Q. I am 67 years old and in good physical health. Recently I lost my spouse, but with support I was able to manage the grief. However, I have been having trouble sleeping well at night. As a result, I feel irritable, tired and unable to do the things I like during the day. I try to compensate the lack of sleep at night by taking afternoon naps; but then I find that I don’t feel sleepy when it’s time to go to bed. Because of my lack of restful sleep, I am quick to lose my temper with my family, and as a result, I have been having fights with family members. What can I do to remedy this?
A. The symptoms like irritability, tiredness and behavioural changes are common indications of insomnia. You’re right—napping in the afternoon is not advisable, as it leads to further disturbance in your sleep cycle. In your case, most likely your sleeplessness is due to unresolved feelings and thoughts related to the loss of your spouse that disturb your mind when you sleep, which disrupts your sleep cycle. Try incorporating a consistent sleep routine to help you improve the quality of your sleep. I recommend exercising and doing yoga regularly, and eating nutritious, wholesome meals. Yoga can also help you manage stress more effectively. Focus on correcting the problem, rather than looking for quick fixes like sleeping pills. Sleeping pills ought to be your last resort; however I do not recommend taking them as they can be addictive.
Q. I am 50 years old and suffer from obesity and high blood pressure. I have been taking medication for the high blood pressure; but in spite of my doctor changing my medication recently, my blood pressure remains high. Also, my wife complains that I snore loudly during the night. What’s more, I tend to get up often in the night to pass urine, and in the morning I wake up feeling heavy-headed. Sometimes, during the day, I have an uncontrollable urge to sleep. Can you please tell me what can be the cause of this?
A. Snoring, urge to pass urine in the night, and feeling heavy-headed in the morning can all be symptoms of sleep apnoea, given the fact that you have obesity. Sleep apnoea is a sleep disorder in which your breathing stops temporarily due to the blockage of the upper airways. These pauses in breathing interrupt your sleep, leading to frequent awakenings each hour. Most people who have this sleep disorder may not remember waking up in the night; however, they may feel tired, irritable and depressed, or see a decrease in productivity. Other symptoms of sleep apnoea include:
- frequent pauses in breathing
- gasping, snorting or choking
- feeling tired and sleepy during the day, no matter how much time you spent in bed
- waking up with shortness of breath, chest pains, headaches, nasal congestion or a dry throat.
If untreated, sleep apnoea can lead to serious health disorders like hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, lung problems, and depression.
Q. I get funny sensations in both my legs while I sleep. It feels as though insects are crawling over my legs. Of late, I have also started getting cramps in my legs when I sleep. Plus, my husband complains that I move my legs a lot in my sleep which disturbs his sleep. During the day, however, I don’t experience these problems. I don’t know what’s happening to me. What should I be doing?
A. These symptoms are suggestive of Restless Leg Syndrome [RLS]. RLS is a sleep disorder that is characterised by an almost irresistible urge to move your legs.
Common signs and symptoms of RLS include:
- uncomfortable sensations in the legs or arms, accompanied by a strong urge to move them
- the sensations are triggered by rest and get worse at night
- sensations temporarily get better when you move, stretch, or massage the affected limb
- repetitive cramping or jerking of the legs during sleep.
The causes of RLS are unknown. However, it may be indicative of an iron deficiency, or underlying neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease or peripheral neuropathy. Alcohol intake and sleep deprivation tend to worsen the symptoms of RLS. Talk to your doctor for further information and treatment of your problem.