Sleep Disorders and How to Sleep Better

Sleep is essential for healthy day to day activity. Waking up rested and refreshed after a good night's sleep starts the day off on the right foot. Unfortunately, not getting enough sleep is a problem which affects over 40% of all seniors on a periodic or regular basis. Lack of sleep can be due to environmental factors which can be fairly easily managed by changing or blocking out unwanted distractions, but in other cases, untreated medical sleep disorders can cause severe sleep deprivation and can be difficult to identify without professional assistance. Sleep deprivation can lead to depression, weight gain, diabetes, cardiovascular issues and more. Since sleep is such an important factor in human health, it's vitally important for seniors to identify why they aren't able to sleep. Fortunately, doctors and specialists in the field of sleep are available to identify the root causes of sleeplessness and help prevent these causes from interfering with a good night's sleep.

Question and Answers to Help You Sleep Better

1. What can cause difficulty in falling asleep?

A: Sometimes, even with a perfect sleep environment, sleep seems impossible to come by. Insomnia is a common sleep disorder which prevents falling, or staying asleep. Insomnia can be caused by mental unrest caused by anxiety or depression. It can also be caused by outside sources affecting the brain such as alcohol, recreational drugs or certain prescription medications. Pain from physical ailments such as arthritis can also cause difficulty falling asleep at night. A simpler cause of insomnia is lack of activity during the day. A more sedentary lifestyle can simply cause the body to be less tired when bedtime rolls around.

2. What are some treatments for insomnia?

A: Due to the myriad of causes insomnia can have, it's important to speak to a doctor about the problem. A doctor can potentially change medications that can cause sleeplessness or prescribe medication which can aid in sleep. The doctor may also advise diet or lifestyle changes that will better prepare the body for sleep when bedtime comes. A doctor may also decide on a referral to a sleep specialist who can perform a sleep study to better determine the root cause of insomnia and devise a treatment.

3. What can cause fatigue even when sleeping through the night?

A: The most common reason for fatigue when waking is caused by obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by an obstruction in the airway while trying to sleep. This is often caused by relaxing muscles in the back of the throat cutting off the airway. Sleep apnea can cause loud snoring as well as gasps for air throughout the evening. If sleeping with a partner, they likely have noticed these symptoms. Speaking to a doctor to arrange a sleep study is important.

4. How is obstructive sleep apnea treated?

A: Changing sleep position can sometimes mitigate the effects of sleep apnea, but the most common treatment is through use of a continuous positive airway pressure device (CPAP). A CPAP is a mask that fits over the mouth, nose or both and regulates airflow throughout the night. Advances in CPAP technology over the years have allowed manufacturers to make them comfortable and largely unobtrusive to wear. In special cases, surgery to remove obstructions in the throat may be required to allow for a full, refreshing night's sleep.

5. How can a lack of sleep affect the body?

A: A lack of sleep can cause low energy, irritability, and a difficulty in concentrating throughout the day. This can make daily tasks especially difficult, and can even make common tasks, such a driving, dangerous. Extended periods of low, or no, sleep can lead to greater mental health issues such a depression, cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure and diabetes. As the body uses sleep to recover and heal, low sleep can also exacerbate any current health problems.

6. What causes excessive sleepiness during the day?

A: Hypersomnia is a condition where falling asleep at undesirable times occurs. It is characterized by excessive sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, and general irritability during the day even when a full night's sleep has occurred. This can be caused by sleep apnea or by a disorder known as narcolepsy. Certain medications, especially heavy painkillers, can also contribute to extreme drowsiness during the day. Excessive sleepiness can also be indicative of a mental health disorder such as clinical depression.

7. What can prevent hypersomnia?

A: Seeing a doctor is important when confronted with excessive daytime sleepiness. If medications are the culprit, a doctor may be able to prescribe alternatives that do not cause drowsiness. A doctor may also be able to determine if depression or any other mental disorders are contributing to the problem. Sleep studies are also tools to determine if a more physical underlying cause such as obstructive sleep apnea is causing or contributing to the problem.

8. What are some ways to get better sleep in general?

A: Even without an underlying medical condition, good sleep can be hard to come by. A good environment is necessary for good sleep, and it's important to evaluate the bedroom to ensure an optimal sleeping area. An old, uncomfortable mattress can cause tossing and turning and can lead to soreness in the morning. A newer mattress or even a padded mattress cover can make for a much more comfortable sleep. If unavoidable outside distractions such as noise or light are present, a soft sleep mask or earplugs can reduce distraction. Noise generators can be purchased which can provide white noise or even calming sound effects such as waves or rainfall to block out unwanted sounds. There are even phone apps which can simulate certain soothing sounds to aid in sleep.

Good sleep is a cornerstone of good health, and by taking steps to ensure a good night's sleep, seniors can live healthier, happier lives.

Disclaimer: The articles on this website are not meant to encourage the self-management of any health or wellness issue. Nor are they meant to encourage any one type of medical treatment. Treatment or advice used by a reader may have varying results, as each individual is different. Any article reader with a health-related question, is encouraged to seek a proper consultation with a doctor or certified health provider. The articles on this website should not be used to disregard any medical or health-related advice, nor should they be the root cause for delay in seeing a doctor or a certified health provider.

The articles on this website should not be used to start the use of dietary supplements or vitamins, natural or herbal products, homeopathic medicine or other mentioned products prior to a proper consultation with a doctor or certified health provider.

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