Help for Sleep
Natural help for sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which occurs when you temporarily stop breathing during sleep, has been linked to a wide range of serious health issues including high blood pressure, stroke, heart attacks, and diabetes. Fortunately, you can use natural methods to cope with this health menace.
Conventional treatments for sleep apnea
The conventional methods used to cope with sleep apnea can be expensive and cumbersome.
For example, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which uses a special ventilating mask to keep air flowing into the lungs, is often considered the gold standard of treatment for moderate or severe sleep apnea.
Designed to reduce symptoms and shrink the health risks of apnea, the masks are uncomfortable. Many people can’t stand to sleep with them attached all night. Dry mouth, face rash, nasal congestion, and unbearable claustrophobia are common complaints.A 2002 study reported in The Lancet looked at 118 men with severe sleep apnea. They found that CPAP reduced blood pressure (by only a very small amount), eliminated some daytime sleepiness and boosted the quality of life.1
Similarly, a 2006 study reported in Thorax also showed that CPAP reduced blood pressure, but by a mere 3.8 mmHg.2 And a study reported in the European Respiration Journal demonstrated that CPAP reduces blood pressure only in people who were having problems with daytime sleepiness.3
Dental appliances enjoy a 40 percent success rate at making significant improvements in sleep apnea, according to Australian researchers who reported in the September 2011 Swiss Medicine Weekly.4 (This is a similar rate to CPAP’s success rate.
) These are designed to alter the shape and size of the bony structures of the mouth and bony arch of the upper throat. That changes the lower aspect of the mouth so that soft tissues are less ly to cause airway obstruction.
At the same time, the nasal passages open wider and improve airflow.
There is a range of other helpful appliances available. Some can be purchased online for as little as $65 (http://www.nosnorezone.com/).
Alternatively, some people opt for surgery: Septoplasty alters the nasal passages. Uvulopharyngopalatoplasty removes some of the tissue at the back of the throat and resembles a face-lift of the throat.
Medications for sleep apnea usually don’t help much. A multi-study review reported in a 2006 Cochrane Database Review5 looked at prescription medications for sleep apnea and found six that had a marginal benefit and others with no benefit. Researchers concluded: “There is insufficient evidence to recommend the use of drug therapy in the treatment of OSA.”
Natural interventions for sleep apnea
Weight loss often helps to relieve apnea. The more overweight you are, the more ly it is that losing weight can help.
Herbs to reduce allergies ( lobelia and thyme) or to improve sleepiness (melatonin, valerian root, passion flower, chamomile) may alleviate apnea, although I haven’t found extensive evidence for their efficacy.
If you try anti-allergy herbs, also consider eliminating foods that may be allergens. This can most effectively be done by first going on a liquid cleanse for three to five days, and then re-introducing foods slowly to watch for a recurrence of allergy symptoms nasal congestion.
Changing the position in which you sleep can also reduce apnea. More than half of patients with sleep apnea find that when they sleep on their backs, they suffer twice as many apneic episodes compared to sleeping on their side. (This was demonstrated in a large study reported in a 1997 issue of Chest.6)
Many people manage to stay on their sides when asleep by placing a tennis ball in a pocket made on a wide cloth belt that is worn around the chest. The ball is positioned right in the middle of your back so that when you roll onto your back, the ball forces you to quickly roll back onto your side. Using a long body pillow can also assist in keeping you sleeping on your side.
Anatomically, apnea is often worsened by the fact that the tissues of the soft palate and pharynx collapse and block the airway during sleep. For some reason, the muscles of the soft palate and pharynx often weaken as you age.
This collapsing effect also worsens snoring.
But if you can strengthen the muscles of the tongue, soft palate and throat, the relaxation and occlusion can be reduced, enlarging your pharynx and elevating the soft palate and uvula during exhalation.
Exercises for these muscles include:
- Soft palate blowing: Inhale air through your nose, then exhale through your mouth while you tighten your abdomen for about five seconds. Repeat 10 times.
- Tongue exercises: Practice tongue movement, forced tongue suction, tongue contraction, elevating the soft palate, orbicularis oris suction movements, suction movement and elevation of the mouth muscle and jaw.
Other measures you can take include opening your nasal passages with a hot shower right before bed, a saline water rinse or nasal strips that help open the nose.
Removing allergens from your sleeping area may also help. Use an air filter in the bedroom. Vacuum up dust mites that may cause a stuffy nose and remove furniture that collects dust. (I once had to remove an alpaca rug that rested at the foot of my bed.)
