An act of resetting your mind to its waking up state on the previous morning. It is advisable to scan your mind and run clean up programme before you retire to sleep.
Deep sleep is critical to maintaining a robust memory, but both decline with age. In March 2017, a small study published in Frontiers in Human Sciences by Zee et.al, suggested that one easy way for older adults to get deeper sleep and stronger memories is to listen to a certain soothing sound called “pink noise”—a mix of high and low frequencies that sounds more balanced and natural than its better-known cousin, “white noise.”
In this study, a total of 13 adults ages 60 and older spend two nights in a sleep lab. Each night, they took a memory test, went to sleep wearing headphones, and repeated the same memory test in the morning.
On one night, those adults were played short bursts of pink noise during deep sleep – what Dr. Phyllis Zee, professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, described to The Time as a “fairly pleasant” noise that “kind of resembles a rush of water” – and on the other night, no noise was played.
It may sound strange, but previous study (J Theor. Biol, 2012 Aug 7) titled: Pink noise: effect on complexity synchronization of brain activity and sleep consolidation, by Zhou J, et al, has found that playing so-called pink noise during sleep improves the memory of younger adults. “We wanted to see if it would work in older people, too,” says senior author prof. Zee. Older people tend to get less slow-wave sleep and are at greater risk for memory impairment.
Older studies have also shown that young people’s memories could be boosted by the noise too.
Sleeping is a naturally recurring state of mind and body characterised by decreased ability to react to stimuli. It is in reality an attempt to reset the mind and body to a fresher state by going through a period of maintenance for removing metabolic waste compounds from the brain.
During sleep, most systems are in an anabolic(building up) state, helping to restore the immune, nervous, skeletal, and muscular systems to their purer states.
Sleep is controlled by internal biological clock known as the “internal circadian clock” , also known as “circadian rhythm”, which promotes sleep daily at night controlled by strong lights via a light sensitive neurons in the suprachiasmatic nucleus which stimulates the pineal gland to produce a hormone called “melatonin”. Also, the interaction of light with suprachiasmatic nucleus does stimulate the growth hormone, prolactin, and cortisol. It does control body temperature during sleep/awakening states as well.
There are two types of sleep: Rapid eye movement sleep(REM), and non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM). REM & NREM do occur in consecutive cycles taking about 90 minutes each known as ” ultradian sleep cycle”, and any normal night sleep will contain 4 – 5 such cycles (6 to 7.5 hours). Most of the deep night sleep happens at the beginning of the night(the first 2 hours), then light sleep (about 4 hours), then deep sleep again for about one hour before natural waking time in the morning. Dreams and nightmares happen during REM sleep, and the deepest sleep happens in NREM sleep.
Humans may suffer from various sleep disorders, including:
- Dyssomnias: Insomnia(lack of sleeping), hypersomnia(Excessive sleeping), narcolepsy(irresistible urge to sleep), and sleep apnoea(shallow breathing during sleep).
- Parasomnias: Sleepwalking and REM behaviour disturbances.
- Bruxism: Grinding the teeth and clenching the jaw.
Sleep disturbances: Why ?
A sleep disturbance is in essence a sleep disorder, which is a condition that frequently impacts your ability to get enough quality sleep. While it’s normal to occasionally experience difficulties in sleeping, but when this becomes a recurrent problem and when it goes beyond your tolerance or affects your daily living, then it becomes a problem.
There are tens of reasons why people experience difficulty in sleeping or get enough sleeping. It’ll be too much for any reader to go through any list of causes. Hence, I would just give an outline of the main causes not to overload my nice readers with an academic stuff that they may find difficult to understand or too puzzling to grasp !!.
I will take this subject of sleep disturbances into two categories:
- Excessive sleeping(hypersomnia).
- Lack of sleeping(insomnia).
Five main categories for some people to feel sleepy all time, or to have a strong desire to sleep and at least to resist falling into that.
