Long-term sleep loss is occasionally caused by environmental factors—your job, if you’re a night-shift worker; where you live, if it’s in a noisy area—but it more commonly stems from medical conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, epilepsy, ulcers and heart disease (among others), as well as consistent drug (including caffeine) or alcohol use. There are also a number of sleep-specific medical conditions that can severely impact and disrupt rest. These include sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome and upwards of 86 other distinguishable disorders.
More than a third of people who suffer from chronic insomnia also have psychiatric conditions such as depression and schizophrenia, as well as obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxieties or phobias. Sleep and psychiatric problems tend to go hand-in-hand—when you’re not sleeping well, life appears more grim; when life appears grim, it’s harder to rest. Trouble sleeping can even be an early sign of forthcoming psychiatric problems, so it’s important to talk to a doctor if symptoms arise or persist. For most patients, when an underlying mental condition is treated, sleep habits improve.
How can I “cure” my sleep deprivation?
It’s simple: Sleep better and sleep more. Most people need to rest just one extra hour per night to stay completely alert all day. It’ll take a few weeks to effectively change your schedule to accommodate this, but eventually you should be waking up naturally without an alarm clock. After just a few nights of meeting your personal sleep quotient by improving your sleep strategies, you should feel a notable difference. How do you change? We’ll explain all of that in great detail in future columns. Meanwhile, sleep tight and sweet REMs!
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