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Insomnia? Dream On!

Counting sheep, startled to wake in the dead of night, having difficulty to go back to sleep? You definitely need to consult a sleep specialist. Somnology to the rescue!

30% of humanity are suffering from chronic insomnia. We all have different sleep patterns but everyone has experienced disturbed sleep at one point. Restful sleep is essential for our physical and mental wellbeing and for recharging our energy resources. Troubled sleep doesn’t only spoil your nights – it plagues your daytime as well with lack of concentration, memory problems and decreased stamina, which could be dangerous or life threatening. If someone has been struggling to fall asleep or sleep through the night for more than a month and suffers from fatigue, drowsiness and increased stress during the day, then we are talking about chronic insomnia and sleep deprivation. The possible causes of the condition are often stress, over-exhaustion, psychological trauma or insufficient sleep hygiene. 

However, there are a range of medical conditions, such as primary sleep anomalies, which may lead to serious sleep disturbance. The most common primary conditions are snoring (sleep apnoea) and restless leg syndrome, but narcolepsy, insomnia, sleepwalking and recurring nightmares are just as troubling. It is good to know that these medical conditions not only ruin one’s sleep but lead to fatigue and drowsiness during the day. Often daytime exhaustion is the first telling sign of insufficient sleep. Although most of the above mentioned conditions are predominantly genetic, the hereditary disposition is further aggravated by environmental factors, such as age, obesity and stress.

Good to Know

- It is important to sleep in total darkness to boost the production of melatonin, the all-important sleep hormone.
- 72 hours of sleep deprivation results in serious hallucination and loss of coordination and compos mentis.
- Routine and daily rhythm are important for sound sleep – aim to go to bed and wake up in the same hour every day if you can.
- Don’t eat right before going to bed because digestion takes a lot of energy and keeps you awake.
- Don’t do exercises before sleep because the system needs to cool down for deep sleep.
- According to a study by the University of Arizona, sleeplessness is the most frequent and most serious symptom of menopause that women complain about.
- Fasting can lead to insomnia.
- Our individual sleep patterns are as unique as fingerprints.
- Sleep disorder increases the chance of depression by 150%.

What to do? Doctor’s order – Dr. Zsuzsanna Vida neurologist, somnologist

Regular and ongoing sleep disturbances need to be properly diagnosed to reveal the causes. A thorough examination may disclose not only the root cause of sleep disorder but other medical conditions as well, which need to be treated by a rheumatologist, internal specialist, psychiatrist, cardiologist, pulmonologist or ENT specialist to ensure a healthy sleep again. The standard method to study sleep patterns is a simple polygraph, which can be done at home, or a more complex polysomnography, which is conducted in a sleep laboratory.

If symptoms persist or get worse, it is important to visit a somnologist as soon as possible because somatic and psychological disorders can trigger insomnia while the lack of sleep could well be the cause of serious illnesses: it can lead to obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, and increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Proper sleep conditions can certainly help but ideal sleep conditions are always personal and has to be tweaked individually. Burning the midnight oil increases the risk of cancer. Do yourself a favour: try to get enough sleep!