How to Sleep Better

Sleep disorders may involve problems sleeping or, less frequently, excessive sleep. Such problems may represent: a primary sleep disorder, the cause of psychological problems, a feature of a mental illness, or could be confused for a psychological disorder.

Without adequate sleep. a person can suffer both physically and psychologically.

Sleep is absolutely essential for normal, healthy function. Scientists and medical professionals do not fully understand this complicated, necessary, physiological phenomenon. They do know that sleep is an important time for the body to recover and repair the system.

There are more than 70 different sleep disorders that are generally classified into one of three categories:

  • lack of sleep (insomnia),
  • disturbed sleep (obstructive sleep apnoea), and
  • excessive sleep (narcolepsy)

In most cases, sleep disorders can be easily managed once they are properly diagnosed. Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder. It occurs more often in women and in the elderly.

The amount of sleep that a person needs to function normally depends on several factors such as age and physical activity. Infants sleep most of the day, teenagers usually need about nine hours a day, and adults need an average of seven or eight hours a day. Although elderly adults require about as much sleep as young adults, they usually sleep for shorter periods and spend less time in deep stages of sleep. About half of adults over the age of 75 have some type of sleep disorder, although it is not clear whether this is a normal part of aging or a result of medications that older people commonly use.
What is Sleep Apnoea? (reproduced from
Sleep apnoea is a common sleep disorder characterized by brief interruptions of breathing during sleep. These episodes usually last 10 seconds or more and occur repeatedly throughout the night. People with sleep apnoea will partially awaken as they struggle to breathe, but in the morning they will not be aware of the disturbances in their sleep. The most common type of sleep apnoea is obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), caused by relaxation of soft tissue in the back of the throat that blocks the passage of air. Central sleep apnoea (CSA) is caused by irregularities in the brain’s normal signals to breathe. Most people with sleep apnoea will have a combination of both types. The hallmark symptom of the disorder is excessive daytime sleepiness. Additional symptoms of sleep apnoea include restless sleep, loud snoring (with periods of silence followed by gasps), falling asleep during the day, morning headaches, trouble concentrating, irritability, forgetfulness, mood or behaviour changes, anxiety, and depression. Not everyone who has these symptoms will have sleep apnoea, but it is recommended that people who are experiencing even a few of these symptoms visit their doctor for evaluation. Sleep apnoea is more likely to occur in men than women, and in people who are overweight or obese.

Is There Any Treatment?

There are a variety of treatments for sleep apnoea, depending on an individual’s medical history and the severity of the disorder.

  • Most treatment regimens begin with lifestyle changes, such as avoiding alcohol and medications that relax the central nervous system (for example, sedatives and muscle relaxants), losing weight, and quitting smoking.
  • Some people are helped by special pillows or devices that keep them from sleeping on their backs, or oral appliances to keep the airway open during sleep. If these conservative methods are inadequate, doctors often recommend continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), in which a face mask is attached to a tube and a machine that blows pressurized air into the mask and through the airway to keep it open.
  • There are also surgical procedures that can be used to remove tissue and widen the airway.
  • Some individuals may need a combination of therapies to successfully treat their sleep apnoea.

Difficulties sleeping can be due to stress, depression and many other conditions. Learning to relax properly can help with sleep difficulties.