COUNSELLING BLOG

Posts tagged sleep disorders

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The Top 8 Recurring Dreams And What they Mean

1. Being chased. If you feel as if you’re running, and being chased, in your dream, it could mean you are running from some tough things in your life (or you may be running from an opportunity).

2. Falling. We often have a sense that we are falling in our dream – then we suddenly wake up and find we’re safe in our bed. This is said to be the fear that we are losing control, or it may be a fear of abandonment.

3. Having your teeth fall out. Like falling, this dream symbolizes powerlessness, and loss of control in some area of life. It can also mean you suffer from low self-esteem and are afraid to be honest and to speak your mind.

4. Being paralyzed when you try to run away. This is said to mean that you feel stuck or held back, or you can’t overcome some obstacle in your life.  

5. Flying.  Flying in your dreams is believed to signify a desire to express your creativity, to break out of the box and to reveal the real you.

6. Being submerged in water. This is said to mean we feel as if we’re drowning in life … that we’re feeling overwhelmed, and are close to breaking point.  

7. Being caught naked in public. We’re all afraid of being publicly exposed, as we know that we’re imperfect and inevitably fail. And though most of the time we can put on a good show, we fear we’ll be exposed for who and what we really are.

8. Being trapped or buried. It’s not hard to guess at the meaning here … as we often feel trapped by circumstances in life. This could be a dead end job, a bad relationship, a wrong decision or a mountain of debt. The message in the dream is you need to face the truth and start to take some steps to try and set yourself free.

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Insomnia Tips

1. Avoid taking naps in the late afternoon or early evening.

2. Don’t use your laptop or watch TV in bed. (Avoid bright lights and screens.)

3. Try and wind down before you go to bed. (For example, don’t exercise or check your emails.)

4. Sleep in a cool, comfortable room.

5. Avoid liquids for at least 2 hours before going to bed. (If you waken up to empty your bladder it’s often hard to fall asleep again.)

6. Avoid stimulants in the evening – like coffee, tea or cigarettes.

7. Try and establish regular bedtimes, and a set bedtime routine.

8. Get up and do something if you can’t fall asleep within 15-20 minutes.

9. Redirect your thoughts if you’ve had a nightmare, or if you find that you’re fixating on your anxieties.

10. Try and relax your body and mind by listening to calming music, white noise, or slowly and deliberately relaxing your muscles.

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Some Factors that Contribute to Excessive Sleepiness

1. Poor sleep habits. Inconsistent or irregular sleep patterns; trying to function on too little sleep; taking long naps throughout the day; taking naps too close to bedtime.

2. Dietary factors. There are certain foods that make us feel more sleepy. These include candy, pop and desserts, peanuts and peanut butter, dairy products, turkey, bananas and apples. Also having a late lunch seems to contribute to mid-afternoon sleepiness.

3. Crash diets and weight loss pills may cause sleep abnormalities, which leave you feeling tired and drained.

3. Sedating drugs and alcohol. This includes many prescribed and over the counter medications. Also, not following the instructions properly can lead to bouts of sleepiness. This includes not paying proper attention to timing and dosages.

4. Having the cold or flu, or suffering from a minor infection.

5. Feeling anxious or depressed saps and drains your energy.

6. Having your period. Some women also report feeling more tired and sleepy just before their period or during ovulation.

7. Being physically active. This uses up our energy reserves.

8. Doing boring, monotonous, repetitive tasks.

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6 Things to Avoid Before Going to Bed

1. Exercising: Exercising raises your body temperature for up to three hours. That can make it harder to relax and fall asleep.

2. Having a hot shower or bath: Although a bath can be relaxing, if it’s too late at night your body won’t have time to cool down sufficiently - so both your body and mind will be alert.

3. Using your laptop or watching TV: The lights on these screens have been shown to affect the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Hence, they waken you up when you need to fall asleep.

4. Reaching for a drink: Sipping some water will stop you feeling parched but a hot cup of cocoa - or any other drink – may cause you to wake up for a bathroom break. That interrupts your sleep and will leave you feeling tired.

5. Working: Working early in the evening leaves you time to relax. But working till it’s late can leave you feeling stressed – then you can’t fall asleep as you’ve too much on your mind.

6. Having a serious conversation or an argument: A study by sleep researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst suggests that an emotional response, and the memories associated with them, are intensified if we attempt to sleep right afterwards[1].


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8 Strange Sleep Disorders

1. Nightmare disorder: When the occasional nightmare becomes a common problem, so you wake up in a sweat or you’re afraid to go to sleep, then you could be suffering from nightmare disorder. According to the American Sleep Association, stress and sleep deprivation are the main triggers for this disorder.

2. Sleep walking: The causes of sleep walking are not fully known – although genetics, broken sleep and stress are thought to play a role. Sleepwalkers open doors, move their furniture around, and move from room to room with no trouble at all. According to the Journal of Molecular Psychiatry, 19 percent of adult sleepwalkers have been injured while sleep walking. The main risks are tripping and falling.

