There are 4 essentials without which we can’t survive I call them My 4 Pillars.
They are food, sleep, exercise and fun. We can’t manage much without them. You might wake up to a beautiful spring morning but if you’ve had a terrible night’s sleep it may be hard to enjoy it. Almost everybody has suffered with sleep deprivation and one of the commonest problems patients discuss with me relates to sleep issues. There is more and more information about the relative importance of sleep and we are beginning now to focus much more on ensuring we make protected time to allow ourselves to have sufficient good quality sleep. Some people have difficulty falling asleep and others of staying asleep. Early morning waking particularly associated with anxiety can be an indication of depression and most mental disorders have an impact on sleep either causing a deficit or an excessive tiredness.
Most adults need between 6-9 hours sleep. We hope we wake refreshed and excited with the new day, ideally we should awake without an alarm. Equally ideally we should be able to fall asleep within half an hour or so of going to bed and stay asleep much of the night.
Factors that can affect your sleep, apart from the inevitable demands of young babies and children include:
- A bedroom which is uncomfortable in a room that is too noisy, too light or the wrong temperature.
- An uncomfortable bed or pillow.
- Lifestyle factors such as shift work or jet lag.
- The use of alcohol, caffeine, tobacco or recreational drugs.
- Snoring, your snoring or that of your partner may be a serious disrupter of sleep for both of you and even sleep apnoea, whereby long gaps occur between breaths will disrupt the quality of the sleep and contribute to serious physical illness. If your partner has sleep apnoea you may lie awake worried that they may stop breathing so you are both having terrible quality sleep.
- The onset of stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.
- Physical illnesses such as a heart or lung problem, neurological condition or chronic pain or hormone problems.
- Medicines such as high blood pressure, asthma or anti-depressant type medications or even the long term use of sleeping pills.
- The stress of a sudden unexpected trauma such as bereavement, loss of a job, fear about an illness yours or of a loved one, worry about a family member may all be cause of sleepless nights.
- Menopause is frequently associated with sleep disorder; hot sweats and night flushes will disrupt your sleep and a sleep disturbance per se is often an indication of the onset of menopause. This in turn causes anxiety, depression, irritability, day time fatigue, sleepiness in the day and other menopausal type symptoms. Snoring is more common and more severe in post-menopausal women. Bony aches and pains are also more common with the menopause and can be much worse at night.