- Organic(pathological) causes: Medical conditions such as stroke, dementia, epilepsy, myasthenia gravis, etc. can also result from medical conditions associated with metabolic disorders such as: under active thyroid, pituitary, or adrenal glands. Excessive sleeping can also results from low blood sugar especially in diabetes mellitus , low nutritional elements in the blood such as iron, calcium, sodium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, etc. Also fatigue like in multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic fatigue syndrome, etc.
- Drugs and medications.
- Environmental causes: Lack of or insufficient sleeping at night, heat and humidity, lack of proper ventilation in the house or office, etc.
- Psychological(non-organic, functional): Depression, personality disorders, lack of motivation, lack of social interaction, loneliness, etc.
- Familial, cultural, socioeconomic, etc.
I would probably divide the causes of lack of sleeping into five major groups:
- Organic(pathological) conditions: Overactive thyroid, hyperadrenalism, urinary bladder problems, prostate problems, bowel problems including irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, etc.
- Drugs and medications.
- Felt(somatic) reasons: pain, stiffness, cramps, deformities, congestion, breathing problems,and restless leg syndrome. Also, external factors such as noise, heat, and humidity.
- Hidden(functional, non-organic) reasons: Anxiety, stress, worry, fear, apprehension, and depression.
- Under estimated: Familial, cultural, circadian rhythm disturbances, REM disorders, etc.
It is so important that, any one with sleep problems has to sit down and think instead of panicking in trying to pin point the likely cause or causes for their sleep problems and sort out those causes through the right means. It is also important for every one with sleep problems to take the problem seriously, but never to see it as a mountain. Everything in relation to sleep disturbances is resolvable, but we just need to think and take the right action which could be seeking a professional advice.
Sleep disturbances: What to do?
This section is going to be the most important part of this subject, and obviously the most challenging. I will try my best to help and make life easier for those who are seriously suffering from this problem.
Those who suffer from excessive sleeping are in my view less challenging than those who suffer from insomnia, even though I do appreciate very much their suffering. Most of the excessive sleeping sufferers do suffer from other medical problems, and those will no doubt need their medical problems identified and then be sorted out by specialised and skillful professionals.
Anyone who suffers from excessive sleeping must see a doctor. A clever doctor will for sure take this matter seriously, and will work hard to find out if the problem is organic or non-organic in nature. This task can be challenging on itself, but it is the key towards help and sorting out.
Most of the organic problems are in today’s medicine treatable. Hence, the problem will remain in the first phase which is knowing what was wrong.
For those who sleep a lot or feel sleepy most of the time, the first step is to enquire about their night sleep. We are here talking about sleep patterns, and we are in essence talking about “quality”, but not quantity. How many hours you spend in bed doesn’t help me that much, but how do you spend those hours in bed is very important for me to know if we are serious in our attempts to help sufferers.
We – doctors – need always , always to see our patients as human beings, but not patients… not ill people. We need to see diseases and illnesses through the human spectrum. We need to see every patient as us, and the only difference is that the patient is suffering from an illness which needs to be identified, then treated to the best and the latest of our knowledge and understanding. We need – doctors – to be not just up to date with medical advances, but in my view . . . to be ahead of them.
Good quality sleeping . . . an interesting phrase, but we – doctors & patients – need to agree on a good definition to it. Yes, what we mean by a good quality sleep?.
Babies may have some sort of fears, but their fears are so mild, and they do cease at the moment when they are held in their mum’s laps or placed gently in their cradles with mum’s touch !. Babies do not bother that much about life affairs, and as long they are clean and had their milk, they just sleep so nicely and feel very much contented. They don’t carry life troubles with them to bed, because they don’t know much about them !!. Can we copy them?!. If we do, then we can taste a baby’s sleep and enjoy it.
Let us look at that person who goes to bed to sleep, then stays in bed waiting for the first snooze to visit, and yet, not yet. Everything is possible, but no chance of snoozing let alone falling asleep. Did you think why?. Have you attempted to know why?. Is it possible to know why?. What would you do to attract sleeping to your eyes?.
