Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Help! I can't sleep!

Help! I can't sleep!
Wed, Mar 25, 2009
The New Straits Times

By Kasmiah Mustapha

MALAYSIA: IT'S 3am and Adam has been tossing and turning throughout the night. He has been trying hard to go to sleep but can't seem to do it. Even if he does fall asleep, he will be awake 10 minutes later.

Adam has been suffering from this sleeping disorder for months. Insomnia is the most common sleeping disorder; most of us would have faced this problem at some point of our lives.

Some people only suffer from it for a short term and will be back to normal in no time, while others require professional help.

Symptoms include difficulty in falling asleep, waking up often during the night and having trouble going back to sleep, waking up too early in the morning and feeling tired upon waking.

Research has found that insomnia is a persistent condition for many people. About 75 per cent of those with insomnia experience the condition for at least a year, and almost half experience it for three years.

Darul Ehsan Medical Centre consultant physician and cardiologist Col (R) Dr Abd Rahman Mohd Ali said when insomnia leads to problems such as lethargy, fatigue, inability to concentrate and low quality of life, one has to seek treatment.

"For some people, worrying about their health, financial situation and work can result in them not being able to sleep for days, weeks or even months. Once they are deprived of sleep, they may face other problems.

"In Adam's case, a family member had died of cancer. He began to worry that he too had cancer. Even a slight pain had him rushing to the doctor as he was convinced that he will die of cancer. The worry, stress and fear kept him awake."

Dr Abd Rahman said disturbed sleeping patterns can also lead to insomnia.

"If the time you go to sleep is constantly changed, the body will find it difficult to adjust after a while and you will start having sleepless nights.

"We need to maintain a regular bedtime. If you usually go to sleep at 11pm and wake up at 6am, you need to keep to it. You shouldn't sleep late or wake up late because your biological clock has been set. If you sleep late, you tend to oversleep, and this pattern can go on for days."

A recent study in the United States found that almost a third of all Americans suffer from insomnia because they are worried about the economy, their jobs or finances.

The study also found that those whose sleep is affected are less likely to work efficiently, exercise and eat healthily.

In the study, 27 per cent of those surveyed said they had disturbed sleep in the past month due to money issues - including personal finances (16 per cent), the economy (15 per cent) or losing their jobs (10 per cent).

The study also revealed that insomnia is more common among females, especially menopausal women, due to hormonal changes.

People with a medical condition will also face difficulty in sleeping. Those who are suffering from asthma, diabetes, prostate problems, arthritis, depression and anxiety are prone to insomnia.

Dr Abd Rahman said if a person is sleep deprived, it will affect his concentration and work which, in turn, will have consequences on his social and economic life. Lack of sleep will also increase certain conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, stress, heart disease, headache and depression.

The treatment for insomnia usually begins with changing one's lifestyle and behaviour. In many cases, doctors would not prescribe medication for treating it as it can lead to addiction, said Dr Abd Rahman.

"People who suffer from insomnia must maintain good hygiene and good sleeping habits including maintaining a conducive environment in their bedroom.

"Make sure your bedroom is purely for sleeping. For some people, their bedrooms also double up as their office with laptops, TV sets and such."

There are also those who are not opposed to eating in bed. They make the bedrooms not conducive to a good night's sleep.

Another no-no is taking long naps during the day.

"If you feel sleepy, take a short nap between 10 and 15 minutes after lunch. Do light exercises at least four hours before you go to bed and try not to have a heavy meal close to your bedtime."

Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol should be avoided late in the day. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants which will keep us from falling asleep while alcohol can cause waking in the night and interferes with sleep quality.

If you are not sleepy, have a warm bath or drink that will help you relax or read a book that you know will help you fall asleep.

The New Straits Times

No comments: