Vidya was excited when she got her new job after graduation and she liked her office work hours as she could log off from work at 6 pm every day. After finishing her work, she would rush home to catch her favourite series. Although, she stays with her parents, she never had time to speak to them, let alone help in the house. She was hooked to the television and would be awake till 1.00 am. As the days passed by, Vidya’s sleep time reduced to 2-3 hours. With this, her health started deteriorating. Vidya soon started picking a fight with her parents and colleagues. Along with the rude behaviour, her lack of concentration in work due to reduced sleep time got her multiple warnings from the seniors. Slowly Vidya slipped into depression. Worried seeing their daughter, her parents consulted a doctor. After the counselling, doctor recommended her to follow healthy sleeping regime and asked her to reduce screen time before going to bed. Once she began following those steps properly, she was able to have a sound sleep at night and her performance at work also improved accordingly.
There are a lot of people amongst us like Vidya who get addicted to screen time at night. Especially youngsters who get addicted to their favourite shows at night and binge on their favourite snacks and beverages. But what most parents do not consider is that how this habit impacts the lifestyle with multiple lifestyle issues like obesity and sleep disorder.
Today many working professionals and kids go through sleep disorders due to the sedentary lifestyle and the habits they follow. Work from home and online classes have added to the existing issue. Therefore, sleep disorders need to be treated early. When left untreated, they can have a negative effect leading to other health complications.
There are various types of sleep disorders. They can be classified according to the problems and behaviours of a person like breathing problems, natural sleep-wake cycles, difficulty sleeping and how sleepy you feel during the daytime.
Common types of sleep disorders include:
- Insomnia is a type of sleep disorder in which you find it difficult falling asleep or staying asleep through the night.
- Sleep apnea is a condition in which you have abnormal patterns in breathing while you are sleeping. There are different types of sleep apnea.
- Narcolepsy is a disorder that causes extreme sleepiness during the day and falling asleep suddenly during the day.
- Restless legs syndrome is a kind of sleep movement disorder. Restless legs syndrome, also called Willis-Ekbom disease, causes an uncomfortable feeling and an urge to move the legs while you try to fall asleep.
It is certainly important to consider duration as well as quality of sleep as it can affect each person in different ways. Sleep deprivation leads to an early onset of systemic diseases. Sleep disorders which are linked with systemic disorders frequently disrupt maintenance of sleep, or cause symptoms of excessive daytime sleepiness or parasomnia behaviour.
In case an individual had poor quality of sleep, they tend to feel tired the next day, regardless of how many hours they have slept. Sleep disorder can affect various aspects of health, including:
- Sleep deprivation may cause a person to be more vulnerable to infections, which may usually take longer time to resolve.
- Sleep can affect hormones that control sensations of hunger and fullness. It can also trigger the release of insulin. Changes to sleep can cause increased fat storage, impact on weight, and a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Good-quality sleepdecreases the work of your heart, as blood pressure and heart rate go down at night. Too little sleep may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Sleep disorder can affect hormone production, including the production of growth hormones and testosterone. It also causes the body to release additional stress hormones, such as norepinephrine and cortisol.
- Sleep disorders affect the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which takes care of reasoning, and the amygdala, which deals with emotion. A lack of sleep may also make it harder for a person to form new memories, which can affect learning.
- Fertility: Sleeplessness may affect the production of hormones that boost fertility.
Lifestyle adjustments can greatly improve your quality of sleep, here are some tips to overcome sleep disorders and live a normal life:
- Have a regular sleep-wake cycle. Try to go to bed at the same time everyday
- Avoid using phone or any electronic devices before going to bed, this will let your body relax and gets ready to sleep
- Include more vegetables and fish into your diet, reduce sugar intake
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and tobacco in the 4-6 hours window before bedtime
- Do not eat large meals within two hours of bedtime
- Do not take any naps
- Make sure you sleep in a quiet, dark room with a comfortable temperature
- In case you cannot fall asleep within 20 minutes, do a quiet activity somewhere else and return to bed when you are sleepy
- Make sure your friends and colleagues know about your bedtime so that they do not disturb you during that time. This will help you having an uninterrupted sleep throughout
- Pick up a book instead of your phone and incase you want to check an email at night, make sure you lower the brightness of your phone
- Make sure to ease yourself 30 minutes before bedtime with a relaxing pre sleep ritual such as a warm bath or soft music
- Maintain a healthy weight based on your doctor’s suggestions
Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day can also considerably improve the quality of your sleep.
The impact of sleep disorders can be so disruptive that you will want an immediate relief. Unfortunately, People affected over a long period of time can take more time to set straight than expected. However, it is recommended that if you stick to your treatment plan and regularly talk to your doctor, you can find your way to better sleep.
By Dr. Satish Babu, Senior Consultant, ENT