When you like to attract some one, you just look deeply at their eyes, and offer that “look”, then you can guarantee to own the attention of that person, and may be forever !. Would you do that with sleeping?. No, never. Here, you need to do the contrary. Shut your eyes, and never gaze, and never dream too much . . . just calm down and relax !.
When we are dealing with the other side of the coin . . . no much sleep at night when you really long for it.
It can be difficult for me to imagine the real effect of the lack of sleep for many nights, could be “the nights of all the person’s adult life” . I wanted to empathise with the sufferers, but honestly speaking I can’t. I don’t remember one time in my life that I have struggled to sleep. I always find my way to the avenue for good night sleep. Insomnia is not in my dictionary, and struggling to get to sleep is not my experience . . . but why?.
I am just an ordinary person like any one of you. I don’t have any thing special what so ever. All what I have got is “reality” . . . yes, I am very much realistic, I am logic, I do calculate a lot, and most importantly may be . . . I don’t worry much about life, and I never cling into things. I just live with my means, and I feel very much contented. One of my mottos in life is: what you can live with, you can live without apart from oxygen and water. Oxygen and water are available everywhere, and they are free of charge . . . oxygen comes from the free air, and water comes from the free rain !!.
I am that kind of a person. I don’t bother much about things, and I am very flexible. I never worry about the future, I never fear the unknown, I don’t fear ghosts, devils, Jinns, beasts, or the magicians. I am very much logic, and for me everything is based on the rule of 1+1=2. That is my life in summary, and just one thing to add . . . I never ever fear death. I am so happy in my life, and I do enjoy and entertain every day I live. I do believe that I am going to live up to 150 years, but I never fear death, and I don’t worry about the unknown. I care a lot about things those I can change, and I can manipulate. The future I think about and prepare for, but if anything doesn’t happen as planned, I just say to myself: the future is not in my hand, and I can never be certain about what will happen in the next second, let alone tomorrow or the next year. The future is God’s affair, and I can only do my best. When it comes to the past . . . for me the past has gone, and what has gone we can never bring it back . . . why then should I waste my time thinking about it or worry about the past?.
So, in summary, the future is not mine to sort out, the past is history . .. then, what is left for me to think about and sort out is “the present”. I deal with the present in a philosophical way. There are three things for me to deal with:
- Things those I can sort out now . .. I just sort them out with no delay.
- Things those could be sorted out later . . . I just leave them on the table or sofa before I go to bed, and I will never take them with me to bed. Bed for me is for sleeping, but not for sorting out unsorted problems. Tomorrow is another day, and tomorrow I will sort out what could be sorted out.
- Things those I can never sort out, and I know I will never achieve, like becoming a millionaire, or winning the lottery !!. Those things I just drop them in the bin and forget thinking about them.
Hence, you can very easily see that when I go to bed, I will never take unresolved problems with me. For me bed is for sleeping, haven for tranquillising; but not for solving problems !!.
That is me in reality, and that is why I never suffer from sleeping disorders, and never suffer from headache. You can learn from me if you like, and you can do it very easily.
Let us now deal together with the problem of lack of sleeping which affects millions if not billions of people in the world.
As mentioned above, insomnia can be secondary to other problems(most of the cases), or it can be primary(no know underlying cause). The first step for any one who suffers from insomnia is to mention that to his or her general practitioner, and for the GP to investigate thoroughly looking for any treatable cause. Very good and detailed history is so important in this kind of problems, as the basic investigations can very rarely pick up the underlying cause.
If the GP fails to pick up any underlying cause, the patient must not give up. The patient then needs to look withing him or herself, in the house, at work, among the friendship network, or relatives and neighbours trying to identify any annoying hidden hurdles. Patients also need to think back for at least one month trying to make any links between difficulty in getting to sleep, waking up in the middle of sleep, or getting up earlier than the usual and can’t go back to sleep. Foods, drinks, habits, routines, rituals, circumstances, surrounding environment, etc.; in order to identify any culprits and sort them out. Patients also need to check for fine details such as the time when going to bed as too early might lead to waking up in the middle of the night or later, and going to bed too late might sometimes cause insomnia. Patients need to check drinks(type and time) as some beverages do contain caffeine such as coffee, tea, chocolate, pepsi, and coke.