I hope this gives you some new insight into snoring and obstructive sleep apnea.
To your best health,
Michael Cutler, M.D.
Author, Easy Health Options
7 Best Essential Oils to Help Your Family Sleep All Night
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Inside this post: Looking for more calming essential oils? Perfect list of essential oils for sleep. How your whole family can sleep well and wake up rested using essential oils.
I lay sleeping in bed when his whispering words woke me.
“I’m scared mommy,” he said.
In the darkness, I opened one eye to see a very sweet young boy holding his blankie three inches from my face.
“There’s spiders in my bed,” he continued.
I traveled down this “spiders in my bed” road before, and it was a 3 hour middle-of-the-night road.
Checking for spiders. Spraying for spiders. Coaching through the fears about spiders. Checking again for spiders. More spray. More snuggles. And 3 hours later, we were still awake.
Mind you, there were never any real spiders. Just the imaginary ones. So when my son stood at my bedside again telling me there were spiders, I knew it was time to bring out the oils.
Best essential oils to support healthy sleep habits.
I love essential oils because they help make everyday life easier in all sorts of different ways. And one of those ways is supporting healthy sleep for the whole family.
They can calm the emotions of a little boy feeling anxious about imaginary spiders. They help my husband get a good night’s rest after long work trips. They help my mind relax when I’m thinking about the 1,047 things I need to do the next day.
In short, essential oils are my life hack for just about everything.
Here are my top 7 essential oils for supporting healthy sleep…
Oh yes, this essential oil ly doesn’t surprise you. Lavender is well-known for it’s relaxing and calming effects on the body. The reason I love this oil most is it’s safe to use on all ages–babies through adults.
In addition to supporting healthy sleep, this oil is also a great way to freshen up laundry and fragrance your home without harsh chemicals or synthetics.
Related: 17 Most Powerful Essential Oils for Stress and Emotional Wellness
This is my absolute favorite essential oil for our family. It’s perfect for balancing emotions, supporting healthy sleep, calming your mind and supporting your body’s natural response to healing.
When my son is scared of spiders, this is the first oil I reach for. When my mind won’t shut off at bedtime, this is the first oil I reach for. And to be honest, if I don’t know what oil to use, I will usually try Frankincense essential oil first.
This oil is insanely cost effective, and it works beautifully. It costs around four cents per drop–a steal in my opinion! Cedarwood essential oil supports healthy function of the pineal gland, which releases melatonin…the body’s natural sleepy hormones.
This oil has a unique woodsy scent. If you aren’t keen on the smell, mix it with lavender and apply to the bottoms of feet. Then cover with socks and melt into bed.
4. Ylang ylang
Ylang ylang means “flower of flowers.” Historically, the ylang ylang flower has been used to cover the beds of newlywed couples on their wedding night. That’s because this powerful oil helps to balance male and female energies, supports focus and restores peace.
This oil is a delight to diffuse 30 minutes before bedtime and throughout the night.
Marjoram essential oil is steam distilled from leaves and it’s known as the “herb of happiness” to the Romans and “joy of the mountains” to the Greeks. This oil is extremely soothing and relaxes the nerves.
I love to apply 1-2 drops of this oil straight to the back of my neck below the hairline. I usually blend with a bit of coconut oil to smooth and apply it evenly.
Because vetiver essential oil is distilled from the roots of the plant, it smells very rich and earthy. This is another great oil to try for sleep because it is psychologically grounding, calming and stabilizing. It can take you awhile to get used to the smell, so if you are a vetiver newbie, you can try mixing it with a floral or citrus oil, such as lavender or bergamot.
7. Roman chamomile
For centuries, mothers have used this oil to calm children. This oil is perfect for restlessness and anxious feelings. I love using this oil because it’s another one that is great for all ages.
It has a light, floral scent and is wonderful for creating a peaceful atmosphere in your bedroom.
How to use essential oils for sleep support.
When using essential oils to help the whole family sleep through the night, there are two main methods I to use:
For the kids, I will take 1-3 drops of essential oil and blend it with 1 tsp of olive oil or coconut oil. This is the dilution I use for kids ages 1 and above. For myself and my husband, I will take 1-3 drops of essential oil and blend it with 1-3 drops of olive oil or coconut oil.
