Sleep Disorders - Causes and Treatment
Having an occasional night of bad sleep that leaves a feeling of unrest in the morning happens to nearly everyone, once in a while. The causes could be physical (indigestion for example) or mental (a bad day at work for instance). Such instances of sleeplessness usually fade away after a day or two. However, if the condition is chronic, meaning that the lack of sleep or restless sleep is a regular occurrence, then medical attention is required. One of the main causes of sleep disorders is mental, in the form of stress and anxiety. Lack of sleep will exacerbate the problem and a vicious cycle of stress-causing lack of sleep which leads to more stress will set in. The effect this has on health, both short and long-term can be very serious.
What are Sleep Disorders?
Sleep disorders, or sleep-wake disorders, involve problems with the amount, quality and time spent sleeping. If a person does not get enough sleep, daytime physical and cognitive functioning is affected. There are several types of sleep disorders, including insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, narcolepsy, parasomnias, night terrors, etc. Of these, insomnia is the most common.
In simple terms, insomnia involves difficulty falling asleep and problems with staying asleep to get a full night’s rest. According to estimates, about 33% of the adult population has suffered from insomnia at one time or another. There are 3 broad classifications of insomnia:
- Transient insomnia which lasts for just a few nights and is not a regular occurrence.
- Intermittent insomnia wherein the difficulty in sleeping occurs at regular intervals and lasts long enough to affect mental and physical wellbeing.
- Chronic insomnia in which the problem continues without a pause for a minimum of 3 or 4 weeks.
Importance of Sleep
Sleep is one of the most basic of human needs and is vital for both physical and mental well-being. The human metabolism works on a 24 hours cycle and after a certain number of hours awake, the body needs to sleep before the next wake cycle can start. The amount of sleep a person needs is determined by age, lifestyle, health status and other factors. Generally, 8 hours of sleep in a 24 cycle is adequate.
Effects of Lack of Sleep
The physical symptoms of lack of or inadequate sleep are well known–fatigue and low energy levels being the most common. It is the mental impact that is often harder to understand and evaluate. As already stated, stress and tension can cause sleep disorders which in turn increase stress and tension. Mood swings, irritability and a lowered ability to make correct decisions are other signs. With time, sleep disorders can lead to depression and low self-esteem.
Insomnia can normally be categorized as being caused by physical or mental issues. If the cause is physical, detailed examinations and testing will identify the cause after which treatment to cure insomnia by treating the physical cause can begin. If the cause is a mental one, behavioral modification and psychiatric treatment are the best courses of treatment. The common psychiatric causes of sleep disorders like insomnia are stress, tension, anxiety and depression.
Sleep disorders should not be taken lightly. They can have a negative impact on every aspect of life and well-being. Whether a sleep disorder is caused by psychiatric issues is something that only a medical professional will be able to decide. This will involve a detailed investigation into the causes of the problem so that a treatment and recovery plan can be created. In many cases, the treatment consists of medication and behavioral and lifestyle modifications. The unprescribed use of medication to help in going to sleep is dangerous and can lead to addiction and other health issues. If medication is required, only a psychiatric professional will know what type of medication is right and in what quantities.
Every human being needs not just sleep, but enough sleep. The effects of sleep disorders can impact all aspects of life, both personal and professional, and can also damage personal relationships. If you suffer from insomnia or another sleep disorder, your health, mental and physical, may be suffering more than you realize. When the problems are advanced and can no longer be ignored, treatment and cure are much more difficult and time-consuming. If you feel you have a sleep disorder, whether or not the obvious symptoms show, you should contact a specialist to understand and treat the cause of the problem. The right place for this is a leading multispecialty hospital. In such a facility, you will find the psychiatric services and support you need and a thorough physical examination will be done to find any physical problems that may contribute to insomnia.
What Is Psychiatry?
Psychiatry is the branch of medicine that deals with the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of mental, emotional or behavioral issues or the stressors that cause these disorders. Like any other specialist, the psychiatrist will do an examination to diagnose the problem and then chart a course of treatment that may involve both medication and therapy to resolve the issues. Psychiatrists deal with a wide range of mental health issues, some more serious than others, but sleep disorders are among the most common and easily treatable.
There is no shame in seeking psychiatric treatment. The mind is like the body – both have their limits as to how much pressure they can bear. When the body is exhausted, aches, pains and weaknesses result and these go away only after the body gets the rest and treatment it needs. The same applies to the brain. When it is exhausted, it causes sleep disorders that will only go with proper treatment. Sleep disorders are your brain’s ways of telling you that you need to find help to destress and unwind.
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