Sleep disorders: causes, consequences, remedies

   In collaboration with Humanitas News Editorial published on 4 August 2016 in Diseases and Cures
Sleep disorders affect many people, compromising, in some cases, their quality of life and altering the normal physiological activities of their body. Many people do not know how to deal with these disorders, much less how to solve them. Lack of sleep can cause chronic fatigue, decreased attention and concentration and irritability. Furthermore, prolonged insomnia can have harmful effects on health. We talk about it with Dr. Lara Fratticci, a neurologist in Humanitas.

   How many hours of sleep are needed for a person to feel "rested"?
For most people it is enough to sleep 7 to 8 hours a night. Then there are the so-called "long dormitories", which need 10 hours. There are also "short dormitories", for which 5 or 6 hours of sleep are enough to feel good and do not complain of excessive daytime sleepiness or a feeling of exhaustion.

What are the factors that influence sleep quality?

   Insomnia is the most common disorder but it is not the only one. There may be subjective causes such as mood disorders, depression, anxiety, or problems such as "restless legs" syndrome, a discomfort caused by intense motor restlessness in the legs that prevents the patient from starting the night sleep.

   At the base of a poor quality of sleep there may be factors that alter the normal sleep-wake rhythm. These factors are sometimes ascribable to certain systemic diseases, thyroid disorders, heart failure or arterial hypertension.

Other causes that can disturb sleep are: coffee, alcohol, nicotine, heavy food and sports activity in the 3-4 hours before bedtime.

What are the main consequences of sleep deprivation?

 The main consequences of insomnia are:

asthenia, meaning significant fatigue;
attention, concentration and memory disorders, especially at work;
excessive daytime sleepiness;
mood disorder;
anxiety and easy irritability.

Are there remedies for occasional sleep disorders?

   The best remedy is to identify the underlying cause of the disorder and to understand if it can be removed. Before switching to a drug therapy, we note some tricks for good sleep hygiene:

go to bed and always wake up at the same time, if possible, even on weekends;
use the bedroom only for sleeping, thus avoiding watching television or eating in bed;
reduce nicotine, caffeine and alcohol throughout the day;
perform regular exercise, but not in the 3-4 hours before bedtime;
expose yourself regularly to sunlight, because this favors the correct circadian rhythm.

What can be done if the problem becomes chronic?

pharmacological therapies, starting with melatonin.

  Subsequently, it is possible to resort to benzodiazepines or hypnoinducants, drugs that promote the appearance of sleep.

  There are people who struggle to fall asleep but who then sleep regularly; others, on the other hand, have many difficulties in maintaining a constant and prolonged sleep. Still others tend to wake up very early in the morning, no longer able to fall asleep again: in the latter case the problem may be linked to a depressive disorder and, instead of hypnoinducants, it is advisable to resort to antidepressants.

When to contact a specialist?

   The help of a specialist becomes essential when the person understands that this disorder is prolonging over time, significantly affecting the quality of life. The disorders that the person feels can be different - easy irritability, deconcentration at work, difficulty in completing a project, problems in maintaining attention for a prolonged period of time: in the presence of these symptoms it is advisable to consult a doctor.

What is the planned route for a patient with sleep disorders?

   In the event that the above precautions have not been sufficient to solve the problem, it is advisable to contact a sleep medicine center.

   Here the examination of polysomnography will be performed, which - recording the electroencephalographic activity, together with other parameters such as muscle tone, respiratory activity, eye movements, heart rate, etc. - is able to offer both a qualitative and a quantitative evaluation of sleep.

In collaboration with Humanitas News Editor

  Humanitas News pursues the objective of communicating, through the production of textual, graphic and multimedia contents, the clinical, scientific, educational and educational activities of Humanitas and its professionals. Scientific discoveries and clinical studies, treatments and technologies, national and international events, as well as prevention initiatives to which the Hospital adheres: these are just some of the topics discussed in articles and in-depth interviews published daily and written in collaboration with the specialists of 'Institute. Very active also on social media, the Humanitas News editorial staff also proposes a monthly newsletter sent to all members, to stay up to date on the most interesting news related to the Humanitas world.

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