Category Archives for Sleep Disorders

Senior Insomnia: 3 Ways to Help Treat Sleep Disorders

For most seniors, having a good night’s rest may be something that has been unaccomplished for years. They feel restless throughout the day, only to have trouble sleeping for more than a few hours at night. Insomnia and other sleep disorders affect nearly 40% of elderly adults. While many complain of their insomnia, only a few take the prescribed medication.

With that said, it is important to determine what is really going on in the body to be able to improve sleep. In this guide, we will share some of the most helpful ways to treat sleep disorders in seniors.

Senior woman in bed ill and suffered of sleeplessness or insomnia.

Mindful Meditation

According to studies at Harvard University, mindful meditation is proven to reduce insomnia, fatigue, and depression within six sessions. It was considered as a proven technique that helped spark the relaxation response in the body to help ease many stress-related ailments.

Many seniors who undergo changes in their life such as moving to a senior living home or experiencing the loss of a close loved one may have trouble with sleeping as things weigh on the mind. With mindful meditation, seniors can focus on breathing and practice mindfulness every day.


When it comes to your diet, consider eating a sleep-friendly meal plan that will allow you to promote better sleeping habits. Food like bananas, cherries, cereals, lettuce, and even milk can help promote good sleep due to the vitamins and nutrients each contains. Milk is rich in tryptophan which is an amino acid that releases serotonin to signal sleepless from the brain to the body.

Be sure to keep away from foods like bacon, dark chocolate, sodas, and especially coffee as caffeine is sleep’s number one enemy. If you must have coffee, have a cup only during breakfast to prevent the active stimulation to the Central Nervous System – leaving you restless until the early morning.


As many elderly people suffer from poor quality of sleep, they may nap more often during the day and choose not to exercise. However, spending more time outdoors can promote exposure to sunlight and control their biological clock and sleep cycle. Low-impact exercise is a safe way to improve insomnia and promote a better quality of life.

Do you or someone you love suffer from sleep problems? What methods of treatment have you tried? Consider these methods to help treat your sleep problems.

What Is Sleep Paralysis?

There are many different sleep disorders and one of these is the ominous sounding sleep paralysis.

sleep paralyis

An Introduction To Sleep Paralysis

Have you ever experienced the feeling of being awake yet at the same time being unable to move? If so, perhaps you have been overwhelmed with fear without being able to call for help.

This is a condition called sleep paralysis.

Some people only suffer a single outbreak. For others it can be a more regular occurrence, sometimes even happening several times in one night. It’s actually surprisingly common with over 3 million cases each year reported in the US alone.

One piece of good news to start off with is that sleep paralysis is not a serious health problem.

We will look in this article at what, precisely, this disorder is. We’ll also examine how you can diagnose and treat the problem as well as a quick glance at the two different varieties.


What Is Sleep Paralysis?

In a nutshell, sleep paralysis is when you feel conscious but at the same time you are not able to move your body. It takes place when you move from a state of wakefulness to one of sleep.

sleeping and sleep paralysis

While you undergo these shifts of state, it may be only seconds or maybe minutes before you regain the ability to move or speak properly.

Accompanying problems are a feeling of choking or abnormal pressure. Both of these, obviously, can cause quite a scare. The worst scenario is when this is partnered with hallucinations. A sense of dread and sometimes even a supernatural creature lurking combine to make sleep paralysis a terrifying ordeal.

It’s understandably very frightening, especially if you happen to see or hear things which are not really there. Some people who are beset by sleep paralysis feel that there is an intruder in the room. Other explanations point to an incubus (a kind of demon) or vestibular motor sensations (those hallucinations). We will examine here the science behind it which explains it in a rather less dramatic manner.

It can occur alongside other sleep disorders such as narcolepsy.

When Does Sleep Paralysis Happen?

There are two main times when it kicks in, either while you are falling asleep or just as you are about to wake.

Hypnagogic Sleep Paralysis

  • Predormital or hypnagogic sleep paralysis takes place as you fall asleep and your body gradually starts to relax. As your overall awareness lessens, you do not really notice this change happening. If you stay more aware or return to this state then try to speak or move you may notice that it’s an impossible task. This is hypnagogic sleep paralysis in effect.

Hypnopompic Sleep Paralysis

  • The other strand is known as postdormital or hypnopompic sleep paralysis. The body needs both REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and NREM (non-rapid eye movement) sleep. Generally, these separate cycles last for around 90 minutes. NREM sleep is first and accounts for almost three-quarters of your sleep in total. It’s during this phase that the body fully relaxes and restores itself. When NREM comes to a close, you switch to a REM cycle. The body is still relaxed but your eyes begin swiftly moving and dreams start. Your muscles take a break. If you attempt to speak or move at this point, you might not be able to.

