Most of us experience periods when we can’t sleep but for some of us, these periods can be prolonged. Anyone that has coped with sleep problems for any length of time will tell you that it often results in a significant deterioration in cognitive functioning.

If you’re suffering from a lack of sleep a visit to your General practitioner can result in a prescription for sleeping tablets. However, this can only be a temporary solution and often these tablets bring their own set of problems. Side effects can include constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, dry mouth and uncontrollable shaking.  Sleeping tablets can also work against other medication so your Doctor may be limited in what they can prescribe. And, of course, most of them are addictive.

What Are the Most Common Symptoms of Sleep Disorders?

There are many different conditions that can be described as sleep disorders. Some of the more well-known are:

  • Insomnia – inability to get to sleep, or stay asleep
  • Narcolepsy – extreme drowsiness during the day
  • Restless leg syndrome – inability to keep legs still during the night
  • Sleep apnea – airway is blocked during sleeping so person stops breathing

Obviously, some of the above conditions are more serious than others. Sleep apnea can be extremely serious and must be treated appropriately.

Symptoms vary across the range of sleep disorders but here are some things that may cause concern:

  • Daytime fatigue
  • Decrease in cognitive function
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Drowsiness
  • Early awakening

The above symptoms can each occur in isolation or together, and if allowed to continue can lead to long-term issues.

What Are the Causes of Sleep Disorders?

Short-term sleep problems can be caused by environmental factors such as noise, light or attempting to sleep on an uncomfortable surface or position. Shift workers often have problems sleeping due to a continually changing pattern.

Allergies, stress, and anxiety are common causes but as they are usually temporary conditions, will pass quickly. If these symptoms don’t ease within a few days, there may be underlying conditions that need to be investigated.

Sleep disorders such as restless leg syndrome, sleepwalking and teeth grinding can be symptoms of ADHD and Parkinson’s Disease but it is more likely that the cause of these will not be found. In some cases, magnesium can help to ease symptoms of these conditions.

How Can I Improve the Quality of My Sleep?

A search of how to sleep better on the internet will bring up several options, some considerably more helpful than others. Of course, maintaining a balanced lifestyle of exercise and diet will help but here are some other ideas you might want to consider if you’re concerned about the quality of your sleep.

  • Don’t sleep in at the weekend, no matter how tempting. Maintaining a regular sleep pattern will teach your body how to recognize when it is time to sleep and when it is time to wake up.
  • Turn off all electronic devices at least two hours before going to bed. Your brain needs to settle down and relax enough to fall asleep. Electronic sounds and visual stimulation will keep you awake longer and may have an impact on how well you sleep
  • Invest in dark curtains. A dark room is a lot easier to sleep in than one that is lit up. Our bodies are programmed to believe that night is dark, and is for sleeping, and daytime is light and is for stimulating activities.
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol as both are well-known to disrupt sleep and sleeping patterns. Also, don’t eat a big meal or spicy food before going to bed as digestive problems are a common cause of sleeplessness.

Finally, try not to worry about the fact that you can’t sleep. Worrying about not sleeping is only going to increase your anxiousness and make the whole process even more difficult. If you aim for relaxation instead of sleep it will take some of the pressure off for you.

There are other relaxations aids you can use. Some people find that listening to gentle music helps them sleep and regular meditation can also help. A drop or two of Lavender oil on your pillow may help you relax and also some crystals, such as Amethyst, Quartz and Selenite can aid in relaxation.

Drinking a cup of warm milk before bed can sometimes help with sleep problems but the benefits of this need to be weighed up with the disadvantages of waking up during the night to visit the toilet.

Whichever method you decide to choose, or whichever combination of methods, be aware that natural solutions can often be more beneficial that medications.

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