3. Exploding head syndrome: This disorder occurs at the onset of deep sleep, when a loud noise awakens up someone who’s just fallen asleep. These sounds range from explosives going off inside their head, to cymbals crashing loudly, right next to their bed. Of course, there’s no actual sound – so it’s all a mystery. The person’s not at risk - and there’s no obvious cause.

4. Hypnagogic hallucinations: These occur as the person is falling sleep or at the end of the night as they start to waken up. The person’s sure they can hear voices, or they experience strange sensations, or they report seeing people or weird objects in the room. A common vision sufferers have is seeing small animals or thinking they see bugs crawling over the walls. According to the American Sleep Association, these kinds of sleep-related hallucinations are most frequently reported in people with narcolepsy.

5. Night terrors: This is where the person (and most commonly a child) starts to scream, thrash around, or to pace about the room. However, they can’t be wakened up or be comforted. They are trapped in this world that is threatening to them. Night terrors are different from nightmares as they occur in non-REM sleep (the deepest type of sleep that occurs early at night). Although the cause is still unknown, fever and stress may play a role.

6. Sleep paralysis: This occurs in REM sleep, later on in the night, when the person is having a very vivid dream - but is also temporarily immobilised. Thus, although they want to move or to quickly run away they find they’re paralysed, and are rooted to the spot. Often sleep paralysis and sleep hallucinations occur simultaneously. Common images and sensations include sensing an evil presence in the room, or feeling they’re being crushed or choked. In Newfoundland, Canada, this is known as the “Old Hag”; in China, it’s called “the ghost pressing down on you”; and in Mexico, it is described as being “the dead climbing on top of you.”

7. REM behaviour disorder: This occurs during REM sleep, where the sleeper starts to act out the content of their dreams. Thus, they may get out of bed and then start to run around; or they may scream and yell, or they may start to get dressed. It is seen most in older adults, and especially in those who’ve been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.   

8. Nocturnal eating disorder: People diagnosed with this sleep disorder go on eating binges when they’re fast asleep. Some chop up meat and vegetables, or turn on the stove, and then go back to bed without tidying up the mess. Others eat raw foods like onions or fresh meat, or they eat frozen food or unusual types of food (like margarine straight from the margarine tub). Like sleepwalking, it occurs during non-REM sleep. There is no known cause.

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The Stuff of Nightmares

1.    What is a nightmare? A nightmare is a seriously disturbing dream which frequently causes us to waken up. It usually provokes very negative emotions of anger, anxiety, sadness, fear, terror, dread and abandonment. Themes can vary widely – or it can always be the same. The most common theme is the feeling you’re being chased.

2.    What causes them? Sometimes they’re a side effect of taking medication or a withdrawal symptom when we come off medication. They can also be caused by illness and fevers, or negative things that are happen in our life. For example, experiencing a traumatic life event (serious car accidents, abuse, war, surgery, the loss of a loved one and so on) or living with severe, or ongoing, stress (changing jobs, separating from your partner, financial worries, failing an exam, and so on). Another group who have them but have lives are generally more sensitive, emotional and creative than the average person in society.

3.    What’s the best way to treat them? Treatment depends on the cause of the nightmare. If it’s related to the use of medication it is best to discuss your options with a doctor. If it’s due to a trauma or some kind of stress them talking to a counsellor can make a difference. If these two don’t apply, then maybe look for symbolism … or imagine the nightmare ending differently (and well). This is one way of consciously controlling the subconscious so you don’t feel so powerless, anxious and afraid.

4.    Are nightmares different from night terrors – and how? The two occur at different times in the night.  A nightmare is more common at the end of the night and is usually detailed and elaborate – so you know that you’ve been dreaming when you waken up. In contrast, night terrors are recorded in the first few hours of sleep, and are often accompanied by thrashing around, shouting, screaming and intense feelings of fear. It’s hard to waken up the person and they don’t remember much. There’s very little known about the cause of night terrors.

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Sleep Deprivation and Mental Health

We’ve all experienced a sleepless night - and know how it affects our mood the next day.  We feel out of sorts, are easily annoyed, and feel as if our problems are insurmountable. However, our perspective is restored by a good night’s sleep and we return to being reasonable and sane again!

This anecdotal evidence has also been researched, and scientific studies have confirmed that it is true – and that sleep deprivation affects our mental health.

For example, some studies conducted by the University of Pennsylvania (Dinges et al., 1997) revealed that only receiving 4.5 hours of sleep a night for a period of a week led to subjects feeling more stressed, negative, angry, sad, and worn out. However, once they returned to normal levels, their mood improved significantly.

Perhaps of greater concern, is the long term effect of sleep deprivation on mental health. For example, we know that roughly one fifth of insomniacs will be diagnosed with major depression (Breslau et al., 1996). Also, they are at higher risk of anxiety disorders (Weissman et al, 1996) – and especially of developing panic disorders. In fact, the risk disorder is 20 times greater than is found in those who are not sleep deprived (Neckelmann, D. et al., 2007).

Thus, a chronic loss of sleep can affect how we feel and can also be linked to mental health concerns.  

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