The Importance of Sleep and How to Prevent Insomnia

Issue : Oct / Nov 2021
 

Story by Dr Pisuth Lertvilai

 

It has often been said that a good night’s sleep is essential for a good life. Actually, a person normally spends one fourth of their life sleeping while the amount of time can differ for each individual depending on their age and other factors. For example, a new born baby may need 14-18 hours of sleep per day while an adult may require just five to10 hours.

 

The Importance of Sleep and How to Prevent Insomnia

 

Sleep is a state when one’s body is not aware of its surroundings. It is the complex bio physiological process dependent on the natural rhythm of the body and levels of surrounding light and darkness, together called circadian rhythm and the 24-hour biological clock cycle that comprises stages that include deep sleep (SWS or slow wave sleep) and dream sleep (REM or rapid eyes movement sleep).

 

A person’s normal sleeping pattern can be determined by an electroencephalogram (EEG) examination that can be conducted as sleep EEG and sleep-deprived EEG. A sleep EEG is conducted while the patient is sleeping and may be called for when a routine EEG does not provide enough information or to test for sleep disorders. In other cases, a patient may be asked to stay awake the night before the test to ensure they will sleep during the test, which is called a sleep-deprived EEG.

 

The Importance of Sleep and How to Prevent Insomnia

 

Good quality sleep comprises aspects of a complete and sufficient sleeping period of six to eight hours, waking up feeling fresh and then feeling no drowsiness during the day. Sufficient sleep will enhance a body’s immunity, digestion, burning of fat and nervous system by reducing stress.

 

Insomnia is when a patient can’t sleep or experiences sleep deprivation. Symptoms include difficulty initiating and maintaining sleep, waking early morning after insufficient restorative sleeping hours which can have a negative impact on one’s daily life.

 

The Importance of Sleep and How to Prevent Insomnia

 

There are three types of insomnia beginning with not being able to sleep for a few days, which can be caused by jet lag. Another is a period that will last between one to three weeks that often occurs when one is experiencing daily life problems with family, at the office or when feeling stress or depression. The third is chronic insomnia which lasts more than three weeks and arises from mental issues such as depression or alcohol or drug abuse. Insomnia will have a negative impact on a person’s body and mind, one’s immunity, memory and nervous system. Stress will be difficult to tolerate and a person may act non-rationally when responding to any changes. They will feel sleepy and lethargic during the day and may have digestive problems, retain fat and have lower growth hormone secretion. Insomnia may be a side effect from certain stimulants such as caffein, nicotine, anti-depressants, decongestants, bronchodilators and some heart medication such as beta-blockers.

 

The Importance of Sleep and How to Prevent Insomnia

 

To treat insomnia properly, it is recommended to start with non-medication methods focusing on sleep hygiene, which can include the following steps:

1. Make your bedroom as dark as possible.

2. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends and holidays.

3. Go to bed when you are ready and feel sleepy.

4. If after 30 minutes you still cannot sleep, stop trying and go to another room and do something like reading to calm down.

5. Don’t look at a clock during the night.

6. Don’t take a late nap if you feel tired. If you can’t stay awake, don’t sleep more than a half hour.

7. Refrain from smoking, drinking coffee, tea, chocolate or alcoholic beverages at least four to six hours before retiring.

8. Exercise regularly, especially in the morning, and refrain from heavy exercise four hours before retiring.

9. Refrain from activities like listening to loud music or watching thrillers that may arouse you before going to sleep.

10. If there is something on your mind before going to bed, write it down. Make sure your mind is clear so you won’t worry.

11. Don’t work, watch TV, talk on the phone or discuss anything when in bed. Should you need to do these things, get out of bed.

12. Eat the right amount of food, not too much or too little and avoid a heavy meal before sleeping.

13. When you wake up, get out of bed immediately.

14. A short period in the sun can also boost your morale and energy.

 

If feeling stressed, try some relaxation techniques such as a spa treatment, volatile oil environment or therapeutic meditation. Of course, exercise can be effective, and the last recommendation is to take dietary supplements that can enhance sleep quality.

 

If insomnia persists after trying the above recommendations, there are medicines that can assist sleep quality such as antiallergics that have side effects that cause a person to feel sleepy. However, you may still not enjoy a good quality sleep since they can interfere with rapid eye movements sleep (REM sleep) or cause some cognitive impairment. A second group of medicines are sleeping pills but again, sleep quality can be affected like with antiallergic medicines. These should be considered as a last resort.

 

There are also traditional, herbal medicines that can help such as valerian, an herb native to Europe and parts of Asia and North America, commonly used to treat sleep disorders as it acts like a sedative. Another herb that is quite well known in Thailand is Siamese cassia which has been used to aid in sleeping since early historical times. However, scientific research has found out that the efficacy of these herbs may vary among individuals. So, more studies need to be conducted to understand clearly how they work.

 

The Importance of Sleep and How to Prevent Insomnia

 

Another supplement that is quite popular and widely used is melatonin, a hormonal substance that controls our sleep and wakeup cycles. A person’s melatonin level will shoot up rapidly during the first few hours of sleep and then gradually recede. Melatonin will enhance sleep quality and is not a sleeping pill. As we get older, the body will secrete less melatonin. It has also been found that blue light from mobile phones or televisions will suppress melatonin secretion and thus sleep quality.

 

The Importance of Sleep and How to Prevent Insomnia

 

Therefore, it is recommended that you take melatonin to supplement reducing melatonin levels as you age. Its benefits are that it improves sleep quality and morning alertness as well as reduces the chance of rebound insomnia and dependence on prescribed sleeping pills like diazepam. Melatonin can be used for a long period without any reduction in its efficacy nor is there any withdrawal effect like what can happen with sleeping pills.

 

The Importance of Sleep and How to Prevent Insomnia

 

Good sleep leads to a good quality life. Many people around the world suffer from a sleep disorder, however, the good news is that we can manage this most effectively, starting with non-medicinal methods. Then, if a sleeping disorder persists, try taking supplements or traditional herbal remedies. The last solution is to take a medication that will induce sleep, but then it’s best to first consult your physician.

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"Elite Plus Magazine" ( No. 45 - Oct/ Nov 2021 Issue)

 

"Elite Plus Magazine" ( No. 45 - October/ November 2021 Issue)

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