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Sleep Issues: When a Good Night’s Sleep is Just a Dream

Mental Illness

We have all experienced long sleepless nights often spent in our beds, staring at the ceiling or counting sheep, at some point in our lives. Deprivation and poor quality of sleep can have detrimental effects on an individual’s overall health and wellness. It may impair cognitive functioning, disrupt decision making ability, induce irritability and lead to changes in mood. It may also reduce the productivity and performance of an individual, and cause deficits in memory.

The following factors can lead to difficulties in falling asleep or poor quality of sleep – 

Irregular Schedule

Having an irregular sleep schedule, i.e. going to bed and waking up at different times every day, can put the body clock out of order and disrupt the circadian rhythm of the body. The circadian rhythm or cycle is a natural, internal process that regulates the sleep–wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours. This is the body’s own biological clock, which influences our hormones, body temperature, eating habits, sleep patterns, etc. 

Irregular schedules also include taking big meals and indulging in stimulating activities like exercising just before going to bed. Exercising increases your heart rate and body temperature, and makes it harder to fall asleep. It is best to have a relaxing bedtime ritual, which helps you unwind before going to bed. 

Inadequate Sleeping Environment 

Fairy lights and night lamps make the bedroom look great. However, researches have shown that artificial lights from electronic gadgets, TV, nightlight, or any other light equipment in the bedroom, can prevent the body from producing melatonin, which is a hormone that regulates our sleep cycle. Artificial lights also disrupt the circadian rhythm, which in turn impacts our metabolism, and increases the risk of chronic illnesses like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and insulin resistance.

Other environmental factors like noise, too high or low temperature, etc., can also lead to sleep disruptions. 

Poor Mental Health 

Sleep and mental health are closely related. Stress and mental health conditions like anxiety and depression, are associated with poor quality of sleep. Repetitive and intrusive thoughts can cause sleeplessness. Researchers suggest that insomnia is also linked with depression. Clinicians often suggest that even a few changes in our sleep pattern, such as excessive or poor sleep, might be suggestive of a psychiatric illness. 

Consumption of Excessive Caffeine and Alcohol

Caffeine and Alcohol are sleep disruptors. Although alcohol acts as a depressant, it increases the length of REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement) and decreases the length of NREM sleep (Non-Rapid Eye Movement), which reduces the quality of deep sleep.

Health Conditions

Underlying health conditions, like chronic lung diseases, asthma, acid reflux, renal disease, cancer, fibromyalgia, and chronic pain, can cause immense discomfort and make it harder for a person to fall asleep or even stay asleep. 

Sleep Disorders 

Inability to fall asleep or staying asleep, could also be due to a sleep disorder such as – 

  1. Insomnia – This disorder makes it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or get a good quality of sleep. There are many causes of insomnia, which are both psychological and physical.
  2. Sleep Apnea – This condition causes the breath to stop and start repeatedly during sleep. Although, most people do not wake up when this happens, but they are unable to get a good restful night’s sleep because of this condition.
  3. Narcolepsy – This disorder causes excessive daytime sleepiness, which results in the individual having uncontrollable episodes in which they fall asleep at random times and places. It also causes difficulties in falling and staying asleep at night.
  4. Restless Leg Syndrome – This causes uncomfortable sensations in the legs, that causes an uncontrollable urge to move legs, making it difficult for a person to fall asleep.

To improve the quality of sleep, it is best to improve lifestyle and work on the factors such as irregular sleep schedule, poor mental well-being, inadequate sleep environment, and getting requisite treatment for any underlying health conditions. It is also advised to seek professional help for a mental health checkup if you still have difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep after making lifestyle changes. Samvedna Care provides expert led mental health services for any sleep related disorders. They provide mental health counselling online for various issues like depression, anxiety, stress, and relationship issues.

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