What’s really causing your sleepless nights?

What's sabotaging your sleep?
What's sabotaging your sleep?

SLEEPING disorders are often overlooked, and in most cases, never ever get treated. Battling to fall and stay asleep are basic forms of sleeping disorders, and experts say there’s a medical explanation behind your sleepless nights.


A normal sleeping period for adults is eight hours. Many blame social media and their smartphones for sleeping three or four hours less than the normal time. But Nobuhle Mbulawa, a general practitioner, says that’s not always the case. She says struggling to fall asleep could be the first signs of stress and anxiety. She says that it’s normal to have few sleepless nights in a month, but if it becomes a routine, it’s a disorder that needs intervention. “Sleeping disorders are often overlooked, and mostly never ever get treated. Depression, stress and anxiety can cause sleeping disturbances,” she explains. There are a lot of factors that can result in abnormal sleeping patterns. Apart from medical, psychological and psychiatric factors, registered nurse Sibusiso Zikhali lists physical discomforts as other sleep disturbances. He explains that due to discomfort and pain from injuries, one can struggle to sleep. He goes on to explain that sleeping disorders can be inherited. “Some conditions related to sleeping disorders are inherited. If there is a family history of sleeping disorder, you can inherit those conditions,” he says. Having excessive sleep is also classified as a sleeping disorder, and certain medication can result in the disorder. Experts say excessive intake of sleeping pills, and anti-depressants can tamper with normal sleeping patterns and disturb your daily productivity.


It’s advisable to keep track of your sleeping patterns. Experts say this will make you more aware of your functionality. Simple night activities like laughing or snoring deep in your sleep may be an indication of a sleeping disorder and signs of an underlying medical condition. Chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes and hypertension may cause sleeping disorders while some sleeping disorders can result in chronic conditions.


¦ Insomnia – Individuals suffering from insomnia have difficulties sleeping, they can’t stay asleep and they wake up too early in the morning.

¦ Sleep apnea – This is a very serious condition as sufferers have disturbed breathing patterns. The body takes in less oxygen during the first hours of sleep and there are breathing pauses and a person starts snoring.

¦ Teeth grinding – Sufferers chew on their teeth deep in sleep. The sleeping disorder may be caused by stress and anxiety.

¦ Parasomnia – Sufferers may just burst into laughter during sleep. The condition is a result of irregular emotions and can happen at any time of the sleep circle.

¦ Narcolepsy – There’s a temporary paralysis during sleep and it usually goes together with hallucination. A person can’t wake up from a nightmare.


Getting enough sleep is vital, your body functions better after a good night sleep. Experts say denying your body an opportunity to rest may have a negative impact on your mood, productivity and your overall health. Nobuhle explains that chronic irregular patterns that deprive you of enough sleep may make you an unpleasant person to be around.  “People who don’t get enough sleep are generally irritable. For some, it’s even worse, they start seeing and hearing things that don’t exist,” she shares. Sibusiso explains that having little to no sleep kills your sex drive, saying people who don’t get enough sleep have low energy levels. He says people who suffer from depression and sleeping disorders pose a danger to others and themselves. The nurse recalls a lot of incidents where patients lost control and hurt themselves or others around them. “It’s easy to lose concentration and cause accidents, especially when your work requires that you operate machinery. It’s even worse for people suffering from depression. I have treated patients who sustained an injury because they didn’t have enough sleep and lost focus,” he shares.


¦ Weight gain – Sleeping disorders affect your brain, and you are more likely to overeat as the brain takes longer to detect a full stomach.

¦ Forgetfulness – People who don’t get enough sleep have impaired memory, they easily forget things.

¦ Low sex drive – Lack of sleep results in tiredness, and low energy levels. All this decreases the libido in both men and women.

¦ Loss of concentration – One loses their creative juices, and has hard time solving general problems.

¦ Weak immune system – Sleep boasts the immune system. Having little sleep can weaken the immune system and make you prone to colds and flu.

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