If everything is looked at, and no identified cause was the outcome; that should not be the end of searching !. Anxieties, stress, depression, worry, fear, nostalgia, deceased close relative, missing very dear member of the family, problems in marital relationships, lack of harmony, lack of confidence, little children in the family, house located in noisy area, squeaks and noises in the house or in the garden, noisy neighbours, etc.
If everything is fine until this point, but the problem of getting to sleep remains, then you need to try one of the following or any of them:
- Try to avoid sleeping in the day.
- Try not to sleep till late in the morning.
- Try always to empty your bladder before you go to bed.
- A glass of warm skimmed milk can sometimes help as calcium does calm the neurons and help you to sleep.
- Try to leave everything on the table or sofa before you go to bed.
- Leave all the obstacles, problems, concerns for tomorrow, and never ever take them with you to bed.
- Try soft and soothing music. You can try yoga, meditation, or reading a romantic story. Listening to a recorded story can sometimes help.
If all of the above fails, then try these concentration tricks:
1- Close your eyes and watch a beautiful bird flying in the mountains. Hills and valleys are needed. The bird is needed to keep flying continuously between the hills and the valleys. To the top of the hill and flying down slowly and carefully to the bottom of the valley. You can make the hills too high, and the valleys too deep, but keep your eyes only on the bird, and follow the ascending and the descending. It will very quickly take you to the world of smooth sleeping.
2- Watch fish in the sea or ocean swimming up and down, and deep into water waves. Concentrate on one of the fishes and keep following that one in particular to take you to a smooth and relaxing sleep.
3- Watch an air plane flying over the mountains with descending between hills deep down then fly up again and keep following the air plane descending and ascending between the hills. In one of the deep descends, the air plane will take you with her to your destiny.
4- You are sitting in a big ferry travelling somewhere nice. The ferry runs its course in the middle of the sea. It does float high with the elevation of the sea waves, then it descends down very slowly and smoothly with every wave emptying down. With one of those descending with a big sea wave, you will descend with the ferry to sink in your bed sleeping nicely till morning.
5- Watch drops of water falling down very slowly. Look at their
source, and follow every drop falling with your eyes until it falls in a small pool. Watch the drop of water making a whirl of circles spreading in a slow wavy way wider and wider but very slowly. Try to follow the edges of every circle while it is spreading far away in a slow motion till the infinity. The water waves will continue whirling to the far end which has no definite end. While you are watching those waves you will find yourself already in deep dreams till the morning. You will wake up relaxed, tranquillised, and very dreamy with a lot of hope for the day. . . and for the future.
6- The sound of music: With not a single doubt, music is the best tool for mind relaxation, and soft calm music is probably the best drive for smooth and relaxing sleep. Any one with sleep disorders must listen to music, and follow the music waves(tunes) with your your concentration, your imitation, you drooping your eye lids, your looking down very slowly… in a real slow motion. Keep doing that fro only a few minutes to find your self in the seventh deep dream snoozing till morning with no sleep interruptions . . . try it yourself and you’ll appreciate.
Those were few examples which will help you concentrate deeply in your attempting to sleep smoothly and calmly till morning. The whole idea about easy sleeping at night is “concentration“. Keep your attention very closely on something you like very much and keep following that thing. It is better if your subject moves up and down very gently, but steeply descending down to the bottom of what you chose, then moves up steadily to the top of whatever medium you chose, then descends down again and in every other descend, the bottom goes deeper, and so the descending of your target subject. You will sleep without knowing in one of those steep descendings. You repeat the same in every time you wake up and you try to sleep again. Remember, deep and serious concentration is the secret behind these techniques, and concentration is the key towards sleeping.
I wish all of those who suffer from lack of sleeping or insomnia the best of luck and success in their attempts to sleep better like anyone else.