Sleep disorders and nocturnal disorders: What are they and how can they be treated?
Nighttime disturbances, also known as sleep disorders, are common in adults, and children, and can have a significant impact on quality of life. Sleep disorders include a variety of symptoms that interfere with the ability to fall asleep or stay asleep throughout the night. These disorders can also create other concerns such as mental and physical health problems! Therefore, it is important to understand the causes of these and the treatment options available to improve the quality of life for those who suffer from them. In this article, we will explore the different types of nighttime disorders, the causes, the risk factors, and ways to effectively manage them through nature and science. Of course, this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of a health care professional. If you frequently suffer from one of these disorders, we recommend that you consult a doctor or a specialist.
What are sleep disorders?
First of all, what is the definition of sleep disorders? Sleep disorders refer to a set of symptoms that occur during the night and that can disrupt sleep. There are different types of sleep disorders, each with its own causes and symptoms. The most common nocturnal disorders are: insomnia, night terrors, parasomnias, and narcolepsy. In this article, we will discuss these and other disorders in more detail. These disorders can affect a person's quality of life, causing anxiety and fatigue. It is therefore important to consult a doctor if you are experiencing difficulties related to your sleep in order to find a solution. Overall, there are three main types of disorders: dyssomnia, parasomnia, and sleep disorders of psychiatric or neurological origin or related to other diseases.
The different types of disorders
As previously mentioned, three types of nocturnal disorders exist: dyssomnia, parasomnia, and sleep disorders associated with mental illnesses. We will explain each type of disorder here, as well as the disorders that can emanate from each category. Of course, this list is not exhaustive. We recommend that you consult a specialist to learn more about the disorders, and also to screen for them.
Dyssomnia includes insomnia of psychological origin (not being able to fall asleep at night), altitude insomnia, outdoor insomnia, sleep disorders related to alcohol, those related to medication, and narcolepsy (excessive sleepiness during the day that may be accompanied by involuntary sleep episodes). Insomnia can occur when you fall asleep, but also during the night, or a few hours before waking up. Temporary insomnia can last up to 3 weeks, and if it persists, it becomes chronic insomnia. Psychological insomnia is often due to emotional stress. External insomnia can occur during a change of nocturnal environment (noise in the room, light, snoring partner, new bed, or new room) or because of a major event (loss of a loved one, exam, change of job, illness).
Insomnia can also be felt during a period of withdrawal or when taking medication(s). Some sleep disorders may also appear following the excessive consumption of coffee or alcohol during the day. Narcolepsy is genetic. It is sometimes accompanied by sudden muscle weakness, visual hallucinations when falling asleep, and sleep paralysis.
These disorders are related to nocturnal awakenings without significant sleep disturbances or a lack of vigilance during the day. Children can be affected by these disorders, as well as adults. Parasomnias include : sleepwalking (the cause of which remains unknown), bruxism (which generally appears around the age of 40, but can occur before that due to too much stress, or a bad position of the jaw), night terrors (babies are also victims), urinary incontinence during the night (which can be due to emotional disorders, urinary infections, epilepsy, or urinary tract malformations), and sleep disorders associated with REM sleep (nightmares, violent behavior during sleep, sleep apnea, sleep paralysis).
Sleep disorders of neurological or psychiatric origin, or related to any other illness
Some disorders, such as seasonal depression, can lead to hypersomnia. Depression, like bipolar disorder, is also the cause of insomnia, nighttime awakenings, and early awakenings. Sleep deprivation can even occur in some cases of bipolar disorder.
The causes of sleep disorders The causes of sleep disorders can be varied
Here is a non-exhaustive list of them:
- Hyperconnection The telephone, the computer, the television... are many screens that keep us away from a quality sleep! Indeed, these screens constantly send us a strong source of light, creating turbulence in our day/night rhythm, as well as in the production of natural melatonin. For your own good, avoid screens when you wake up, and also two hours before going to bed!
- Lack of physical activity: The lack of physical activity (walking, sports, etc.) can have a huge impact on your nights. Indeed, to find sleep, it is easier to fall asleep while feeling the physical fatigue of the day. However, if no physical activity is carried out during the day, it will be more complicated to find sleep, and not to stay up late at night. So to remedy this, don't hesitate to go for a walk, join a gym, or simply go for a 30-minute run outside. On the other hand, limit physical activity in the evening, as this could be harmful to the quality of your night.
- Diet: Tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, energy drinks, fatty or overly sweet food... Diet has a great impact on the quality of your sleep. So in the evening, make sure you eat a light, balanced meal at least two hours before bedtime.
- The time difference: Has anyone ever told you that it is highly recommended to have the same wake-up and bedtime during the week, even during the weekend? On paper, that's how it should be. But unfortunately, many of us don't do that. And this obviously has an impact on sleep...
- Diseases : Some diseases may be responsible for your nighttime disturbances, such as: hyperthyroidism, gastroesophageal reflux, nocturnal asthma, certain cancers, obstructive sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, depression, bipolar disorder, cardiovascular problems, and many others. Don't hesitate to talk to your doctor about any difficulties you may be experiencing at night or during your sleep.
