50 to 70 Million Americans Struggle with Chronic Sleep Problems
Excerpted from Coping with Sleep Issues Workbook
By Ester R.A. Leutenberg and John J. Liptak, EdD
Most people, at one time or another, have experienced trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Inability to sleep occasionally is normal and is often the result of some sort of stress in life. However, when sleep problems become a regular occurrence and begin to affect one’s ability to function in daily life, the person may have developed a sleep disorder.
A lack of adequate sleep may not seem like a big problem, but it can seriously affect one’s performance at school or work, ability to concentrate, ability to control emotions, and ability to handle stress. Lack of sleep is a challenge to one’s own general health and well-being.
Adequate sleep is a great buffer that helps to protect people from everyday stress. Sleep is a vital support for one’s ability to rejuvenate the mind and body.
Any type of sleep deficiency can seriously increase one’s vulnerability to a variety of physical disorders and to a host of negative feelings, emotions, and behaviors such as:
- irrational thinking
Inadequate sleep can result from two things:
- A reduction in the amount of sleep one experiences. This occurs when people find that they are not sleeping enough hours each night.
- A reduction in the quality of sleep one is receiving. This occurs when people find that they are having a hard time falling asleep, often awaken, and then may difficulty going back to sleep. This reduction causes a dramatic break in the sleep cycle.
Over the years many folks have written about getting a good night’s sleep. Here are a few. Journal a few lines about each one and how you feel about it. Do you have other favorite quotes about sleep? Jot them down in your journal and write about how you feel about them. It is important to understand your (and your client’s) attitude to sleep problems so you can provide a guide to better sleep that may include anything from easily made changes to routines to participating is a formal sleep study.
Control what you can control. Don’t lose sleep worrying about things that you don’t have control over, because at the end of the day, you still won’t have control over them.
Though sleep is called our best friend, it is a friend who often keeps us waiting.
If you have difficulty sleeping or are not getting sleep or sleep of good quality, you need to learn the basics of sleep hygiene, make appropriate changes, and possibly consult a sleep expert.
Sleep is the best meditation.
-The Dalai Lama
My father said there are two kinds of people in the world: givers and takers. The takers may eat better, but the givers sleep better.
Possible Causes of Sleep Problems
Some clients feel overwhelmed when they try to analyze why they are having trouble sleeping. There are so many possibilities. This list of suggestions can help them narrow down the choice. For example, this is a list of possible causes of sleep problems.
- Acid reflux
- Anticipation that something might happen
- Certain medications
- Bedroom cluttered
- Caregiving responsibilities
- Electronics (tablet, cell phone, games) in bedroom
- Emotional stress
- Family issues
- Friend relationships
- Hot flashes
- Hurt feelings
- Jealousy or envy
- Job issues
- Medical issues of self or loved one
- Mental health issues
- Phone use in bedroom
- Physical ailment or pain
- Relatives or in-laws
- Social life
- Substance abuse
- Time constraints
- Too warm or cool in the bedroom
- Uncomfortable bed and/or pillow
Suggesting small changes that can make a difference is a good start. Some are more difficult to achieve than others. Start with the easier ones and move on from there.
