Being unable to sleep is not only frustrating, it can hinder productivity at work, not to mention put one’s health at risk.
For some people, falling asleep is not a problem. However, many others have difficulty falling and staying asleep throughout the night.
Health experts say that the optimal sleep duration for adults is seven to nine hours every night; this has been shown to be the required time for one to feel well-rested.
Understanding sleeping problems
Dr Francis Kazungu, a general practitioner in Kigali, says sleeping difficulty is where one experiences trouble sleeping at night.
He says it could be hard for such people to fall asleep, or they may wake up several times throughout the night.
He notes that this is not healthy as sleep difficulty may affect one’s physical and mental health.
“Lack of sleep may also cause one to have frequent headaches or trouble concentrating. If it continues, it can affect one’s overall health and make them prone to serious medical conditions,” he says.
Some of the most serious potential problems associated with chronic sleep deprivation, Kazungu says, include high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure, or stroke.
Other potential problems include obesity, depression, and impairment in immunity, and lower sex drive.
Kazungu says you can tell one has sleeping difficulties by the inability to focus during the day, frequent headaches, and irritability.
Also, one can tell by daytime fatigue, waking up too early, waking up throughout the night, or taking several hours to fall asleep.
Also, he says, one can experience low energy during the day or have noticeably dark circles under their eyes.
Celestine Karangwa, a physiotherapist at TCM Technology Clinic in Remera, Kigali, says there are many possible reasons for poor sleeping pattern.
These, he says, include sleeping habits, lifestyle choices, and medical conditions.
However, he notes that some causes are minor and may improve with self-care, while others may require one to seek medical attention to avoid further complications.
Age, watching television before bedtime, playing video games, or exercising, consuming too much caffeine, noise disturbances, an uncomfortable bedroom, are some of the things to watch out for as they are likely to hinder one’s sleep.
Additionally, Karangwa says, sleeping too much during the day, frequent urination, physical pain, and some prescription medications may also lead to difficulty sleeping.
For many people, stress, worry, depression, or work schedules may also affect their sleep.
For some, Kazungu says, sleep issues are due to sleep disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnoea, and restless legs syndrome.
Obstructive sleep apnoea, he says, is a condition where there’s a blockage in the upper airways.
“This results in pauses in breathing throughout the night that may cause one to abruptly wake up, often with a choking sound. Snoring commonly occurs in this disorder,” he says.
There is also restless legs syndrome, which, Kazungu says, may trigger sleeping difficulty — this condition causes uncomfortable sensations in the legs, such as tingling or aching.
Delayed sleep phase disorder is another condition that can affect sleep.
Kazungu says this is a condition that causes a delay in the 24-hour cycle of sleep and wakefulness, and that one may not feel sleepy or fall asleep until the middle of the night.
“This sleep cycle makes it harder for one to wake up in the early morning and leads to daytime fatigue,” he adds.
Private Kamanzi, a nutritionist in Kigali, says the treatment for one’s sleeplessness depends on its cause.
He says that adjusting your lifestyle changes is important when it comes to getting enough sleep.
In some cases, he says, home remedies or simple lifestyle changes may improve the quality of your sleep.
“One should avoid caffeine and alcohol for at least a few or more hours before bed. Avoiding stimulating activities before bedtime, and allow seven to eight hours for sleep each night is essential if one is aiming at getting enough sleep,” Kamanzi he says.
Also, taking a hot bath before bedtime may also help, as well as keeping a regular sleep schedule.
Treating underlying conditions
Kazungu says if a medical condition or sleep disorder is causing problems, then one needs treatment for the underlying condition.
For instance, he says, if the sleep is affected by anxiety disorder or depression, its ideal to seek medical support for the health practitioner to prescribe an anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication.
“The medication is simply to help one cope with worry, stress, and feelings of hopelessness. If left untreated, chronic sleep problems can greatly affect one’s qualify of life,” he notes.
On top of that, Kazungu says poor sleep quality may also reduce one’s performance levels on the job or at school as well as weaken the immune system, resulting in more colds and illnesses.