- Overly present anxiety: Like depression, constant anxiety, or too much of it on a daily basis, can disrupt the brain when it wants to rest. Being more inclined to ruminate, or not knowing how to let go, people suffering from anxiety often face difficulties to sleep well (night wakings, insomnia, bruxism, etc).
- Temporary stress or raw emotions: And the same goes for passing emotions! Stress, anger, sadness, or too much joy impact your sleep. For your well-being, try to calm yourself down before falling into Morpheus' arms, and avoid heated discussions before falling asleep.
- Genetics: Concerning narcolepsy, the main cause would be genetics, because yes, just like some diseases, some nocturnal disorders are transmitted!
- Causes still unknown: Sometimes, the answer to questions is not yet found. Sleepwalking, for example, is still a mystery to science!
In some cases, medical examinations may be requested to determine the exact disorder, or to confirm or dispel one or more suspicions.
The basic examination is called polysomnography, and consists of recording the narrow activity of the brain, eyes, and chin muscles through electrodes placed on the head. Other sensors can be added to eliminate suspicions of sleep apnea for example. The examination lasts on average 24 to 48 hours depending on the suspected disorder. The installation of the electrodes takes about 1 to 1.5 hours. Once finished, a software publishes the sleep synthesis, called hypnogram, so that the doctors can make a diagnosis.
The examination can continue during the day, in order to record the sleepiness of a person.
Other tools/exams can help diagnose sleep disorders such as: a blood test, a day/night diary completed by actimetry (in case of insomnia), and many others.
Of course, the above tests are the most commonly used, and are not the only ones prescribed. Do not hesitate to consult your doctor to discuss your difficulties in falling asleep, resting properly, or staying awake during the day. He or she may refer you to medical examinations and additional tests (blood tests, etc.).
Medication and natural treatments
In some cases, you may be prescribed certain medications to help you sleep better at night. These medications, not necessarily automaticThese medications, which are not necessarily automatic, can be useful to regulate the states of wakefulness and sleep, but also to accelerate sleep, or reduce the stress or excitement that prevents your brain from falling asleep peacefully.
Among these medications, you can find benzodiazepines, non-benzodiazepine sleeping pills, melatonin-based supplements, or antidepressants.
Sometimes sleep disorders are the result of gastroesophageal reflux. In this case, you will have to identify the foods to avoid, sleep on your back, and consult a doctor who may prescribe a special and adapted treatment.
For bruxism, a visit to the dentist or an orthodontist is necessary. A mouthpiece could be prescribed to limit the wear of your teeth.
Unfortunately, when a person has too much nighttime trouble, it is difficult to treat it completely with natural methods. But these tips and herbs could still be useful to relax your brain before sleeping, and help you improve your sleep. In any case, certain actions are beneficial to your health, whether or not you suffer from sleep disorders.
Accept your negative thoughts
This is easier said than done, but it is more than recommended. Indeed, refusing certain thoughts only accentuates them in your brain. Just like negative emotions, it is better to let them come, and accept them (even if it means crying for an hour...) in order to let them go. Expressing yourself is the best way to get rid of them. This can be done through a psychological meeting, or by writing down your thoughts on paper when you feel the need to do so.
Do you know about cardiac coherence? Perfect for reducing stress and supporting emotional balance, it promotes mental clarity, improves intellectual and creative capacities, and also facilitates decision making. To do this, we advise you to sit comfortably, standing up straight. Then, breathe in for 4 seconds, and breathe out for 6 seconds. You can do this exercise 3 times a day for 5 minutes. To help you, applications on smartphone exist like Respirelax+.
Like cardiac coherence, meditation allows you to let go and anchor yourself in the present moment. Thanks to this, you release tension and accumulated stress. This practice must be done daily in order to be effective. Many videos are available on YouTube to help you, but also applications such as Mind, Petit bambou, and many others.
Reduce screens during the day and at night
This is no longer a secret. In order to have a good day/night rhythm, it is strongly advised not to look at your phone when you wake up, as well as before going to bed. Overall, try to get away from screens as much as you can. Read, paint, go for a walk, connect with others... There are many activities outside of screens!
Activate your body during the day
This technique, as old as the world, is simply effective to improve your sleep. You can do sports at home, in a gym, go get bread, take your pet for a walk, or go for a walk with your family or friends! The important thing is to get some exercise during the day and to breathe fresh air.
Reassure and be there for the troubled person
Sometimes, kindness will be the best remedy to help a person prone to sleep disorders, such as sleep paralysis. Behavioral therapy and re-education could be useful in a case of enuresis (nocturnal urinary incontinence), or addiction to harmful substances (alcohol, drugs,...).
To call upon the plants
Herbal teas, food supplements, mother tincture, essential oils... The choice is vast! And nature is well made... so why not use it to solve some daily problems, especially those concerning sleep? To help you sleep better, or to fall asleep, you can use valerian, passion flower, lemon balm, lavender, rosemary, poppy, and many others! For example, a few drops of sweet orange essential oil or real lavender on your pillow could help you find calm before counting sheep...
