Wide Awake at the Wrong Time?

If you have difficulty getting a good night’s rest, you are in good company: the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that about 60 million Americans suffer from insomnia each year.   For some, it is hard to fall asleep.  Others easily fall asleep but suddenly jolt wide-awake, feeling panicked and not knowing why. Insomnia means “sleeplessness” and it covers a wide area of sleep problems.


To get by in life, many of us are locked in the cycle of using stimulants to get going in the morning (like coffee and other caffeinated beverages), and then depending on sleep medications to rest at night.  Overly-caffeinated drinks – like Red Bull and RockStar – are regularly consumed by a startling number of teenagers who are struggling to stay awake during first period.  This method of speeding up and slowing down can make sleeping problems even worse.  

Getting enough sleep is as important as diet and exercise and vital for regulating mood.  Sleeplessness is related to impaired memory function and a decreased ability to stay focused and productive.  Regular sleep has also been linked with maintaining proper weight, having a high energy level, and overall health and well-being. 

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Signs of Sleep Deprivation

1.      Inability to deal with stress
2.      Decreased ability to remember things
3.      Trouble concentrating
4.      Food cravings
5.      Problems with vision
6.      Decreased ability to make good decisions
7.      Compromised motor skills
8.      Strained relationship with your significant other
9.      Health problems
10.    Erratic mood swings

Causes of Sleep Deprivation

In addition to sleep disorders, there are some other surprising causes of sleep deprivation .  Consider the following:

•    Pets in the bed
•    Alcohol
•    Vitamins, supplements, medicine
•    Pain
•    Menopause
•    Exhaustion

[1] http://www.heartmath.org/free-services/solutions-for-stress/solutions-overcoming-sleeplessness.html

[1] http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/6-surprising-sleep-wreckers

Types of Sleep Disorders

The most common type of sleep disorder is insomnia.  Other disorders include sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome (RLS), and narcolepsy.

Sleep apnea

This common – and serious – sleep disorder causes breathing to momentarily cease, waking the person up several times each hour.  Although they may not recall waking up, during the day people with sleep apnea can suffer from exhaustion, depression, and irritability.  

A device, which includes a piece worn at night like a mask, can help to treat sleep apnea by providing a steady flow of air.  For moderate sleep apnea, try sleeping on your side, elevating the head of the bed, or losing weight to alleviate symptoms.  Symptoms include gasping, chocking, or snorting during sleep; chronic snoring, waking up with chest pains, nasal congestion, a dry throat, or shortness of breath.  And, of course, feeling tired during the day.

Restless leg syndrome (RLS)

Symptoms of RLS are triggered by rest and include repetitive jerking or cramping of the legs during sleep and uncomfortable sensations within the legs – creating the urge to move them.  For temporary relief, massing or stretching may help.


This sleep disorder causes uncontrollable sleepiness during the day.  A dysfunction of the mechanism in the brain that controls sleeping and waking can cause “sleep attacks” while working, talking, or driving.  Signs of this dangerous disorder include feeling paralyzed when waking up or dozing of, beginning to dream right after falling to sleep, having intense dreams, feeling suddenly weak or losing control of muscles while laughing or angry, and hearing or seeing things when beginning to get drowsy.

Natural Remedies to Improve Sleep (Before you begin taking any natural remedies, consult your healthcare professional).


This hormone, which helps regulate sleep, has been used as a supplement to correct sleep problems associated with shift work, jet lag, delayed sleep phase syndrome, and insomnia.


Some studies indicate that valerian reduces the time it takes to fall asleep and improves the quality of sleep.  Valerian seems to have fewer side effects, such as morning drowsiness, when compared to prescription sleeping pills.

Other natural remedies include diet, light, music, exercise, acupuncture, aromatherapy, ayurvedic medicine, relaxation techniques, and traditional Chinese medicine.


Jennifer Cebulak ,

Rsearch Editor

[1] http://www.helpguide.org/life/sleep_disorders.htm

[1] http://altmedicine.about.com/cs/conditionsitoq/a/Insomnia.htm

[1] http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/valerian-000279.htm♠

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The Canary Club is an educational advisory group with a team of medical advisors headed by Richard Shames, M.D.