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Sleep disorders and insomnia | The Science of Sleep | Episode 1

by Lucy Knight on November 20, 2018

“Sleep is as important as eating or breathing”

It’ll be common knowledge to you, no doubt, that your sleeping pattern affects your mood as well as other areas of your day. In fact, a bad night’s sleep will have an effect on the mood of over half of the people who read this. It will affect the work performance of nearly a quarter and also their relationships, for 21% of them. This instalment of this series will delve into the different explanations of bad and good sleep, as well as provide tips to maximise your comfort between the sheets.


Impact of technology on sleep

Whilst some experts have tried to explain the rise in bad nights sleeps on the emergence of technology, others believe the explanation is not as clear cut. Limited screen time as bedtime draws nearer is proven to help you have a less disrupted sleep but with new figures published that show technology use in the bedroom has decreased since 2013, we’re looking for other ways to explain the plague of a terrible night’s sleep. As well as the bad outcomes to a bad nights sleep, alternatively, a good sleep can increase fertility, help fight off diabetes and can also boost your mental wellbeing.

The rise in stress in the workplace and economic insecurity has contributed to the increase in bad night sleeps for the world. In the book, Dangerously Sleepy: Overworked Americans and the Cult of Manly Wakefulness, Thomas Edison is quoted as being a staunch activist against sleep. It says that “Edison spent considerable amounts of his own and his staff’s energy on in publicising the idea that success depended in no small part in staying awake to stay ahead of the technological and economic competition.” Decades later, scientists believe this mindset explains disrupted sleep amongst men. High profile people like Donald Trump and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey are amongst the most noted figures advocating for workers to indulge in shorter sleep patterns, in our modern world. They argue that a limited night’s sleep actually increases your productivity as you simply have more time to work. Scientifics refute this claim, saying 56% of people have their work productivity slowed down by a bad nights sleep.


Home remedies against sleeplessness

People have increasingly turned to their own ways of helping themselves get a good night’s sleep, moving away from experts advice. For example, experts say to avoid alcohol before bed but many falsely believe that alcohol help promotes sleep as it makes them drowsy and more likely to fall asleep quicker. Britons turning to the bottle before bedtime has rose 9% in the last 4 years alone, under this false belief that it helps you count the sheep- when in fact you’re more likely to stay up chatting to the sheep than them helping you doze off. One in five admit to using alcohol before bed each night, when it actually harms their cause more! As many people cannot commit to natural remedies for a better sleep, due to time and work constraints, people often turn to remedies that actually hinder their ability to sleep- medication, meditation and music are becoming more used. This may be an obvious one but avoiding caffeine and nicotine before bed can help improve sleep, but you may need to give yourself 3 hours before bed to prepare yourself.


The winter months are described as our ‘dark months’. The months where our mental health takes a beating due to the limited sunshine, cold weather and being surrounded by the declining mood of co-workers and the environment.  Sleep is as important as eating or breathing, if you’re not getting enough of it then it takes a toll on you physically and mentally. It allows our body and mind to repair itself and helps minimise stress. Sleeping disorders are on the rise and therefore we believe it is important that people are as clued up as they can be to spot the signs of them in yourself. Insomnia affects 20% of people, being the most common sleeping disorder. Symptoms include problems falling asleep, problems staying asleep, waking up too early and anxiety. People often experience a more short-term version of insomnia, that could be attributed to stress, extreme change in temperature and side effects from medicine. Sleep apnoea due to stress is also emerging as a big strain on the NHS. This causes the person to briefly stop breathing while they sleep, which wakes them up and therefore disrupts their sleep. It’s normally accompanied by some very loud snoring. This condition can be life threatening, in the form of obstructive sleep apnoea. The causes could be being overweight, being over 40, alcohol or smoking. Even just being male is a big factor in people who have sleep apnoea. Sleep deprivation can also have numerous negative effects on an individual wellbeing. This could include being accident prone, forgetfulness, depression and weight gain. So, it’s important to loo out for signs of a sleeping disorder early on.

With these sleeping disorders, many can be hard to treat and rely on emotional wellbeing not just medication or behavioural changes to get better. Losing weight and exercising has been proven to massively reduce sleep apnoea in middle aged people. The worrying thing is about our modern world, children with sleeping disorders are on the rise more rapidly than any other age group. This has been explained by the importance and use of technology in today’s society and the growing adult pressure and expectations put on children from an early age. Children need long periods of uninterrupted sleep for optimal growth and development. Recent explanations for this spike in sleeping disorders in children is depression, who’s severity is heavily linked to effect of the amount of good sleep an individual gets.


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