As posted on medium.com in March.
The sleepless among us are not only trapped in this ailment, but there’s also very little info on what we are supposed to do next.
We know what happens after falling down when we think we broke an arm… Medical imaging if a broken bone is the issue, surgery, cast… Simplified to illustrate the point, but mostly straightforward. Now, let’s repeat the exercise. With slumber ailments, a specific treatment plan seems impossible for some time now? The sleepless’ issues seem insurmountable because up until now, it seemed that there was a lack of transparency.
Here’s the good news. For the sleepless, the medical society has been establishing a range of underlying factors and treatment options for some time now. That knowledge is just not as available as it should be. With an estimated 10% of the population fitting the diagnostic criteria of insomnia alone and probably 30% of people transitioning into insomnia, it’s about time to put that knowledge to good use. Insomnia, sleep apnea and a variety of further topics can be addressed in a much more structured manner.
May the term ‘sleep issues’ serve as a placeholder for any slumber issue with impact on wakening hours. May this simplified guide assist you with a first view on where to start.
Disrupted sleep — factors
So without further ado, let’s start.
Some of us are simply on the wrong sleep/wake schedule. The newly coined term is ‘social jet-lag’. It describes cases where individuals need to sleep and rise earlier than socially accepted or where the sleep schedule is delayed to the same effect. The underlying sleep mechanisms are fine, though, as long as they get to stick to their schedule. Early obligations for people on a delayed schedule will predictably lead to feeling tired. You get it.
For others, supplements and prescribed medications need reviewing. Vitamin C and vitamin D&K can impact sleep if taken at the wrong time or if the dosage is too high. High blood pressure medication and psychiatric medication are further typical suspects.
Current diagnoses like hormonal imbalances, psychiatric findings and heart issues can contribute to sleep issues. Sleep disorders can exacerbate symptoms, too, think insomnia meeting sleep apnea. This is tough for a lot of people to handle, you have been diagnosed with something and now it needs to be dissected and corrected in order to assist. Don’t despair. Take your time and list what you know.
One’s personality and behavioural quirks may too influence sleep. We’ll look into the details in no time.
So, what now?
All of the above provides us with a more granular view of what’s happening to you and what to do next.
A general questionnaire determines
- your satisfaction with sleep and daytime alertness
- what your sleep pattern looks like
- sleep specific observations like time in bed spent, etc.
- all of the above (see general factors)
Listing and understanding how the full range of influencing factors can impact sleep is crucial. The more work you put in, the more you get to check off the list and focus. Healthcare professionals know how to revise your situation once handed more input and it’s not unusual for them to google new findings provided during a consultation. They want to learn, diagnose and define the next steps with you. Plus, they are the only ones to amend and wane out prescription medication, machinery involved.
Based on the analysis above, you get to have an informed conversation with your healthcare professional, in the UK the first point of contact is the General Practitioners (GP). For GPs it’s quite usual to open google to search for input provided by patients.
Let’s say the consensus is that everything is ruled out other than behavioural issues. You know, displacing sleep by playing with their iPads for too long, self-inflicted shortening of sleep time of any other kind, unhealthy attitude about sleep… Maybe, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for insomnia is indicated.
For others, sleep apnea can be revised properly. Sleep apnea often sounds like a rubber-stamp diagnosis but ultimately, weight loss, hormonal and further adjustments can milden symptoms, always depending on the situation.
A specific review of your situation can lead to either mildened symptoms or getting rid of sleep issues altogether. There is no one-for-all-cure but we can certainly work through what applies to you . You have work ahead. Don’t put it off.