You consider yourself a healthy person. You make good health choices. You avoid junk food and soda. You hit the gym 5 days per week. So, why are you so darn tired all day, every day? There are several things that could be going on that you might not be aware of. But all of them could be interfering with your sleep and leaving you with Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS).
Your Cell Phone
The cellular telephone is a great blessing to the 21st century. It connects us to each other and to all the knowledge of mankind. And yet it is keeping us up at night as well. According to a National Sleep Foundation Poll, 1/3 of Americans use their cell phones in the hour before sleep. Even larger numbers use the computer or watch TV. The blue light emitted by these screens inhibits secretion of melatonin, the hormone that helps control our sleep-wake cycle. It’s best to stay away from these devices for at least an hour before you plan to go to bed.
For generations, Americans and Europeans have been “having a nip of something” before bed. But sleep experts suggest that shot of bourbon may be harming your sleep! It turns out that alcohol consumption disrupts your sleep cycle to the point that you may be robbing yourself of restful sleep.
In our increasingly interconnected world, we are doing a lot more flying than we used to. Business travel often requires that we cross several time zones. We know that jet lag is a common source of sleep disruption, one that can mess up our sleep for weeks, just in time to travel again! “Third shift” workers may tell you they prefer the odd hours, but their brains would be preferring to sleep! People who rotate shifts have similar sleep problems.
Though we don’t like to talk about it, people with depression and other mood disorders often don’t sleep well. Certainly anybody struggling with a mood disorder could benefit from sleep, and the lack of a good night’s rest tends to make mood problems worse. The good news is that the difficulty sleeping may induce depressed people to seek help from their physicians.
One generally unrecognized source of EDS is thyroid disease. It turns out that both an over-active thyroid (hyperthyroidism) and an under-active thyroid (hypothyroidism) can cause you to lose sleep. It’s always a good idea to get your thyroid level checked if you are experiencing fatigue throughout the day.
Your Restless Legs
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is more common than most people think. Up to 10% of Americans suffer from it. RLS gives pain, itching, or throbbing in the legs, mostly at bedtime, that can only be relieved by movement or massage. Now that RLS is better understood and recognized by physicians, there are treatments that can relieve symptoms and help you sleep better.
There’s snoring, and then there is SNORING. It’s more than an annoyance for your bed-mate: Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is an important cause of EDS in adults and in children. It’s especially common in overweight people. People with OSA have difficulty concentrating because of lack of sleep and are more prone to automobile accidents. Long-term consequences can include heart disease. That’s why it’s important to find out if your snoring is bad enough to require treatment. A sleep study is the best way to diagnose OSA. It is even possible to take a sleep study in the comfort of your own bedroom!
There’s no reason you shouldn’t be getting your 7 hours of sleep. If you’d like to sleep, but cannot, consider looking into it with a sleep study. Your health may depend on it!