Sleep is a recurring state of altered consciousness, imperative to normal brain and body function. Approximately one-third time of our lives is spent asleep. Sleep is characterised by decreased awareness and interaction with surroundings, lowered sensory activity and inhibition of voluntary muscles.
The quantity and quality of sleep change with age. The elderly show more frequent awakenings during the night white teenagers tend to remain awake at night and sleep during the day. Changes in sleep are believed to be due to changes in internal body rhythm, (called Circadian Rhythm), emotional stress, physical illness and drugs. The chronic use of sedatives and hypnotic drugs is not known to improve sleep. On the contrary, they are implicated in many of the dyssomnias. Due to slow metabolism, the elderly tend to accumulate more sedatives in their bodies which may lead to delirium, daytime drowsiness and loss of equilibrium.
There are two types of sleep disorders: primary and secondary sleep disorders. Primary disorders occur as a direct result of disturbances in the sleep-wake cycle. Secondary sleep disorders occur as a consequence of other disorders such as depression or due to a general medical condition (e.g. pain) or substance abuse.
Effects of Sleep deprivation:
- Cognitive impairment
- Memory lapses or loss
- Increased heart rate variability
- Impaired moral judgement
- Risk of heart disease
- Severe yawning
- Symptoms similar to ADHD
- Impaired immune system
- Increased reaction time
- Decreased accuracy
- Risk of diabetes Type 2
- Growth suppression
- Risk of obesity
- Decreased temperature
If you’re having trouble having a sound sleep, it will affect your daily life activities. To function optimally, you will need to improve your sleep. The following factors contribute to the improvement of sleep:
- Sleeping and waking up at around the same time daily (even on weekends!)
- Increased physical activity and exercise in the afternoon and early evening hours
- Cooler room temperatures are more conducive to sleep than warm temperatures
- Light bedtime snacks that have calcium and small amounts of sugar
- Evening relaxation routines such as progressive muscular relaxation and evening prayers.
- Avoidance of long naps during the later part of the day.
- Make and clean your bed every day.
- Get into bed only when ready for sleep.
- Eating at regular times daily and avoiding large meals near bedtime.
- Avoidance of sensory stimulation at night by substituting TV and cell phone usage with light reading
- Avoiding caffeine and fizzy drinks in the evenings
- Avoidance of excessive smoking in the evenings (as nicotine is a stimulant)
- Avoidance of stimulant drugs such as amphetamines, cocaine and MDMA
Try this at home
Here is a technique that you can use to enter normal physiological sleep at any time without the use of drugs, using the following steps:
- Lie down in bed. close your eyes and gradually guide your mind to visualise a chalkboard. Imagine that You have chalk in one hand and an eraser in the other. Imagine drawing a target circle on the chalkboard Then draw a big X within the circle, you will then proceed to erase the X from within the circle starting at the centre of the X and erasing towards the inner edges of the circle. Be careful not to erase the circle in the test.
- Once you erase the X From within the circle, to the right and outside of the circle write the word “deeper.” Every time you write the word “deeper” you will enter a deeper level of healthy sleep. Write a big number 100 within the circle.
- Proceed to erase the number 100. Be careful not to erase the circle in the least. Once the number 100 is erased to the right and outside of the circle, go over the word “Deeper”.
- Every time you go over the word “Deeper” you will enter a deeper healthier level of normal natural healthy sleep. You will continue using numbers within the circle on a descending scale until you enter a normal natural healthy physiological sleep.
Whenever you enter sleep with the use of this strategy, you will awaken at your customary time, or you can remain asleep for as long as you desire. When you wake up, you will feel well-rested and refreshed.
Coping with Insomnia
For primary insomnia, it is helpful to develop regular habits and exercise and discourage indulgence in tobacco, caffeine and alcohol. If an underlying disease causes insomnia, this disease should be treated, and general measures to promote sleep (discussed above) should be adopted. The use of short-term hypnotics, such as benzodiazepines, should be avoided due to their high addictive potential. Hypnotics may be prescribed for a few days, in severe cases only. Withdrawal of hypnotics can cause insomnia that is as distressing as the original sleep disturbance. Prolonged use can lead to the development of dependence, tolerance (needing ever-increasing doses to achieve the same effect) and impaired performance during the day.
(2017, May 19). Short- and long-term health consequences of sleep disruption. – NCBI – NIH.
(n.d.). The Extraordinary Importance of Sleep – NCBI – NIH.
(2018, November 27). Sleeping hours: what is the ideal number and how does age impact this? – NCBI – NIH.
(2016, December 20). Sleep, Health, and Society – NCBI – NIH.
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