Sleep disorders: definition
Sleep disorders are disturbances of both the duration and quality of sleep. There are three types:
- Insomnia: insufficient sleep
- Hypersomnia: excessive sleep
- Parasomnia: abnormal behavior during sleep.
The causes responsible for insomnia are varied: psychological causes, extrinsic (environment, behavior, etc.), insomnia at altitude, insomnia related to alcohol, drugs, coffee, medication, etc.
The causes responsible for hypersomnia can be psychological, neurological, or even pathological (narcolepsy).
The causes responsible for parasomnia are: sleepwalking, night terrors, bruxism, enuresis, nightmares, snoring, sleep apnea, paralysis, startles, etc...
In order to understand these different disorders, it is first necessary to know how sleep works:
When everything is going well, a night's sleep has 4 to 6 cycles. Each cycle is composed of 4 stages:
- Stage 1: Transition from wakefulness to sleep (drowsiness). The sleeper begins to disconnect from reality but still hears outside noises. Duration = approximately 10 minutes.
- Stage 2: Confirmed sleep. The sleeper is actually sleeping but it remains light (easy awakening). Duration = approximately 10 minutes.
- Stage 3 : Slow (or deep) sleep. It is (sometimes very) difficult to wake up the sleeper. Duration = approximately 60 minutes.
- Stage 4: REM sleep. Brain activity is intense (close to wakefulness). Duration = approximately 10 minutes.
Most sleep disorders occur during one (or more) of these stages and thus "break" the sleep cycle which is therefore disturbed.
Sleep disorders in babies
In babies, insomnia is very common, especially at the beginning. An adaptation phase is necessary (environment, food, care, education, etc.) and it is completely normal for the infant to have difficulty in completing complete sleep cycles during the first weeks. But this should not last forever! If this is the case, it is because there are deep reasons for his sleep disorders: noise, unsuitable diet, anxious or depressed mother, pathologies,...
Between the 2nd and 3rd year, the first fears arrive: anxiety of separation, fear of the dark, of abandonment,... It is therefore incumbent on the parents to find tips to make the transition go smoothly in order to avoid insomnia and parasomnia in the baby.
Sleep disorders in adolescents
Adolescent insomnia (delayed sleep phase syndrome) has very specific causes:
- Behavioral causes (absence of landmarks, excessive use of screens, absence of sports activities, on the contrary excess of activities, diets,...)
- Psychological or medical causes (stress, academic pressure, social pressure, addiction, pathology,...)
The advice given to parents of insomniac or phase-shifted teenagers is as follows: chronotherapy, light therapy, melatonin, psychotherapy, and even medical consultation if necessary.
Sleep disorders in adults
While an adult should sleep between 7 and 9 hours a night, most of the time, we are far from the mark! Lack of sleep leads to fatigue, irritability, and even more serious immune disorders, depression, and in some cases cancer.
The most common sleep disorders in adults include:
- Acute insomnia (2 to 3 weeks)
- Chronic insomnia (more than 3 weeks)
- Sleep apnea
- Shocks (myoclonus)
- Sleep paralysis
A special case: autism
Sixty to 80% of children with autism have trouble sleeping. Either they have trouble falling asleep, or they are subject to nocturnal awakenings, sometimes numerous. The parents of these children often find themselves helpless and above all exhausted by this continual insomnia.
Advice to remedy this are: chronotherapy, the bedtime ritual, an adapted environment, the non-use of screens before sleeping, the night light, the sensory room...
There are plenty of little tricks that can promote a better quality of sleep for autistic children. Parents need to be inventive and patient!
Gentle solutions to sleep disorders
For each cause of insomnia, hypersomnia or parasomnia, there are suitable solutions:
- Against psychological reasons: psychotherapy, meditation, yoga, phytotherapy (herbal teas), sophrology, hypnosis,...
- Against extrinsic reasons: eliminate the sources (frugal meal in the evening, no sport after 7 p.m., adapt the environment of the room,...)
- Against stimulants (alcohol, drugs, coffee, medication, screens, etc.): reduce or even stop all stimulants (several effective methods exist).
- Against snoring: lose weight, quit alcohol and tobacco, sleep on your stomach or on your side, nasal clearance, surgery,... use Back2Sleep!
- Against stress: phytotherapy (herbal teas), yoga, meditation, chronotherapy, light therapy, sophrology,...
- Against somnambulism: no effective remedy except antidepressants or sleeping pills (punctual).
- Against bruxism: dental gutter (dentist), psychotherapy, sophrology, essential oils, orthodontics, physiotherapy,...
- Against nightmares: light therapy, psychotherapy, visual imagery repetition therapy (write your nightmare the next morning),...
- Against sleep apnea: mechanical treatment (by CPAP ventilation) or Back2Sleep®.
- Against sleep paralysis: relaxation, abdominal breathing, positive thinking,...
- Against bursts: same solutions as for stress.
- Against hypersomnia: chronotherapy, light therapy, psychostimulants,...
Many solutions exist with the aim of overcoming these nocturnal awakenings, which are often unbearable for the sleeper and those around him. It's up to everyone to choose the best and most suitable one, in order to finally find quality restorative sleep.
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