Most people take sleep seriously. Getting short-changed in shuteye can leave us cranky, groggy and generally unpleasant to be around.
For some unfortunate patients, lack of adequate sleep is a problem that occurs night after night — sometimes for many years. Whatever the cause, chronic sleep deprivation is linked to many serious health conditions.
“Without enough sleep, your brain and body systems won’t function normally. It can also dramatically lower your quality of life,” reports healthline.com.
A review of 16 studies that included more than 1.3 million participants found that sleeping for less than 6-8 hours nightly increases the risk of early death by about 12 percent.
From bad mattresses to too much caffeine, there are hundreds of reasons people lose out on regular sleep.
Here are just a few reasons American’s can’t get a good night’s sleep:
Restless leg syndrome
As many as 1 in 10 people suffer from restless leg syndrome. Even though it’s common, it can be difficult to describe, because it affects every person differently.
“Some people use comparisons, such as ‘like ants crawling through my legs’ or ‘like soda running through my veins’ to try to describe the symptoms and feelings to their health care professionals,” explains the National Sleep Foundation.
While the true cause of RLS is still undetermined, there are certain triggers that seem to make the condition worse. Making healthy food choices by limiting caffeine, alcohol and refined sugar are big factors in getting a good sleep and reducing symptoms of RLS.
Iron and magnesium supplementation have also shown promising results but can interact with some medications and should only be taken under a doctor’s care. Including some iron-rich foods in your diet, however, can reduce symptoms and help you get a great night’s sleep.
Some foods rich in iron
- high quality lean red meat
- spinach and other dark leafy greens
- dried fruit such as apricots
- lean turkey and chicken
- seafood such as oysters and salmon
- iron-fortified cereals such as raisin bran
- beans such as kidney, pinto, lentils, and chickpeas
Some early research shows including magnesium-rich foods relieved insomnia due to RLS. While high doses of magnesium can cause severe side effects, including some magnesium-rich foods can help nocturnal cramping and Restless Leg Syndrome.
Some magnesium rich foods
- soy milk
- black beans
- peanut butter
- whole wheat bread
- brown rice
Some medications such as beta blockers, antidepressants and over-the-counter antihistamines can also trigger Restless Leg symptoms.
Because every patient experiences the ailment differently it is important to work with a healthcare professional to determine the best way to control your symptoms.
Sleep apnea and snoring
Many people who snore loudly at night have sleep apnea — a condition where they stop breathing during sleep. Sleep apnea is a serious health condition linked to a number of life-threatening illnesses.
“Research suggests that inadequate healthy sleep can lead to weight gain and is a factor in the national obesity crisis,” reports the American Sleep Apnea Association. “The sleep stage known as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is believed to play a role in the mental processing of the experiences of the day just past and the organization of memory. With too little REM sleep, memory may suffer. If prolonged, inadequate healthy sleep may be a precursor to cardiovascular disease.”
Whether the cause is arthritis, a back injury, fibromyalgia or some other chronic condition, pain hinders your ability to sleep. Pain is often the primary reason someone wakes up several times each night, which decreases sleep quantity and quality. Sleep deprivation can lower your pain threshold and pain tolerance and make existing pain seem more severe.
The key to treating chronic pain is to work with a pain management specialist to determine the exact cause of the pain and to find the best management option.
Your own bad habits
When it comes to insomnia, we can be our worst enemies. Overindulging on alcohol, caffeine or food can cause people to struggle to sleep. Late night exposure to blue electronic light like that from a television, computer, tablet, reader or even a phone has been shown to make it difficult for some to fall asleep. Others simply stay up too late, studying or doing other tasks.
Some insomniacs lay in bed at night and worry about their daily problems. Stress and anxiety can cause anyone to worry, but for some, it is a regular routine that ends up either preventing sleep or causing periods of wakefulness and difficulty getting back to sleep.
Finding a solution
Before a solution is found, it’s important to understand what could be causing your sleep difficulties. Meeting with a medical professional for a thorough review of medical and psychiatric conditions, as well as lifestyle factors is needed to determine the root problem of your insomnia.
Whether the problem is ongoing pain or some other issue, it is important to know sleep deprivation does not need to be a lifetime condition. Talk with an experienced medical expert today to start your journey toward rejuvenating sleep.
Dr. Alex Bigham is the owner and CEO of Novocur Pain Management Clinics and has over 18 years of healthcare experience in private practice and Ambulatory Surgical Center settings. Novocur offers advanced treatment options in a concierge type practice without the concierge price tag. Dr. Bigham appears frequently on local TV and radio programs to discuss the latest in Pain Management or related health topics.
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