So these are the two particular times of the night when you are at risk from sleep paralysis. It most often presents itself during teenage years and is likely to recur in the 20s and 30s. Although it may possibly continue as you age and it’s undeniably a scary state of affairs, there’s no serious health risk associated with this parasomnia.

Who Suffers From Sleep Paralysis?

It’s really rather a commonplace disorder with as many as 4 in 10 people of both sexes suffering from it at some stage.

It can be hereditary and there are also a number of factors which can increase your risk. Those who abuse substances or certain OTC medication can bring about this disturbing problem. If you suffer from existing mental conditions such as bipolar disorder then you are also more likely to find this happening to you. Parallel sleep issues such as narcolepsy or cramps can also provoke sleep paralysis. In addition to these elements, a lack of sleep in general or shifting sleeping patterns can also make things worse. As a handy tip, try to avoid sleeping on your back as this can increase the chance of an outbreak.

How Can Sleep Paralysis Be Diagnosed?

If the situation outlined above takes you by surprise and you are unable to speak or move before or after sleeping, there’s a high chance it’s a case of isolated recurrent sleep paralysis.

There’s no need to panic. As stated, it’s very common and nothing to worry about. Most of the time there is no need to pursue any kind of treatment.

If your symptoms cause you to feel at all anxious, tired during the day or unable to sleep properly then it’s a smart move to consult a doctor.

Try keeping a sleep diary for a period of a week or so. Describe any symptoms with as much detail as you can muster. The doctor may quiz you about any sleep disorders which run in the family and in some cases even refer you to a sleep specialist. Sleep studies, either overnight or during the day, can be conducted if necessary.

So, diagnosis is pretty straightforward and do not hesitate to seek medical advice if you want reassurance.


As stated, most people who encounter sleep paralysis have no need of any treatment at all.

When treatment is necessary, the focus is normally on dealing with any partnering leg cramps or disorders such as narcolepsy. Sorting out these problems often eliminates the sleep paralysis.

Some antidepressants can positively regulate your sleep cycles. It’s crucial to deal with any mental health flashpoints which can provoke sleep paralysis. Do not ignore them. Seek the help of your doctor and explore what medications are on offer.

That aside, the idea of most treatment is to take steps to improve overall sleep health which in turn should drastically reduce the chance of sleep paralysis happening again.


There is no denying that someone experiencing sleep paralysis is likely to feel concerned. If you understand the simple reasons why this happens and take action to improve your overall sleep health, it should not be an ongoing issue.

Get yourself checked out by your doctor if necessary and don’t worry. There is nothing serious about sleep paralysis. Think of it as no more than a bad dream!

Shift Work Sleep Disorder

Shift work sleep disorder is defined as a problem which alters your body’s 24-hour internal clock (known as circadian rhythm) due to the abrupt changes in the work schedules of a person i.e. from day job to night shift.

Light helps the body know when to be active and awake while dark is a cue for the body to rest and sleep. And, among the many different types of shift work, night shifts are the most disruptive to the circadian system.

Working at night (graveyard shift) and sleeping during the day, makes the body’s internal clock reset the body to sleep during the day and be awake at night. Adjusting to that is a very hard thing to do indeed.

sleeping problems with shift work

Such working hours interfere not only with the body clock but also the homeostatic regulation of sleep – sleep drive – as well. It causes negative effects on sleep, subject’s sleepiness due to sleep deprivation, poor performance and accident risks (through being drowsy which can lead to loss of observation and alertness).

It can also cause gastrointestinal disorders because of the lack of food options available. Night shift workers sometimes just opt for junk foods, and revert to drinking tea and coffee to keep them awake the whole time.

coffee and shift work

Respiratory problems are also possible due to increased cigarette smoking and, of course, lack of sleep itself which all weaken the immune system. Fatigue as well as cardiovascular disease and cancer can also happen.

Shift work can definitely alter the body’s circadian system and make any existing disorders worse.

These health issues may be due by the disruption of the circadian rhythm that is caused by exposure to light at night. Such exposure will alter sleep-activity patterns, prevents melatonin production and impairs the genes involved in cancer development

All of these results from the clashing between the day-oriented circadian physiology of the body and the need to work and sleep at the incorrect biological time of day.

