What Causes Sleep Disturbances? What Can You Do About Them?

Sleep disturbances are not uncommon especially in developed nations where official data confirms that 25 to 50% of the entire population is affected by various sleep problems. In the US, 40 million people are chronically ill with various sleep disorders and an additional 20 to 30 million experience intermittent sleep-related problems.

Interestingly, sleep disturbances are not normally stand-alone illnesses but symptoms of a variety of physical, mental and even spiritual deterioration. Few of the common sleep disorders that persistent sleep disturbances could mean are:

–          Insomnia: inability to fall or remain asleep.

–          Sleep apnea: one of the worst sleep disorders marked by recurrent pauses in breathing.

–          Restless legs syndrome: illness that is characterized by a tingling sensation in the legs

–          Narcolepsy: known for daytime sleep attacks; excessive daytime sleepiness and cataplexy (loss of muscle tone)

Then there could be parasomnias also. These include nightmares, night terrors, sleepwalking and talking, head banging, bed wets and teeth grinding at night.

What causes sleep disturbances? 

When sleep disruption does not last beyond three weeks, the condition can be called temporary. Usual factors that cause temporary disturbance include nervousness during interview/exam and similar impending challenging situations. However, when sleep impairment lasts more than 3 weeks the condition is considered to be chronic and may persist even when the original reason for sleep disruption is no longer present. At this stage the problem can manifest by way of problems falling asleep; remaining asleep; waking too often or even waking too early.

Sleep impairment can be caused by both external as well as internal factors. Some of the causes that have external origin include:

–          Noisy environment

–          Light

–          Improper bedroom temperature

–          Poor quality bed mattress, etc.

–          Altitude change beyond 1500 meters.

–          New sleep surroundings

–          Medications containing amphetamines (several appetite suppressors contain this)

–          Medications used to stimulate blood circulation

–          Cortisone group of drugs, antiepileptic drugs, ephedrine and drugs containing theophylline used for flu, cough, colds, bronchitis, and asthma medication.

–          Coffee, tobacco, energy drinks and colas.

–          Overeating or eating heavy meals late in the evening

–          Jet lag, change in work shift.

Sleep impairment caused by internal factors: 

–          Acute or chronic health conditions like disease of the heart, central nervous system, spasms or Parkinsons’s disease, ailments of the gastrointestinal and musculoskeletal system

–          Changes during menopause, premenstrual syndrome and mental illness like depression, schizophrenia, etc.

–          Mental conditions like anxiety, nervousness and stress.

How to minimize sleep disturbances?

Follow these simple healthy sleep tips to get better sleep and improve quality of life:

–          Maintain a fixed time when you would go to sleep and wake up.

–          Keeping a relaxing bed time routine

–          Improve bedroom environment

–          Ensure that the mattress is comfortable and sleep-inductive

–          Remove all items that make you worry from the bedroom

–          Finish eating before 2 hours of going to bed

–          Exercise regularly

–          Quit alcohol and smoking

–          Avoid coffee, sweetened and fizzy drinks close to sleeping time.

–          Treat underlying health condition, if any.

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