Then I apply the essential oils to the back of my neck, bottoms of feet or inside of the wrists. Allow a few minutes for the essential oils to absorb a bit. I will usually take any leftover oil, rub it between my hands, cup over my nose and inhale. This is immediately relaxing.
You can put essential oils into the palms of your hands, rub them together, cup over your nose and take several deep breaths. That is one way to use essential oils aromatically. Another way–and also my preferred method–is to use a diffuser.
I got my first diffuser with my Young Living starter kit (psst…don’t forget to check out my special before it ends!) and I’ve never looked back. My son now sleeps with a diffuser in his room each night and loves it.
How to get started with essential oils.
There are new essential oil companies popping up everyday, but I’ve used Young Living from the beginning and I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s because Young Living is the only essential oil company to control the entire process–from planting the seeds all the way to distilling and bottling the essential oil.
More than any other essential oil company, I trust Young Living. When you’re putting oils on those you love the most, trust means everything.
So if you’re looking for essential oils that will support healthy sleep, help your mind relax at the end of the day, and erase all those imaginary spiders in your little one’s bed, check out my Special Here, ends soon.
Want more on essential oils?
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Please confirm any information obtained from or through this web site with other sources, and review all information regarding any medical condition or treatment with your physician. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on this website.
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7 mind-soothing apps that will help you sleep better
Sleeping is a lot harder than it used to be.
There are countless distractions in this world. So many television shows to watch. So much content to meme. So many Chrissy Teigen tweets to read. So many Westworld theories to hypothesize. So many minutes to spend watching Drake strut down a dance line in curls.
SEE ALSO: Essential tips, tricks, and apps to help you learn a language
There's a lot going on in the world right now, too, enough that sleeping can feel pretty much impossible sometimes. Luckily, the technology that surrounds and distracts us also gives us plentiful tools to help ease ourselves into the land of z's.
Here are a few apps that will hopefully help you finally get a good night's sleep.
Apps that will give you a more wholesome rest
Your daily night's rest is broken up into several sleep cycles. Research shows that repeatedly missing sleep or keeping an inconsistent sleep schedule can mess with your rest overall. These next few apps help you track your sleep cycles to make sure you're getting the best sleep you can, and waking up every morning refreshed.
1. Sleep Cycle
Sleep Cycle tracks your sleep and wakes you up when you're least groggy.
Image: Brian de los santos/mashable
Sleep Cycle is is a nice twist on the standard alarm clock. Using your microphone, it tracks your sleep patterns and wakes you in the lightest phase of sleep so you're not groggy. You set a window during which to be woken (for example, between 7 and 7:30 a.m.), and it figures the best time to pull you your slumber. It even lets you tap your phone twice to snooze.
2. Apple Bedtime
Apple's Bedtime feature is a simple twist on the standard alarm clock. It will lull you sleep with a peaceful tone.
Image: Brian De los Santos/mashable
If you want more control over your wake-up time, Apple's Bedtime, available as part of your Clock app, works similarly to Sleep Cycle, but lets you set an exact time for rising.
You can select which days of the week you want your alarm to go off (weekdays only, weekends only, etc.). Choose how many hours you want to sleep, and the app will tell you when to head to bed to wake up on time.
It will also give you a push notification before your bedtime.
Pillow works Apple's Bedtime, but also lets you set an array of timed naps.
Image: brian de los santos/mashable
Pillow is the perfect app for those who want to know everything they can about the way they're sleeping. Bedtime and Sleep Cycle, it tracks your sleep and wakes you in a light stage of rest.
But you can also use its features to time different kind of mid-day rests: power naps (15 minutes), recovery naps (45 minutes), and full cycle naps (120 minutes).
It'll give you information about your heart rate, your REM cycles, and how long it took you to get to sleep.
Apps to lull you into sleep
Mindfulness and meditation has been proven to help people who struggle with insomnia. The apps below focus on meditation through various techniques, music, nature sounds, and voice commands. All are aimed to help you hit the state of relaxation you need to go to bed.
Pzizz will lull you to sleep with some really soothing music that fades out over time.
Image: brian de los santos/mashable
First: This app looks incredible; its appearance alone is calming! As for the music, think of an incredibly soothing, movie-style soundtrack that you set to fade out after an hour or so to help wind you down before you go to bed. It also offers narration in both male and female voices, but if you find that creepy (which you will), you can shut it off. It also lets you use its music in bursts as a “focus” setting.