Another type of shift work that also negatively impairs sleep is any work schedule greater than 10 hours. This makes the individual very vulnerable to having great sleepiness during the night which leads to poor performance and insomnia (inability to sleep) at day.

overwork and sleep problems

Whereas some treatments may be given by doctors to counter the negative impact of shift work on night time sleepiness and daytime insomnia, there still seems to be no way to alleviate most of the negative effects of shift work on a person’s cognition and body physiology.

Next is rotational shift work. This is a term given to such work schedules that enforce shift rotations or changes on a set schedule. These kind of shifts are either continuous (meaning going on for a complete 24 hours or 7 days). They can also be semi-continuous, working 2 or 3 shifts per day with or without a day off. Workers are subject to take turns with on all shifts that are part of a particular schedule.

This kind of rotational shift work is common in hospitals, hotels, inns, lodge houses, industrial jobs, airlines, trucking, customs and immigration, mines and BPOs.

Fixed shift work (fixed straight nights, straight afternoons or straight days) is also a type of shift work of which schedules consist of working hours and working days that are generally the same from week to week.

This kind of schedule allows the employee’s body to adjust to a different circadian rhythm. Fixed shift workers do not experience circadian rhythm issues for the first and second shifts. It’s the employee working on the third shift (night schedule) who often rotate their biological clocks.

On the other hand, workers on fixed night shifts and on rotational shift work schedules have a lot in common because of the constantly changing work schedules, night work and potential alterations and problems to their family and social lives.

A shift worker, especially the one who works at nights, must function on a schedule that is not “natural”. These workers often feel tired and lazy as they do not get much-needed sleep during the daytime.

Shift workers experience a lot of work schedule changes which makes them somewhat disconnected from social life.

no social life with shift work

However, even though shift works can be tasky and tedious, employees can still benefit from this situation…

Shift workers have the privilege of choosing a work schedule that is more convenient for them.

And they have no problem doing errands they need to do at day because they work at nights. Also, they don’t need to wait for weekends to do all the essentials. Not to mention avoiding the rush hours which daytime workers battle every day.

One more thing is that they can adjust their schedule if, for example, they arrive to work late. And in cases where the work hasn’t been completed by the shift’s end, the next worker will simply continue the job. Less stress!

Contrary to what people might think, shift work does not require too many working hours. Employees enjoy more rest and breaks. They can also swap leave periods with co-workers whenever needed.

Shift workers can cope very well with different aspects of work with increased yields of productivity as compared to regular workers who handles all the work singlehandedly.

As with other health problems, there are ways to counteract or lessen the effects of sleep deprivation to an individual.

Doctors can give tips to as how to keep a worker’s health in tune. The doctor may prescribe a sleeping pill to help you sleep at the proper time. But sleeping pills can only ever be a short-term remedy. You may develop a side effect, dependency or a tolerance to it in time

Melatonin supplements are also given as vitamins rather than medicines to help workers adjust better to a shift work schedule. It is a natural hormone from the brain’s pineal gland which signals when the body is supposed to sleep. A dose of 0.5 mg is prescribed and should be taken few hours before the planned time of sleep.

Whenever possible, take a nap during breaks or before reporting for a night shift. A nap of 20 to 30 minutes can help improve your alertness while working.


Do not drive home as you may fall asleep on the road. Taking a bus or cab is more advisable. Or ask somebody to collect you.

Drink moderate amounts of caffeine in order to stay awake on the job. Refrain from taking coffee in the later hours of your shift so that you may fall asleep when it is time to go to bed.

Avoid the light if you need to sleep during the day. Wear eye masks if you’re curtain isn’t thick enough to cover the sunlight.

Tell others in your home as well as neighbors of your work schedule. They should help keep the home and surroundings quiet when they know that you need to sleep.


We can see that shift work is not for everyone but it certainly has some advantages as well as drawbacks.

Take note of the advice above if you work irregular hours and try to make the best of the situation. It is a sleep disorder but one which you can work against better than some more serious varieties.

Jet Lag and How To Lessen Its Effects

What Is Jet Lag?

Jet lag is a sleep disorder in which the body’s own circadian rhythm (body clock or internal biological rhythm that tells it when to sleep or wake up) is altered due to a very fast long-distance trip in a high speed passenger jet aircraft.

It is characterized by a feeling of tiredness and confusion along with a sudden need of the body to adjust to the time zone of another country.

If you are flying from east to west, the time zones are very much different. It is generally accepted that the symptoms are worse when traveling east. One explanation for this is that the body can adapt more easily to a longer day than a shorter one. When we  go west, we gain time. Flying east causes the body to feel like it’s losing time.

time zones and jet lag

Jet lag is a common issue among airline pilots, crew and travelers. Indeed, many airlines have detailed guidelines aimed at fighting pilot and crew fatigues caused by this problem.

