Do you have trouble sleeping? Do you wake up in the middle of the night? Do you have excessive sleepiness during the day? Maybe you have a sleep disorder and don’t know it. The sleep disorders They are quite common and have disabling consequences on a daily basis. For example, they cause fatigue, poor performance, social unrest, low mood, and can cause traffic or work accidents.
In this PsicologíaOnline article, we talk about insomnia and hypersomnia and we show some guidelines to improve sleep hygiene and get a good night’s sleep.
Perhaps the best known sleep disorder is insomnia, something that we have all suffered at some point. Insomnia can be common in specific high-stress situations (exams, health problems, major life changes, etc.) but it can become chronic and no longer directly related to the problem that caused it. For us to be able to talk about insomnia at the level of a disease or disorder, it must occur commonly (3 or more nights a week). Indicators of suffering from insomnia may be waking up involuntarily before resting for six and a half hours, waking up several times during the night without being able to fall asleep again in more than half an hour, or taking more than half an hour to fall asleep when going to bed.
Insomnia is defined by lack of sleep at night and can be mainly two types:
- Conciliation insomnia: Difficulty getting to sleep
- Early awakening insomnia: He falls asleep easily, but wakes up very early, without the possibility of falling asleep.
Causes of insomnia
- Depression: The characteristic is insomnia with early awakening
- Anxiety: The characteristic is conciliation insomnia
- Environmental factors (excess light, environmental noises, shared room, bed and pillow different from the usual ones, interruption of sleep to administer medication) that usually produce insomnia due to frequent awakenings with great difficulty falling asleep again.
- Excessive time in bed
- daytime naps
- Boredom with lack of activity and/or daytime stimuli
- Nocturia (urinating at night), pain.
- Pharmacological: It is up to the doctor to prescribe them and in his assessment he must include correct information from the affected person and their family members. This treatment should be limited to a short period of time. Chronic taking of hypnotics generates dependency and sleep disorders caused by the medication that will later be very difficult to correct.
- Non-pharmacological: Sleep hygiene rules.
Sleep hygiene measures
- Lie down to sleep only when you are sleepy
- Do not do any activity in bed other than sleeping (avoid reading, watching TV, listening to the radio, do not think about problems or activities that you must do the next day).
- If after 10 minutes after getting into bed you have not been able to fall asleep, get up and do a relaxing activity (listen to music, read).
- Lie down again when you feel sleepy again
- If you still cannot sleep when you return to bed, repeat the same operation as many times as necessary.
- If after falling asleep you wake up during the night and do not fall back asleep for 10 minutes, follow the instructions above.
- Always get up at the same time, regardless of how long you have slept.
- Don’t sleep during the day
Other useful measures
- Avoid exciting or heavy meals during the afternoon
- Perform gentle exercise throughout the day. Do not do it before going to bed as it is exciting
- Maintain a comfortable temperature in the room and inside the bed (neither excess nor lack)
- Carry out relaxation measures prior to sleep with a calm musical environment in the background and without forcing sleep.
Less known are the hypersomnias, that is, the excessive sleep during the day: There are different syndromes and manifestations with different causes. For example, in the narcolepsy-cataplexy syndrome It is characterized by uncontrollable sleep attacks, episodes of paralysis during sleep, hallucinations when falling asleep and/or cataplexy (loss of muscle tone).
Another syndrome, Sleep apnea, affects especially (although not only) hypertensive and obese people. In apnea, breathing stops during longer or shorter periods of sleep, which can cause cardiac, neurological and social problems. There are medical treatments for apnea, such as the application of a continuous input oxygen mask.
Other disorders are related to sleep-wake rhythms. For example, there is the world-famous “jet lag” which occurs when taking a long trip, usually by plane, which involves changing time zones. This means that the body has to readjust to the new time cycles, something that is more difficult for some people than for others. A related problem is that which occurs in work shift rotations, in which people have to work some days during the day and others at night. The only solution here is to try to organize shifts and sleeping hours.
Factors that influence sleep quality
People can adopt practices that help minimize the incidence of sleep problems and promote normal sleep. First of all, say that there are a number of factors that affect the quality of sleep, such as the environment, physical exercise, diet or substance use:
- Substance use: We all know that caffeine affects sleep, since it is a stimulant. In fact, we all associate coffee with “waking up,” not with “falling asleep.” Nicotine has a similar stimulating effect. On the other hand, alcohol produces an effect that may go unnoticed by most. Although it is a depressant and can make it easier to fall asleep at some point, the quality of sleep is worse, so its abuse should be avoided.
- Atmosphere: Our body needs certain environments of noise, light, temperature and humidity suitable for sleep. The temperature should range between 18 and 22 ºC and the humidity between 40 and 70%. Of course the light must be dim and we must avoid excessive noise.
- Exercise: Although this depends on the intensity of the activity carried out, it is recognized that physical exercise promotes sleep when done in the morning or mid-afternoon, while it can be negative if we do it before going to bed.
- Diet: A diet rich in carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals increases the quality of sleep, while proteins promote wakefulness. Strong meals before sleep decrease its quality.
Guidelines for good sleep hygiene
Starting from this, we can have a series of Guidelines that facilitate sleep:
- Do not abuse substances such as coffee, tobacco or alcohol, especially before going to sleep, and do not take sleeping pills without medical supervision.
- Eat dinner a reasonable time before going to bed (between 2 and 3 hours before) and ensure that dinners are neither too few nor too abundant.
- Create a sleeping habit, always getting up and going to bed at approximately the same time.
- The bedroom must have the appropriate environmental conditions. The bed should be comfortable for us (not too soft or too hard). Temperature, light, humidity and noise conditions must be controlled.
- Exercise often, this is healthy in general, not just for sleep. If possible, do it in the morning and avoid doing it at the last minute.
- Avoid spending a lot of time awake in bed, as we must prevent the body from getting used to it.
- Slow down your mental and physical activity as bedtime approaches. For example, read something light or listen to relaxing music, but don’t watch action movies or play video games.
Think about the importance of this, we spend a third of our lives sleeping, isn’t it worth doing it in the best possible conditions?
This article is merely informative, at PsychologyFor we do not have the power to make a diagnosis or recommend a treatment. We invite you to go to a psychologist to treat your particular case.
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