2. Headspace: Meditation
Headspace makes meditating easy by breaking it up into small, helpful sessions.
Image: brian de los santos/mashable
The Headspace: Meditation app sets you up with different sessions depending on your goals. It'll send you push notifications reminding you to meditate throughout the day. Each session only takes a few minutes. If you're the kind of person whose mind races before you hit the sack, this app is for you.
Calm lets you enjoy a wide range of meditation tutorials, mixing in the sounds of nature to add ambiance.
Image: brian de los santos/mashable
Headspace: Meditation, Calm will soothe your mind right before bed. The sessions are longer, and you can set up programs over time to ease you into zen. The app offers ambient sounds of nature and turns your phone into a giant portrait of a scenic landscape.
The first one I tried was 12 minutes long, and it did an incredible job at helping me calm down. I hadn't ever tried meditation before. Something about the mix of nature sounds and music really put me in a place of peace. Just make sure to also put your phone on silent; not too long after I finished my session I got a breaking news alert that broke my zen.
Jason Mantzoukas, June Diane Raphael, and Paul Scheer host the highly entertaining “How Did This Get Made?”
If all else fails, podcasts are always an option. Err on the side of comedy to end the day with a few laughs before sleeping (I highly recommend “How Did This Get Made?”) or something storytelling-based, This American Life. Remember to use the sleep timer at the bottom of the app to make sure a long podcast doesn't wake you once you fall asleep.
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Sleep Help for Kids with Sensory Processing Issues
Sleep issues are a HUGE topic of frustration and concern for parents of children with sensory differences. From the child requiring extensive help in falling asleep, to staying asleep, to the 2 a.m.
“play time”, and the morning grumpy pants.
Angie Voss, OTR, from A Sensory Life! offers her sleep help for kids with sensory processing issues, along with a list of hints, tools, and strategies to get your family to bed.
Sleep Affects the Whole Family
Sleep affects the whole darn family — the sibling who shares a room, or even in a separate room and of course at least one parent. We ALL need sleep, so when the child isn’t sleeping, it affects the whole family. The biggest problem is the snowball effect. When any of us do not get enough sleep it impacts mood, behavior, and self-regulation overall.
As always, the results are magnified for a child with sensory processing challenges. And for the parent of the child, this state of dysregulation — irritability, mood swings, impatience — from lack of sleep impacts that child’s state of regulation as well. It’s a double whammy.
Is There a Single Cure for Sleep Struggles?
As a therapist, I have always wanted to find that cure all for families and the sure ticket to sleep. Unfortunately I don’t think that single ticket is out there.
I DO think there can be a combination of tickets which can work, but here’s the kicker: those tickets may change on a daily basis.
I am going to list some possible solutions as well as factors that can impact the sleep/wake cycle.It is up to you as a parent to consider each factor as well as some trial and error when it comes to what works and what doesn’t seem to work.
PLEASE try not to get discouraged if something doesn’t work or if an idea works one night and not the next.
I know the struggles personally and I also understand the frustration and extreme challenge this can create from my 20 years of helping families cope and find solutions to SLEEP.
The Entire Day Affects Nighttime Sleep
Sensory kids need an enriched sensory diet every single day including vestibular, proprioception, and tactile activities. This is what helps their nervous system maintain a ready state and self-regulation.
If the child has had more than 1-2 hours of screen time that day — this includes computer, TV, video games, hand held devices — then they were deprived of the important sensory nutrition which their brain needed.
On the other hand, if the child was involved in some type of over-stimulating sensory activity that day a big social event or new challenging multi-sensory experience, this can also impact the ability to sleep.
If a child gets to the point of exhaustion or “over tired” it can backfire on the nervous system.
This requires finding a balance and knowing when enough is enough for your child. You’ll need to be aware of the fact that your child can not handle as much social stimulation or partying as another child. That means not just dragging the child along to social events or play dates which may really be more for the parent. Sorry! Had to say it.
If a child gets to the point of exhaustion or “over tired” it can backfire on the nervous system
Does Proper Nutrition Help with Sleep?
Proper nutrition throughout the day can significantly impact the ability to sleep at night. Of course I know this one can be difficult to achieve, especially for our picky sensory kids. Being creative and also aware of everything the child is consuming in a day is possible.
The biggest factors to keep in mind:
- No dairy
- Limit refined sugar
- No preservatives, additives, and dyes
- Plenty of organic fruits and vegetables
- Of course no caffeine for a child and keeping in mind that cocoa and other forms of chocolate have enough caffeine to impact the ability to fall asleep.
