Got to love a good cliché. How about, ‘I'm busier than an ant at a family reunion picnic" or "I'm busier than a moth in a sweater closet?”
While sleeping, your brain is hard at work performing some very critical functions necessary to keep it operating at optimal levels. For example, during sleep, your brain cleans itself by eliminating cellular debris and toxins that build up during the day, consolidates learning and memory, and prepares for the next day. The cerebrospinal fluid in your brain plays a big role as it flows in and out of your brain during sleep. The removal of toxins and organizing of your thoughts and lessons of the day are also important to your immune system, appetite control, and neurotransmitter production. Some neurologists joke about this cleaning as “brainwashing,” for better physical and mental health!
However, more than 50 million Americans suffer from some type of sleep disorder, and even more have periodic or occasional insomnia. If you have pre-existing mental health conditions or physical health problems, you are more likely to experience low quality or interrupted sleep.
The most common psychological conditions which affect the quality of sleep are depression and anxiety, affecting 75% and 50% of us, respectively. Both result in feeling stressed, irritable, and can affect your judgment and concentration. Physical conditions, such as apnea, chronic pain, dementia, and thyroid imbalances, can overlap with sleep issues, either as the cause or the result. Whether psychological or physical, all conditions are worthy of your time to investigate their impact on the quality of your sleep, and may warrant consultation with your primary care practitioner.
Below are some self-help strategies caregivers have shared with us when they have experienced sleeplessness.