Take magnesium cures
Ideal to counterbalance the activity of the nervous system, magnesium also supports the production of serotonin, which is none other than the hormone of well-being. A sleep disorder can be a symptom of a lack of magnesium in your body. The duration of the treatment is generally 1 to 3 months. Ask a professional for advice on the brand of magnesium you wish to take, so that it can be assimilated by your body (because yes, any supplement can be quickly evacuated in the urine if it is not well assimilated...). To start a cure of magnesium, or any other supplement, we advise you to talk about it with your doctor.
When stress is the cause of sleep disorders (such as insomnia), it is possible to take a homeopathic treatment with 3 granules of Gelsemium sempervirens 3 times a day, or 5 granules of Iganatia Amara.
Often used in many products these days, CBD is making its way into the daily lives of many people. Useful to reduce sleep disorders, anxiety, or reduce headaches, CBD promotes relaxation. This type of product exists in different forms, such as sprays for pillowcases, oil to put under the tongue, gummies to eat, or cells to swallow.
Of course, as some contraindications are to be taken into account. Just like plants and drugs, CBD can have adverse effects on some people, especially those with psychotic disorders, severe liver failure, or severe kidney failure. Always seek professional advice before starting any CBD intake.
Monitor your lifestyle
In order to limit night awakenings, insomnia, and other worries during the night, avoid drinking too much water before sleeping. Avoid alcohol and tobacco. Taking an ampoule of vitamin D can have a positive effect on the quality of your sleep. In order to verify if you do not have a deficiency that would diminish the quality of your sleep, do not hesitate to ask for a blood test from your doctor.
Globally, specialists (such as naturopaths) exist to guide you towards a quality sleep. You can also get information through books on this subject.
Awareness of counseling and mental illness
Sometimes, and even very often linked to an illness or a mental disorder (anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, depression, burn-out, difficult bereavement, etc.), sleep disorders require treatment by a doctor, but may also require the help of a psychologist by following a behavioral therapy.
Indeed, the latter could work with you on the sources that generate night-time disorders. He or she can also accompany you in the daily management of these disorders and the impact they can have on the mind. In addition to general practitioners and other specialists (naturopaths, neurologists, hypnotists, etc.), you can turn to free listening centers such as the CMP, or associations of psychologists. It is also possible to see a private psychologist.
No matter your age, your concern, and your income, there is a solution available to you to be supported and listened to on a daily basis. Sleep is crucial to good physical and mental health, so don't hesitate to seek outside help to improve it.
Go further: Some reading to inform yourself
How about learning more about sleep disorders by reading a few books?
" Learn to sleep again to be in good health
Summary: Thanks to the latest scientific research, Professor Pierre Philip reveals all the secrets of sleep and unveils its three fundamental pillars - regularity, duration and quality.
This practical guide deals with all sleep diseases (insomnia, sleep apnea, hypersomnia...) and answers the questions that are essential in everyday life:
What is the optimal length of sleep?
Sleeping in: good idea or bad idea?
I fall asleep quickly, then I have an insomnia of 2 hours: what to do?
Is CBD good for me to fall asleep?
What should I do if my sleep deteriorates while working from home?
Does sport really help me sleep?
In four parts (The mechanics of sleep, Good sleep in everyday life, When sleep goes wrong in the long run, When sleep becomes a disease), everyone will find concrete solutions through personalized routines adapted to each age of life.
" Sleep well, it can be learned! " by Benjamin Lubszynski
Summary: A good night's sleep without sleeping pills: does this seem like an unattainable dream? A distant memory? Rejoice! This book will allow you to find serene and restful nights. Your brain has simply lost the way to fall asleep naturally. You will relearn the right automatisms, step by step, thanks to hypnosis, meditation, CBT and other methods of a formidable effectiveness like ASMR and EMDR. And all in a natural way...
More effective than herbal teas and without side effects unlike drugs, you hold in your hands a practical book, fun and a stunning effectiveness: get ready to say goodbye to your insomnia!
" Sleep well without medication
Summary: How do you get back to sleep when you've lost it? What prevents you from sleeping? In this book, each story reveals a solution to sleep well and explains what really works: whether you are stressed, anxious, hyperactive, an insomniac, an adult, a child, a student, a senior, a traveler or a night worker. Choose among the 25 practices, illustrated by the sayings of our elders and validated by scientific studies, those that suit your sleeping profile and apply the proposed solutions. Find your way back to sleep easily. Practice the sophrology sessions to download. It has changed the lives of many people, it will change yours! The new most effective method to sleep well.
Allo docteurs - En finir avec les troubles du sommeil " by Doctor Marina Carrère d'Eucausse and Cécile Guéry Riquier
Summary: Busy life, daily stress, influence of screens... are you part of the 35% of French people who suffer from sleep disorders? Fortunately, it is not a fatality, because sleep is essential to be in shape both physically and mentally.
In this complete guide, discover the essentials to know and practical advice targeted to your needs to find calm nights...
In conclusion, night-time problems can be a daily burden for those who suffer from them.
Solutions exist, and we encourage you to turn to doctors and specialists to find them. A good sleep is essential to live a good life. It deserves your full attention! Don't hesitate to read our article about night sweats, podcasts, the effects of screens on sleep, and the one about melatonin.
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