- Low iron levels can cause restless leg syndrome, which can affect sleep. Your doctor can request to have labs drawn for this.
- Purified or spring water to hydrate
- Plant-based protein
- Focus on non-GMO and organic, local sources for food
- Avoid processed foods
- Gluten can be a factor
Medication, Reflux, and Sleep Apnea
If at all possible, refrain from any medications to help with sleep. I know this is often recommended by doctors, but with my experience this is not the solution. Instead it often leads to side effects and new issues. For a child with sensory challenges, medications further disrupt the processing and chemistry in the brain.
Reflux is an issue which can impact the ability to sleep. This should be discussed and ruled out or addressed with your child’s doctor. This is commonly caused by dairy products.
If the child snores or seems to make a lot of noise at night, a sleep study should be considered. I think it is always important to discuss the sleep difficulties with the child’s doctor, and bring up or request a sleep study to rule out or to address sleep apnea. Snoring can also be caused from the consumption of dairy.
Before Bed Sensory Tools and Strategies
- Keep in mind that this will ly be a trial and error process, unless you strike gold and the first sensory strategy you try is the ticket. You can try a combination of these ideas, they are in no way going to over-stimulate your child. It just may take more than one idea or an alternate idea the next day.
- Deep pressure touch to arms and legs, also called hand hugs or squeezes.
- Try applying magnesium oil to the bottom of the child’s feet at bedtime.
- A weighted blanket or heavy quilt folded up to increase weight and pressure. Tight fitting pajamas or compression clothing at bedtime are great too.
- A cuddle swing or hammock swing may be used as a cozy nest for sleeping. This is only appropriate for children old enough and able to maneuver around in the swing throughout the night and get in and out independently. The swing should hang close to the floor for safe and independent use. I highly recommend a compression swing from Yogapeutics for this.
- Gentle, rhythmical, and linear swinging in a cuddle or hammock swing or Yogapeutics compression swing for at least 15 minutes before bedtime is a great idea.
- Try a rocking chair in a quiet, calm, dark place right before bedtime.
- If the child is small enough, gentle swinging in a blanket can be very calming.
- Provide an oral sensory tool.
- A vibrating pillow or hand held massager placed under the mattress for a diffused vibration can be helpful. There are also vibrating mattresses available for purchase.
- Try inverting the head throughout the day and right before bedtime as well.
- Encourage joint compression and joint traction activities prior to bedtime, including head compression.
- No screen time at least one hour prior to bedtime.
- Try the “tortilla roll up” in a blanket with added firm pressure (proprioception) from a large therapy ball by rolling the ball over the child’s body .
- Wearing noise cancelling headphones or earplugs at night can be helpful for some children.
- Try a large bean bag or pillow cave with tons of pillows and blankets. This can be where the child sleeps, not just before bedtime.
- Try Bubble Mountain. Any resistive blowing activity will work as well, in the bathtub is a great place. Have your child create their own bubbles for the bath!
Be sure the room is free of distractions, light, or clutter. White noise or soft instrumental music is also a great tool. Sometimes a humidifier works as well. If possible, have the child sleep in their own space.
Create a nice cozy cave in a big walk in closet or in a play tent filled with pillows and blankets. Canopy beds or the bottom bunk of a bunk bed can be helpful as well. Sensory kids that defined and cozy space factor.
Be sure to remove all wifi capable devices and cell phones from the bedroom at night.Once you find out what works with your child, everyone will sleep better in your home.
Original article: The Sensory Side of Sleeping…Sleep Challenges
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Sleep Disorders and Problems – HelpGuide.org
Many of us experience trouble sleeping at one time or another. Usually it’s due to stress, travel, illness, or other temporary interruptions to your normal routine. But if sleep problems are a regular occurrence and interfere with your daily life, you may be suffering from a sleep disorder.
Sleep disorders cause more than just daytime sleepiness. They can take a serious toll on your mental and physical health, leading to memory problems, weight gain, and a negative impact on your energy and mood. But you don’t have to live with a sleeping problem.
There are many actions you can take to ensure a good night’s sleep and improve your health.
What is a sleep disorder or sleep problem?
A sleep disorder is a condition that frequently impacts your ability to get enough quality sleep. While it’s normal to occasionally experience difficulties sleeping, it’s not normal to regularly have problems getting to sleep at night, to wake up feeling exhausted, or to feel sleepy during the day.