The jet lag condition may last a few days before somebody is totally adjusted to the new time zone. It is said to be harder to advance sleep time than to delay it. Normally, a recovery period of one day per time zone crossed is a rule.

The term “jet lag” is used for the simple fact that jet airplanes travel so fast you will feel like they leave your body rhythms lagging behind and you are having a feeling somewhat like a hangover.

In contras, if you traveling far but within the same time zone, you’d still be tired from the act of travel but your body clock would be on the correct local time and you would not find yourself beset by jet lag.

When flying long distances, jet lag is definitely inevitable. What’s good is that there are some simple ways to lessen (or even avoid) falling foul of this common sleep disorder.

How To Minimize Jet Lag

how to help with jet lag

  • A few days before traveling, try adjusting your sleeping habits to the time zone of your destination. If flying to the east, best to advance the time of your sleep. Likewise, if traveling west, sleep time should be delayed accordingly.
  • Reset your time to the time zone of your destination upon boarding the plane. In this way, you can adjust earlier and won’t get confused of the time.

jet lag sleeping at airport

  • Sleeping while on the flight still depends on the person and the duration of the flight. If you want to sleep while traveling on a plane and you cannot afford a business or first class seat that has wider spaces and deeper seat reclines, better try getting seats with better legroom (the distance between two seats). It is always best to seek out wide spaces to stretch your legs especially on longer flights, This also helps to avoid the onset of phlebitis – swelling of the legs – or, even worse, leg thrombosis (blood clots in the veins of the legs)
  • If you don’t want to be disturbed and want a good view outside, choose a window seat. And if you’re the type who wants to get up and walk a lot, get an aisle seat. It is actually best to move and walk around as much as possible while on a flight. Bring your own travel pillow for a more relaxing position.

jet lag travel pillow

  • Avoid seats at the back of the plane as this section moves more when the aircraft hits a bump. You won’t be able to relax as much. Also, most of the seats here do not have the ability to recline.
  • Turn off cell phones and other electronic gadgets if you want to sleep more soundly and without interruption.
  • Bring along earplugs to lessen any noises that might occur. Consider a sleep mask too to cover the eyes if you are a person too sensitive to light.
  • Though cocktail drinks can help you to sleep, getting intoxicated can cause dehydration and loud snoring and even trouble breathing. Also, it may cause you to make more trips to the toilet and thus is responsible for disrupting sleep further.
  • Get hydrated with water or juices but do so in moderation as, like with alcohol, consuming too much of any liquid can cause you to use the rest room more often.
  • Take vitamins with sleeping effects for longer flights but not a sedating drug as it may make one feel drowsy upon waking up. It might be tempting to swallow a couple of Valium but it’s simply not worth it.
  • Experts advise no caffeine intake before the flight as this can also cause deep vein thrombosis not to mention it can also interrupts your sleep.
  • Try getting at least two hours of sleep upon reaching your hotel or destination. This tip should not be underestimated. A power nap can have amazing restorative properties.
  • Take a one hour walk immediately upon waking up to allow daylight to reset your body clock.
  • Do some exercises too to get blood circulation flowing back to normal.
  • Eat at least three meals a day to get in line and stronger for the new time zone.

Travelers often find themselves in trouble trying to get to sleep when their bodies are supposed to wake up and are then forced to get up and moving at what feels like the middle of the night.

To repeat what was mentioned earlier, we find it easier to deal with a longer day than a shorter one. Allow for that day of recovery per time zone. Understand that you cannot avoid het lag completely but you can certainly make things easier on yourself.

So, in order to deal with jet lag, why not try these tips that we discussed here with you today?

And another helpful tip in closing: buy a pair of jet lag glasses with hi-tech specs to better alleviate jet lag issues.

In today’s global village, flying across the world on a regular basis is unavoidable for many of us. Take this advice on board and you will find coping with that old enemy jet lag to be far less taxing.

Sleepwalking: A Look at Parasomnia

What is sleepwalking?

Sleepwalking or somnambulism is a common parasomnia.

what is sleepwalking

Parasomnias are a group of sleep arousal disorders characterized by abnormal movements, perceptions, dreams, emotions and behaviors that happen in a state of deep sleep.

We can think of parasomnias as disassociated states of sleep. This means that there are periods of wakefulness between the NREM and REM stages of sleep. These cycles involve non-rapid eye movement and rapid eye movement.

Sleepwalking is defined as a behavior disorder that occurs during deep sleep resulting in waking or undertaking unconscious complex behaviors while asleep. It happens an hour or two after sleeping and lasts for about thirty minutes at the most.

