Sleep disorders take serious toll on health

HARARE - A sleep disorder is a condition that frequently impacts your ability to get enough quality sleep.

While it’s normal to occasionally experience difficulties in sleeping, it’s not normal to regularly have problems getting to sleep at night, to wake up feeling exhausted, or to feel sleepy during the day.

Frequently having trouble sleeping can be a frustrating and debilitating experience.

You sleep badly at night which leaves you feeling dead-tired in the morning and whatever energy you have quickly drains away throughout the day. But then, no matter how exhausted you feel at night, you still have trouble sleeping. And so the cycle begins again, taking a serious toll on your mood, energy, efficiency, and ability to handle stress.

Ignoring sleep problems and disorders can damage your physical health and lead to weight gain, accidents, impaired job performance, memory problems, and put a strain on your relationships.

If you want to feel your best, stay healthy, and perform up to your potential, quality sleep is a necessity, not a luxury.

Even if you’ve struggled with sleep problems for so long that it seems normal, you can still learn to sleep better.

You can start by tracking your symptoms and sleep patterns, and then making healthy changes to your daytime habits and bedtime routine.

If self-help doesn’t do the trick, you can turn to sleep specialists who are trained in sleep medicine. Together, you can identify the underlying causes of your sleeping problem and find ways to improve your sleep and quality of life.

Most of us experience trouble sleeping at one time or another.

Usually it’s due to stress, travel, illness, or other temporary interruptions to your normal routine. But if sleep problems are a regular occurrence and interfere with your daily life, you may be suffering from a sleep disorder.

Sleep disorders cause more than just daytime sleepiness. They can take a serious toll on your mental and physical health, leading to memory problems, high blood pressure, weight gain, and impacting your immune system, heart health, energy levels, and mood. But you don’t have to live with a sleeping problem. There are many things you can do to help yourself get a good night’s sleep and improve your overall health.

We all have some sense of relationship between sleep and our ability to function throughout the day.

After all, everyone has experienced the fatigue, bad mood, or lack of focus that so often follow a night of poor sleep.

What many people do not realise is that a lack of sleep — especially on a regular basis — is associated with long-term health consequences, including chronic medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, and that these conditions may lead to a shortened life expectancy.

Additional research studies show that habitually sleeping more than nine hours is also associated with poor health.

Not sleeping enough and not sleeping well is not good. As a matter of fact, there is quite a price to pay.

It may surprise you to learn that chronic sleep deprivation, for whatever reason, significantly affects your health, performance, safety, and pocketbook.

Lack of sleep kills sex drive

Sleep specialists say that sleep-deprived men and women report lower libidos and less interest in sex.

Depleted energy, sleepiness, and increased tension may be largely to blame.

For men with sleep apnea, a respiratory problem that interrupts sleep, there may be another factor in the sexual slump.

Sleepiness makes you forgetful

Trying to keep your memory sharp? Try getting plenty of sleep.

Sleep loss impairs judgment.

Lack of sleep can affect our interpretation of events. This hurts our ability to make sound judgments because we may not assess situations accurately and act on them wisely.

Sleep-deprived people seem to be especially prone to poor judgment when it comes to assessing what lack of sleep is doing to them.

In our increasingly fast-paced world, functioning on less sleep has become a kind of badge of honour. But sleep specialists say if you think you’re doing fine on less sleep, you’re probably wrong. And if you work in a profession where it’s important to be able to judge your level of functioning, this can be a big problem.

Temporary insomnia can happen for a couple of days to people who usually sleep well.

Your sleep may be disturbed by noise, shift work, jet lag, or short-term anxiety or depression.

Short-term insomnia may last for a few weeks. And it may happen again. You may find it difficult to sleep because you’re worried about something (such as an illness or anxieties about money) or because of an emotional problem (such as coping with the death of someone close to you).

Longer-lasting insomnia

If you’ve had problems sleeping on at least three nights a week for one month or more, you probably have longer-lasting (or chronic) insomnia.

Sleep disorders and chronic sleep loss can put you at risk for:

* Heart disease
* Heart attack
* Heart failure
* Irregular heartbeat
* High blood pressure
* Stroke
* Diabetes

Women also have significantly more sleep problems when they are pregnant.

Here we’re looking only at chronic insomnia that hasn’t been caused by any other illness. This is known as primary insomnia.

Insomnia is very common, especially in older people

About four in 10 adults report having insomnia, with a higher prevalence in women than in men.

If you have problems sleeping, you may find it affects you during the day. For example, you may find it difficult to concentrate on your work. Older people with sleep problems may be more prone to falls.

Insomnia may lead to:

* Decreased quality of life.

* More chances of an accident because of sleepiness during the day. Sleeping well can make a big difference to your overall health and how you feel about life.

Long-lasting sleep problems may make you depressed, forgetful, and make it hard to think clearly, especially if you are older (over 65).

This can put you at risk of having a fall or needing to be looked after in a residential home.

Therefore, it is a good idea to ask your mental health professionals for help if you have long-lasting sleep problems.

If you think that someone close to you is having a sleeping problem, you can make a difference by showing your love and support and helping that person get properly evaluated and treated.

* Farzana Naeem is a clinical psychologist based at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals.

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