Frequently having trouble sleeping can be a frustrating and debilitating experience. You sleep badly at night, which leaves you feeling dead-tired in the morning and whatever energy you have quickly drains throughout the day. But then, no matter how exhausted you feel at night, you still have trouble sleeping.
And so the cycle begins again, taking a serious toll on your mood, energy, efficiency, and ability to handle stress. Ignoring sleep problems and disorders can damage your physical health and lead to weight gain, car accidents, impaired job performance, memory problems, and strained relationships.
If you want to feel your best, stay healthy, and perform up to your potential, quality sleep is a necessity, not a luxury.
Even if you’ve struggled with sleep problems for so long that it seems normal, you can still learn to sleep better.
You can start by tracking your symptoms and sleep patterns, and then making healthy changes to your daytime habits and bedtime routine. If self-help doesn’t do the trick, you can turn to sleep specialists who are trained in sleep medicine.
Together, you can identify the underlying causes of your sleeping problem and find ways to improve your sleep and quality of life.
Signs and symptoms of a sleep disorder
Everyone experiences occasional sleeping problems, so how can you tell whether your difficulty is just a minor, passing annoyance or a sign of a more serious sleep disorder or underlying medical condition?
Start by scrutinizing your symptoms, looking especially for the telltale daytime signs of sleep deprivation.
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms on a regular basis, you may be dealing with a sleep disorder. The more you answered “yes”, the more ly it is that you have a sleep disorder.
Insomnia, the inability to get to sleep or sleep well at night, can be caused by stress, jet lag, a health condition, the medications you take, or even the amount of coffee you drink. Insomnia can also be caused by other sleep disorders or mood disorders such as anxiety and depression.
Whatever the cause of your insomnia, improving your sleep hygiene, revising your daytime habits, and learning to relax will help cure most cases of insomnia without relying on sleep specialists or turning to prescription or over-the-counter sleeping pills.
Sleep apnea is a common (and treatable) sleep disorder in which your breathing temporarily stops during sleep, awakening you frequently.
If you have sleep apnea you may not remember these awakenings, but you’ll ly feel exhausted during the day, irritable and depressed, or see a decrease in your productivity.
Sleep apnea is a serious and potentially life-threatening sleep disorder, so see a doctor right away and learn how to help yourself.
Restless legs syndrome (RLS)
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a sleep disorder that causes an almost irresistible urge to move your legs (or arms) at night. The urge to move occurs when you’re resting or lying down and is usually due to uncomfortable, tingly, aching, or creeping sensations. There are plenty of ways to help manage and relieve symptoms, though, including self-help remedies you can use at home.
Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that involves excessive, uncontrollable daytime sleepiness. It is caused by a dysfunction of the brain mechanism that controls sleeping and waking.
If you have narcolepsy, you may have “sleep attacks” in the middle of talking, working, or even driving.
Although no cure yet exists, a combination of treatments can help control symptoms and enable you to enjoy many normal activities.
Circadian rhythm sleep disorders
We all have an internal biological clock that regulates our 24-hour sleep-wake cycle, also known as our
circadian rhythms. Light is the primary cue that influences circadian rhythms.
At night, when there is less light, your brain triggers the release of melatonin, a hormone that makes you sleepy.When the sun comes up in the morning, the brain tells the body that it’s time to wake up.
When your circadian rhythms are disrupted or thrown off, you may feel groggy, disoriented, and sleepy at inconvenient times. Circadian rhythms have been linked to a variety of sleeping problems and sleep disorders, as well as depression, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder (the winter blues).
Shift work sleep disorder
Shift work sleep disorder occurs when your work schedule and your biological clock are sync. In our 24-hour society, many people have to work night shifts, early morning shifts, or rotating shifts. These schedules force you to work when your body is telling you to go to sleep, and sleep when your body is signaling you to wake.
While some people adjust better than others to the demands of shift work, most shift workers get less quality sleep than their daytime counterparts. As a result of sleep deprivation, you may struggle with sleepiness and mental lethargy on the job. This cuts into your productivity and puts you at risk of injury.
To reduce the impact of shift work on your sleep:
- Take regular breaks and minimize the frequency of shift changes
- When changing shifts, request a shift that’s later, rather than earlier as it’s easier to adjust forward in time, rather than backward.