- Avoid alcohol, nicotine, or caffeine before bedtime
- Avoid extreme exercises before bedtime
- Avoid rich and spicy foods before bedtime
- Be sure the bed, mattress, and temperature are comfortable
- Do easy stretches before bed
- Do something mildly stimulating after dinner to avoid falling asleep too early
- Don’t watch scary television shows before going to sleep
- Drink enough fluid at night so as not to wake up thirsty, but not so much that you frequently need to go to the bathroom
- Eat nothing or something light before bedtime
- Eliminate loud noises
- Engage in deep breathing exercises
- Enjoy a pleasant book on tape
- Get up at the same time each day
- Go to sleep at the same time each day
- Have the same sleep routine on weekends
- If something is on your mind, write it on a paper next to your bed and then fall asleep
- If you wake up and can’t fall back asleep in 30 minutes, get out of bed until you are tired enough to sleep
- Consume no caffeine after noon time
- Keep the bedroom cool
- Listen to relaxing music
- Maintain a bedtime routine
- Make preparations for the next day before going to bed
- Nothing in the room but sleep and intimacy
- Progressive relaxation exercise
- Read a pleasant book or magazine
- Save vigorous exercise for during the day
- Stay away from big meals close to bedtime
- Take a nap way before bedtime
- Take a warm bath or shower before bed
- Take prescribed medications
- Turn off electronics or technology (other than an alarm clock, turned backwards)
- Use earplugs to block out noise
- Use guided imagery
- Wind down the evening with a favorite hobby, calm music, fun television, or book
- Write in a journal
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 50 to 70 million Americans face chronic sleep problems. Sleep deprivation is associated with injuries, chronic conditions such as obesity, mental illnesses, poor quality of life, increased healthcare costs and lost work productivity.
Most adults require seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Getting less than that daily amount can cause a serious sleep deficit over time. While some sleepless nights may be the result of too much caffeine or thinking about something that’s worrying, chronic sleep deprivation is often the result of a sleep disorder such as:
- Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder is a disorder in which a person’s sleep is delayed by two or more hours beyond the conventional bedtime. This delay in falling asleep causes difficulty in waking up at a desired time.
- Insomnia is the most common type of sleep disorder. Some of the symptoms of insomnia include difficulty getting to sleep, waking many times during the night, and often waking before it is time to actually get up. Insomnia can affect normal daytime activities. Insomnia is most often caused by stress, anxiety, certain medications, depression and/or inadequate sleep habits.
- Narcolepsy occurs when people feel excessively sleepy in the daytime. The sleepiness felt with narcolepsy is overwhelming. Some people with narcolepsy have uncontrolled sleepy periods that can occur regardless of what they are doing, while others have constant sleepiness throughout the day. The person has this feeling for a period of time longer than three months, and it is accompanied by a higher than usual percentage of REM sleep.
- Nightmares are frightening dreams that occur during deep, REM sleep.
- Periodic Limb Movement Disorder is the movement of hands, arms, feet, and legs during sleep that frequently causes arousals and disturbs the sleep cycles. Whether the person remembers waking or not, the brain often shifts from sleep to wake in a response to the jerking of the limbs causing the sleep cycle to be disrupted and increase excessive daytime sleepiness.
- Restless Leg Syndrome occurs during wake hours and is often worse in the evenings and before bedtime, which can lead to sleep onset insomnia. This discomfort can come in the form of an urge to move one’s legs and feet to get relief. People find themselves experiencing excessive and rhythmic movements while they are sleeping.
- Sleep Apnea occurs when soft tissue covers the airway, either partially or completely, causing a cessation of breathing for ten seconds or longer repeatedly through the night. This can cause frequent arousals and disruption of the desired sleep cycle. These disruptions cause those suffering from sleep apnea to be very tired during the day.
- Sleep Talking is a sleep disorder defined as talking during sleep without being aware of it. Sleep talking can involve complicated dialogues or monologues, complete gibberish, or mumbling. The good news is that for most people it is a rare and short-lived occurrence.
- Sleep Terror Disorder occurs mostly in children, but can be found in adults. Night terrors are frightful images that appear in a person’s dreams, but are often difficult to remember upon awakening.
- Sleepwalking is a disorder that causes people to get out of bed and walk while they are sleeping. It usually happens when a person is going from the deep stage of sleep to a lighter stage, or into the wake state. The sleepwalker can’t respond during the event and usually does not remember it.
Clients suffering from serious sleep disorders might be helped by a visit to a sleep center. Contact the American Academy of Sleep Medicine at https://aasm.org/ to find an expert near you.
A book such as Coping with Sleep Issues Workbook from where most of this material has been excerpted can be of invaluable help to you and your clients. It can be found at https://wholeperson.com/store/coping-with-sleep-issues-workbook.html.