Are these sleep problems affecting your energy levels?
Dozing off early and waking up feeling exhausted isn't that uncommon and you might find yourself assuming it's because life is so hectic! But you could actually have a sleep disorder you're unaware of, leaving you feeling more exhausted in the morning than when you went to bed. We look at some common sleep problems and how to get a more restorative night's sleep.
The problem: Grinding your teeth
If you suffer from chronic headaches or wake up with a sore jaw, you could be grinding your teeth overnight. Clenching your jaw can cause pain that interferes with your sleep and it also wears down the enamel on your teeth. It's thought around 16% of us grind our teeth and it's usually linked to stress and anxiety - although it can also be a side-effect of some medications such as antidepressants.
The problem: Snoring
Snoring is caused by the narrowing of your airways as you sleep and it could be caused by the shape of your soft palate or by being overweight. Some people who suffer from sleep apnea wake hundreds of times a night, but not for long enough to remember. Between 3 and 9% of women aged 30 to 70 suffer from sleep apnea, and it can increase your risk of stroke, heart disease and osteporosis. See your GP to get checked for sleep apnea if you always wake up feeling tired - if you do have the condition, a mask and CPAP machine can help to open the pharynx.
If it's just snoring that's the issue, avoid sleeping on your back, as this position increases the likelihood of your airway collapsing, causing you to snuffle and snort.
The problem: Jittery legs
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) affects 1 in 10 people and is thought to be linked to the way the brain processes dopamine, a neurotransmitter. However, in some instances, it could be linked to iron deficiency.
Warm compresses, ice packs or a bath can help - different remedies seem to help different people. There are RLS medications available if you're suffering from severe symptoms, otherwise it may be worth getting your iron levels checked as taking a supplement could help. Some medications, such as certain anti-depressants, can reduce dopamine levels, so make sure you mention this to your GP.
The problem: Faulty body clock
If you find you're unable to sleep until the wee small hours - and not just because you're binge-watching the new season of OITNB on TV - you could be suffering from Delayed Sleep-Phase Syndrom (DSPS) - it affects around 10% of those who seek help for insomnia. A biological glitch in the body could prevent your body from producing melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep, until 12am or later. If you've been a night owl since you were a teenager, you could have DSPS. Less than 7 hours of shut-eye a night puts you at an increased risk of diabetes and high blood pressure, but it can also lead to experiencing more negative thoughts than the average person.
Try improving your sleep hygiene - get into a regular bedtime routine so that your body learns when it's time for sleep. Cutting back on caffeine can help, and switching off your phone, tablet PC or TV 90 minutes before bedtime will give you time to unwind - if you need entertainment, choose a good book instead. Getting outside for a morning workout can be helpful, as morning sun could restore your body's natural rhythm. Natural remedies such as lavender (a few drops on a tissue on your pillow) or a cup of chamomile tea before bed are also beneficial. If all else fails, see a sleep specialist, who may prescribe synthetic melatonin to help you nod off.
The problem: Sleep walking (or sleep eating)
Sleep walking, or sonambulism, affects up to 4% of the population and seems to run in families. If you're a sleep walker, you rouse in the night and wander around the house - you may even be one of the 1 to 3% who raid the fridge. Sleep-related eating disorder is most likely to affect women who are on a diet and go to bed feeling hungry, so have a healthy bedtime snack!
Getting more sleep can help and medication isn't always the answer. If you are prone to sleep walking, clear clutter from your home and hide sharp objects. Make sure your partner knows about your habits and that they should gently guide you back to bed if they come across you on the move in the night. As a last resort your doctor could prescribe benzodiazepines (tranquilisers) to knock you out.
Working out what's causing your tiredness is the first step towards fixing your sleep problems - and hopefully you'll enjoy a restful night's sleep with our handy tips!