- Naturally regulate your sleep-wake cycle by increasing light exposure at work (use bright lights) and limiting light exposure when it’s time to sleep. Avoid TV and computer screens, and use blackout shades or heavy curtains to block out daylight in your bedroom.
- Consider taking melatonin when it’s time for you to sleep.
Delayed sleep phase disorder
Delayed sleep phase disorder is a condition where your biological clock is significantly delayed. As a result, you go to sleep and wake up much later than other people.
This is more than just a preference for staying up late or being a night owl, but rather a disorder that makes it difficult for you to keep normal hours—to make it to morning classes, get the kids to school on time, or keep a 9-to-5 job.
- People with delayed sleep phase disorder are unable to get to sleep earlier than 2 to 6 a.m., no matter how hard they try.
- When allowed to keep their own hours (such as during a school break or vacation), they fall into a regular sleep schedule.
- Delayed sleep phase disorder is most common in teenagers, and many teens will eventually grow it.
- For those who continue to struggle with a biological clock that is sync, treatments such as light therapy and chronotherapy can help. To learn more, schedule an appointment with your doctor or a local sleep clinic.
Jet lag is a temporary disruption in circadian rhythms that occurs when you travel across time zones. Symptoms include daytime sleepiness, fatigue, headaches, stomach problems, and insomnia. Symptoms are more pronounced the longer the flight and flying east tends to cause worse jet lag than flying west.
In general, it usually takes one day per time zone crossed to adjust to the local time. So, if you flew from Los Angeles to New York, crossing three time zones, your jet lag should be gone within three days.
Tracking your symptoms
The first step to overcoming a sleep disorder or problem is identifying and carefully tracking your symptoms and sleep patterns.
Keep a sleep diary
A sleep diary can pinpoint day and nighttime habits that may contribute to your problems at night. Keeping a record of your sleep patterns and problems will also prove helpful if you eventually need to see a sleep doctor.
Your sleep diary should include:
- what time you went to bed and woke up
- total sleep hours and perceived quality of your sleep
- a record of time you spent awake and what you did (“got up, had a glass of milk, and meditated” for example)
- types and amount of food, liquids, caffeine, or alcohol you consumed before bed, and times of consumption
- your feelings and moods before bed (happiness, sadness, stress, anxiety)
- any drugs or medications taken, including dose and time of consumption
The details can be important, revealing how certain behaviors can be ruining your chance for a good night’s sleep. After keeping the diary for a week, for example, you might notice that when you have more than one glass of wine in the evening, you wake up during the night.
Download or print HelpGuide’s sleep diary (PDF).
Self-help for sleep disorders
While some sleep disorders may require a visit to the doctor, you can improve many sleeping problems on your own.
Improve your daytime habits. Regardless of your sleep problems, sticking to a consistent sleep schedule, getting regular exercise, limiting your intake of caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine, and managing stress will translate into better sleep over the long term.
Develop a relaxing bedtime routine to prepare your mind and body for sleep. Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and cool, avoid heavy meals and too many fluids late at night, take a warm bath, read, or listen to soothing music to unwind, and turn off screens at least one hour before bedtime.
Get back to sleep when you wake up at night. Whether you have a sleep disorder or not, it’s normal to wake briefly during the night.
If you’re having trouble getting back to sleep, try focusing on your breathing, meditating, or practicing another relaxation technique.
Make a note of anything that’s worrying you and resolve to postpone worrying about it until the next day when it will be easier to resolve.
When to call a doctor
If you’ve tried a variety of self-help remedies without success, schedule an appointment with a sleep specialist or ask your family doctor for a referral to a sleep clinic, especially if:
- Your main sleep problem is daytime sleepiness and self-help hasn’t improved your symptoms.
- You or your bed partner gasps, chokes, or stops breathing during sleep.
- You sometimes fall asleep at inappropriate times, such as while talking, walking, or eating.
Provide your doctor with as much supporting information as possible, including information from your sleep diary.
What to expect at a sleep clinic or center
A specialist will observe your sleep patterns, brain waves, heart rate, rapid eye movements and more using monitoring devices attached to your body. While sleeping with a bunch of wires attached to you might seem difficult, most patients find they get used to it quickly.
The sleep specialist will then design a treatment program if necessary. A sleep center can also provide you with equipment to monitor your activities (awake and asleep) at home.
Authors: Melinda Smith, M.A., Lawrence Robinson, and Robert Segal, M.A. Last updated: June 2019.