create an environment that suits your needs.
Doing calming activities before bedtime, such as taking a bath or using relaxation techniques, might promote better sleep.
Limit daytime naps
Long daytime naps can interfere with night time sleep. If you choose to nap, limit yourself to up to 30 minutes and avoid doing so late in the day. If you work nights, however, you might need to nap late in the day before work to help make up your sleep debt.
Regular physical activity can promote better sleep. Avoid being active too close to bedtime, however.Spending time outside every day might be helpful, too.
Try to resolve your worries or concerns before bedtime. Jot down what is on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow. Stress management might help. Start with the basics, such as getting organised, setting priorities and delegating tasks. Meditation also can ease anxiety.