Sometimes, a good night’s rest is all you need to feel ready to seize the day. It is no wonder – sleep is essential. During deep sleep, your brain and body are repairing, improving your mental and physical health, and ultimately, quality of life.
In contrast, lack of sleep affects your thinking, memory, concentration, alertness and mood. If left untreated, long term sleep disturbances can decrease your quality of life, lead to various diseases and as a result, even death.
Stages of sleep
There are four stages in the sleep cycle. The first three stages are non-rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and the last is REM sleep. You go through about four to six cycles of sleep each night.
Sleep stage 1 - NREM (N1)
Sleep stage 2 - NREM (N2)
Sleep stage 3 - NREM (N3)
Sleep stage 4 - REM
Three common sleep disorders causing sleepiness
Sleep disorders are any type of condition that disrupts sleep. This in turn causes daytime sleepiness and affects quality of life. A person may have a sleep disorder if they tend to yawn frequently, have difficulty waking, nap frequently and/or experience headaches or giddiness that are not due to another condition.
If you suspect you have a sleep disorder, do see a doctor for an evaluation and appropriate treatment.
1. Sleep deprivationSingaporeans are some of the most sleep-deprived people in the world. In a 2014 survey, Singapore ranked third, getting an average of six and a half hours of sleep a night, falling short of the recommended seven to nine hours for adults.
Sleep deprivation is usually caused by lifestyle factors, for example:
Certain medical conditions can also lead to sleeplessness:
For more on sleep deprivation, click here.
2. Obstructive sleep apnoeaObstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) is a condition where breathing repeatedly stops and starts when the person is sleeping due to throat muscles relaxing. Common signs of OSA include:
If OSA is left untreated, it can increase the risks of serious health complications such as memory loss, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, heart failure and heart attacks. However, there are effective ways to manage this condition such as the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine when sleeping, an oral appliance or surgery.
For more on sleep apnoea, click here.
3. Sleep movementsSleep-related movement disorders are conditions where repetitive movements affect a person’s sleep. The most common type of sleep-related movement disorder is Periodic Limb Movements in Sleep (PLMS), where involuntary twitching or jerking of the legs occurs during sleep.
As the person does not feel a conscious urge to move their limbs and may not be woken up in mild cases, they may be unaware of their symptoms. However, the person’s bed partner may complain of being kicked.
PLMS can be triggered by certain conditions like iron deficiency, hyperthyroidism, osteoporosis and certain drugs. Try simple measures like drinking a cup of hot Milo or milk, eating dark chocolate or honey to help you relax before sleep. If these fail, then medication can be prescribed.
Other sleep movement disorders include bruxism (clenching or grinding of teeth during sleep), neck myoclonus (sudden jerks of the neck when drowsy or trying to fall asleep), leg cramps and hypnic jerks.
For more on PLMS, click here.
This article was published in the National Neuroscience Institute's NeusLink magazine, which covers articles about NNI updates and brain, spine, muscle and nerve conditions in English and Chinese - to read more articles, click here!
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