Proper sleep has a wide range of benefits for the mind and body, so if you’re not sleeping well, it’s crucial to find out why. So the first step in improving the quality of your sleep is to isolate the problem.
Restless Legs Syndrome
People with Restless Legs Syndrome, also known as RLS or Ekbom syndrome, find it uncomfortable to keep their legs stationary while lying in bed. This is more acute than just the average feeling of slight restlessness that leads to tossing and turning until you find a comfortable position. RLS sufferers often need to get out of bed and walk around for a while to relieve the sensation, although there are more definitive ways of treating the syndrome.
The best approach to treating RLS is to start by checking whether a change in diet, with increased mineral and vitamin intake, combined with a healthy dose of exercise, turns things around. If not, you should check whether you’re anemic or diabetic; both conditions often associated with RLS. As a last resort, you may need to discuss possible medications with your doctor.
Sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by pauses, or apneas, in breathing during sleep. Most commonly, this is as a result of snoring. It can disrupt your sleep and prevent you from feeling rested the next day.
The problem with sleep apnea is that you experience it only while you’re asleep. As a result, people often don’t realize they suffer from it, or that it’s responsible for their impaired concentration and tiredness during the day.
Tests have shown that sleep apnea can affect several different parts of the brain. It may compromise a person’s initiative, drive, memory, and attentiveness, result in slower reaction times, contribute to depression, and even cause vision problems.
There are three forms of sleep apnea – central, obstructive, and complex – each with different symptoms. Central sleep apnea, or CSA, is a result of a lack of respiratory effort. Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is generally characterized by snoring. Complex sleep apnea is simply a combination of both CSA and OSA.
To combat either CSA or OSA, it’s recommended that you quit smoking and cut down on alcohol, and trim down if you’re significantly overweight. Sleeping on your side can also help – sleeping on your back makes it more likely that you’ll snore because, in this position, your tongue rests against the end of your throat.
Insomnia is difficulty in falling asleep and staying asleep. It can result in a lack of energy, tiredness, irritability, and depression.
Most often a result of underlying stress, short-term insomnia lasts only a few weeks, whereas chronic insomnia can last for months, or even years.
Some types of insomnia will cure themselves if the causes of underlying stress are removed. Avoiding caffeine and nicotine, eating well, exercising, and sticking to a regular bedtime can also help the body’s circadian rhythm or “sleep clock,” get back in sync. However, if your insomnia is chronic, you should consult a doctor for advice.
Good Life, Good Sleep
Conditions like sleep apnea and insomnia can be challenging to manage – but most of us don’t give ourselves enough time to sleep, or don’t pay enough attention to getting a balanced diet and regular exercise. Focus on getting to bed earlier and following a healthier lifestyle. You may be surprised how much this improves the quality not only of your sleeping hours but of your waking ones too.