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Over the next three days, KSMU will dive into the human subconscious, and look at the exact sciences and anatomy behind why some people just don’t sleep well.KSMU’s Ryan Farmer kicks off this series today by asking experts what causes sleep deprivation in both adults and children.
It’s Monday morning again.After hitting the snooze button several times, and downing two cups of coffee, you finally make it to work and start the work week all over again.But the night before, you lay awake for hours, thinking of the mortgage you’re struggling to pay, your sick child, and a dozen other concerns.Now, your lack of sleep has caught up with you.
“A lot of times sleep deprivation is a lifestyle choice, or imposed upon by others through shift work, sleep disorder, or financial stresses,” says Dr. Jennifer Lynch.
Dr. Jennifer Lynch is a neurologist and the medical director of the Cox Sleep Disorder Center in Springfield.She treats patients in the sleep clinic who are frustrated that they’re not getting the rest they need.Dr. Lynch says that by the time someone reaches adulthood, they have experienced and felt the effects of sleep deprivation.
“There’s a primary insomnia where people just don’t sleep well. They are a different category. They can’t sleep at night; they can’t sleep in the day either. Then there’s insomniacs that have a secondary insomnia because of stress with their jobs, stress with their relationship, whatever, keeps them from sleeping at night. And then they have day time consequences where they don’t function well," says Lynch.
Lynch says these consequences can include irritability, and lack of motivation, and that they can even mimic depression.She says that depression is often closely linked to sleep deprivation in adults.
“Depression has approximately 80 percent co morbidity with insomnia, very strong. So that when we treat the depression, sometimes we improve the sleep. Not always, but we almost always improve people’s perception of their sleep when we successfully treat insomnia. But they go hand in hand, more than any other disease," says Lynch.
Dr. Lynch says that stress and worry do cause sleep loss.But she says that sleep deprivation in adults is primarily due to their lifestyle choices. She says that since sleep deprivation is not always treatable through clinical means, it really is up to the individual to fix their lifestyles.She recommends having a routine, a healthy diet, exercise, and having a good use of time management, all practices that she says constitute, “good sleep hygiene.” Brenda Bennett is a flight nurse at Cox Health, and she says that her loss of sleep is caused by her irregular schedule.
“I work sometimes days, sometimes nights so sleep is broken. Sometimes there are nights where you don’t have sleep and then you have to reverse to on your days off to fit your child’s schedule. So sometimes you go a long period of time without any sleep, and then you get maybe six, seven, eight hours a night. So it’s just irregular and kind of causes some chronic fatigue,” says Bennett.
Bennett, who’s a mother to a three-year-old daughter, says that often her fatigue directly affects her day-to-day activities, both large and small.
“When I’m tired it makes it more difficult with my daughter, to have the patience that I would typically have with her. And sometimes you have to make lists and stuff, and sometimes little short term things you forget just because you’re tired. It’s harder to cook at home when I cook meals, and do stuff like that when you’re tired,” says Bennett.
And adults aren’t the only people who struggle with sleep loss.Dr. Lynch says that even though children don’t have the daily stresses adults do, they too lie awake at night in bed, wishing they could nod off.Lynch says that a major factor in a child’s lack of sleep is over-stimulation.
“If you give kids the right sleeping environment for the right amount of time they get enough sleep. The problem is I think today’s society we’ve got too much stimulation. A kid has a computer, T.V., a cell phone, a D.S., all these things at their disposal. So they are choosing not to sleep because of these things, and then are forced to have an early bedtime," says Lynch.
Lynch also correlates childrens’ lifestyles to their parents’.
“We’re treating the wrong people when we treat the kids that have sleep disorders because usually it’s the parents. But the parents don’t have a routine, and they’re a little chaotic in their life and so it’s very hard for them. They need to develop these skills before they can work on their kids sometimes,” says Lynch.
Dr. Lynch says that she tries not to reprimand parents by telling them what to do for their kids.But she does suggest that healthy changes need to be made while their kids are still young, because it can become a problem if they wait too long.She says she thinks that parents are not doing their children a service by affecting their kids’ lives with their own unhealthy sleep schedules.Other experts recommend establishing a bedtime routine for your children: like giving them a bath, reading a book, and playing soft music the same time each night.
For KSMU News, I’m Ryan Farmer.