When most people hear the word hygiene, they tend to think of taking regular showers and keeping their surroundings clean and in order. When the term is paired with sleep, however, people often say they were unaware of hygienic standards for sleep. This is probably because people don’t consider sleep as a metric of health. Unfortunately, sleep is far more important and susceptible to misaligned patterns than we may think. Sleep hygiene is a combination of behavioral and environmental patterns that address repeated or chronic instances of poor sleep. These undesirable sleep patterns can look like insomnia or hypersomnia and there are different methods of adjustment for each. These can and should be looked at separately in order to effectively address treatment options for each.
What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a pattern of disordered sleep that is identified by marked trouble falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the cycle. This difficulty sleeping can be either transient, acute or chronic. Transient insomnia lasts anywhere from one night to four weeks. Acute insomnia lasts anywhere from two to four weeks and is identified by a return to regular sleep. If the symptoms persist for longer than two months at a time, it becomes identified as chronic insomnia.
Along with little amounts of sleep and poor quality of sleep, additional symptoms of insomnia include daytime fatigue, forgetfulness and irritability as well as upward or downward trends in eating. All types of insomnia, from transient to chronic, have the propensity to bear similar root causes. These can include recent stress, chronic anxiety and/or depression, ADHD nighttime environments that are not conducive to good sleep as well as personal life habits like substance use or an unstable work-life balance.
What is Hypersomnia?
Conversely, hypersomnia refers to another kind of disordered sleep. Hypersomnia is the term used to discuss excessive daytime sleepiness or an excess of time spent sleeping. People dealing with hypersomnia have a hard time staying awake through obligations and activities. They may experience daytime fatigue that feels insurmountable, even while sleeping thoroughly at night. Symptoms of hypersomnia include a lack of energy to persist through the day, falling asleep at inappropriate times (such as during work or while driving) and excessive tiredness, all while getting adequate or extensive amounts of sleep at night.
Hypersomnia can be caused by prolonged use of certain substances, mood disorders (like major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder) as well as it can be a response to acute stress or depression. The metric that ties these symptoms and causes together in order to identify hypersomnia is the acknowledgment of regular to excessive amounts of sleep at night that offer no reprieve from fatigue. Excessive drowsiness can also be a response to acute sleep deprivation in a table of need and supply commonly referred to as sleep debt.
With the human brain and body needing a minimum of six hours of sleep every night for optimal function, there are consequences for brain function if this minimum is not met once, let alone repeatedly. If someone repeatedly gets insufficient sleep, they enter what is known as sleep debt wherein their inadequate amounts of rest begin to affect their daily ability to function. Many people respond to instances of sleep debt with excessive sleeping to treat the fatigue they are experiencing as a result of inadequate sleep.
With the recognition of resultant issues like sleep debt, it becomes clear how insomnia and hypersomnia can be connected and interrelated. Transient or acute insomnia can result in hypersomnia as the body tries to acquire the amount of rest necessary for function. However, sleep debt is likely to increase if the body gets into alternating patterns of insufficient and excessive sleep. The consideration of sleep as a necessary element of health becomes evident when you consider how overall function is affected by both insomnia and hypersomnia. Regarding healthy sleep patterns as an inextricable part of self care becomes essential for the general health of the brain and body. Regulating sleep patterns is a very important part of overall function and this can be done by cultivating good sleep hygiene habits.
Ways to Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
● Limiting nighttime screen time – Doctors recommend relinquishing screens for brain health at least thirty minutes before one intends to fall asleep. The lack of stimulation as well as the lack of bright screen lights can help the brain to wind down in preparation for sleep.
● Eating properly and at regular times – Acknowledging and responding to the body’s hunger cues in ideal intervals can help to contribute to healthy sleep patterns by following suggested digestive times. Eating should stop for the day at least an hour before one intends to fall asleep so digestion can end before sleep therefore not interrupting the sleep cycle.
● Seeing a professional – If symptoms of insomnia or hypersomnia persist even with the changing of individual life patterns, it may be time to see a doctor. Insomnia is often treated with anti-anxiety medication or prescribed sedatives that act as a sleep aid. Hypersomnia can also be treated with antidepressants or prescribed stimulants for energy throughout the day.
While poor sleep hygiene is extremely common, it can also have long-term negative impacts on brain and body health. If you find that you are sleeping too much or too little, it is essential to try to stick to routine patterns of sleep and waking in order to avoid falling into dangerous patterns of insomnia or hypersomnia. Help is possible and rest can be acquired.
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