The brain of the person affected exits from short wave sleep – another name for NREM sleep – and due to a physiological activation they are subsequently trapped between waking and sleeping.

In the mildest form, the person affected might simply sit up and seem to be awake. Others actually get up out of bed and walk around. Sometimes they perform fairly complex tasks such as moving things around, getting dressed or heading to the bathroom.

Sleepwalking in children

sleepwalking child

Sleepwalking is much more common in children than in adults. Up to one-fifth of kids experience problems with sleepwalking at some stage. It occurs mainly between the ages of 4-12 with the most regular outbreaks happening between the ages of 11-12. For the most part, sleepwalking fades away by the end of adolescence. Usually in children, sleepwalking is in some way linked to school and behavioral issues.

Parents have nothing to be scared of since sleepwalking in kids is normally short-term and easily treated. Also, as mentioned, it tends to disappear naturally after a while.

Saying this, parents should nevertheless be strictly vigilant if their children have it. Although not considered to be a serious disorder in the young, sleepwalking can cause damage and injuries not only to others but to the child who has it as well. Parents should always make sure the child doesn’t leave their house during sleepwalking. And, if possible, lock the bedroom door outside and put a barrier at the stairways.

In an episode of such a parasomniac disorder, the brain is partially awake and is dictating the movements and actions of the body. The affected person’s eyes are open but they don’t seem to see anything or anyone. Their eyes are focused forward and they give a blank stare. They don’t recall any of the events that occurred when they awaken.

People who sleepwalk it sometimes sleep talk too but they talk in a meaningless fashion. The senses are completely asleep. They hear nothing so don’t expect them to reply or even to wake up at once. It will take longer to rouse sleepwalkers. Even though sleepwalkers are technically asleep, when in this state they can be guided. They will follow anyone who will take their hand and lead them. They can even return back to their beds and resume sleep as if nothing had happened.

The sleepwalker is just totally unaware of whatever actions are happening.

Sleepwalking in adults

Sleepwalking affects about four percent of adults.

Unlike the incidents with children, sleepwalking in adults can have serious complications so it’s important to look at what is provoking the problem. A child might go for a walk around the house whereas an adult risks going out to the car or walking out into the street.

sleepwalking in adults

The frequency and severity of every episode in adults are mainly related to sleep deprivation, stressful incidents, extremely elevated emotions, mood disturbances, intense exercises, drinking and drug medications – antihistamines are particularly prone to inducing sleepwalking. Fatigue and noisy environment can also trigger it. Sleep apnea and past head injuries can also be responsible but these are just factors that contribute to the onset of sleepwalking.

What are the root causes of sleepwalking?

The real causes are still unknown up to this time. This is one of the most frustrating parts of trying to understand the issue.

Sleepwalking can sometimes run in the family but it is not related to any underlying psychological or psychiatric illnesses. It is just a sleeping disorder triggered by some physiological problems.

One common myth associated with sleepwalking is that you should not wake the person during this state. It is not dangerous to wake them at all. Expect them to be disoriented or confused and do so very gently but do not worry about waking them. Another misconception is that a person is unable to sustain injuries while sleepwalking. This is simply not true.


One of the strands that can be considered as the very worst form of sleepwalking is a parasomnia that includes sexual arousals. This is known as  sexsomnia. Experts define sexsomnia (or sleep sex) as sexual engagements while asleep. The vast majority who have this disorder are men.

Sexsomnia ranges from unconsciously touching the body or private parts while sleeping to just a casual sexual involvement without any knowledge of doing it. In the worst case it can extend to inflicting sexual attacks or damage on another person. Some men who are sued for rape use this disorder to justify their bad deeds and have actually been acquitted of the crime.

How can you deal with sleepwalking?

With children, little can be done except to take the precautions outlined above. Make the place safe by locking doors and windows, using heavy drapes to cover glass windows and removing any trip hazards.

Adults can do something to address the underlying cause. If you are experiencing occurrences of sleepwalking then look closely at any medication you are taking. Medication can also be used to effectively prevent sleepwalking. Short-term small doses of ProSom (a benzodiazepine), Klonopin or Desyrel can all help.

For a more natural approach, relaxation techniques can be beneficial for long-term problems with sleepwalking.

In general, the best thing you can do is to ensure that you get sufficient sleep, use meditation or other methods of relaxing before bed, sidestep any types of stimuli before heading to bed and, as a preventative measure, take care that the sleeping environment is free of sharp or harmful objects.

Sleepwalking has been reported for centuries and is nothing to worry about!