Humans spend about one-third of their lives in a sleeping state.
Our knowledge of why we need to sleep and what happens during sleep is still growing with much of the function and implications of this ‘inactive state’ not fully understood.
We do know what happens if we don’t sleep. From research, case studies and experiments, it is known that sleep is needed for the restoration of bodily functions, memory consolidation, and elevation of mood, cognitive function, and general health, and plausibly for healthy brain development (Kurth et al. 2016).
Adequate functioning and well-being depends on the adequacy of sleep, which means getting enough, uninterrupted sleep to ensure that we wake refreshed and can remain alert and functional through the day.
Inadequate sleep, generally regarded as getting 6 hours or less (optimal 7-8hours), characterised by trouble falling asleep (Onset Insomnia) or difficulty staying asleep (Maintenance Insomnia) results in poor attention and concentration, mood problems (anxiety and low mood and emotional reactivity), problems with memory and learning, impulsivity and poor decision making, impaired empathy and social skills and sub-optimal occupational, sporting and executive performance.
If this poor sleep continues for prolonged periods, the consequences include a wide range of mental and physical health problems of real significance – for instance, increases the risk of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, cancer and dementia.
Lack of sleep (or lack of quality sleep) is linked to higher fat levels, obesity, and higher stress (cortisol) hormones.
We now know that Insomnia predicts Depression more than Depression predicts insomnia and that at least 62% of children with ADHD in Australia have a sleep disorder.
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is highly associated with the delayed sleep phase disorder, a circadian rhythm sleep–wake disorder, which is prevalent in more global research in 73–78% of children and adults with ADHD. Besides the delayed sleep phase disorder, various other sleep disorders accompany ADHD, both in children and in adults. ADHD is either the cause or the consequence of sleep disturbances, or they may have a shared etiological and genetic background. In a review by Arns, M., & Vollebregt, M. A. (2019). see editorial here .
They present an overview of the current knowledge on the relationship between the circadian rhythm, sleep disorders, and ADHD. They also discuss the various pathways explaining the connection between ADHD symptoms and delayed sleep, ranging from genetics, behavioral aspects, daylight exposure, to the functioning of the eye.
It is obvious why sleep should always be of primary focus in treating any health condition including if one is seeking to sustainably operate at their peak. Free Insomnia Guide
Common sleep problems include snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea, prolonged delay getting off to sleep, waking through the night, waking unrefreshed and daytime sleepiness. Adults need around 7-8 hours or so sleep a night. In contrast, children and adoelscents need closer to 10 hours while the brain is till developing and maturing.
Our body is constantly receiving signals from our environment. One of the most important, yet often overlooked, signals is that of light (blue light) or the lack thereof. If we go back to the year 1878, before Thomas Edison had invented the light bulb, our light sources were limited to fire (candles) and the moon once the sun went down. There were no TVs, no smart phones, no digital alarm clocks, and not even a blinking LED from a smoke detector! The body’s exposure to light past sundown was extremely low.
Our bodies lived in light and dark cycles and are still programmed to function in this light-dark cycle. Sleep is therefor entrained by the light-dark cycle and also by the timing of our eating/feeding behaviours in relation to the circadian sleep-wake cycle, exercise (type, amount and timing), coffee and alcohol (amount and timing) and other substance use/abuse.
Alcohol and other substances commonly overused or abused disrupt the sleep clock and other biological processes involved in circadian sleep-wake regulation. Many medications including those prescribed/taken for sleep actually disrupt sleep – for instance the sedatives like benzodiazepines sedate but abnormalise sleep.
Treating sleep has to be a multi-factorial approach that seeks to address the factors shared on this page and one that will require a level of commitment and discipline. There are no quick fixes and those often used, such as sleep medications beyond short term support, can in fact permanently disrupt the sleep circadian rhythm.
Various treatment options will be explored with you that are focused on improvement of sleep quality, quantity, and phase-resetting through set and protect strategies. These involve Blocking Blue light at night and/or Blue Light Therapy morning or evening as ways to reset or protect precious sleep.
It is also important to consider: improving sleep hygiene, addressing specific sleep disorders such as Periodic Limb Movement or Apnea and consider nutritional support where needed. It is also possible to strengthen certain neuronal networks involved in sleep through neurofeedback, e.g. sensorimotor rhythm neurofeedback which improves sleep spindling activity known to underpin sleep.
Engaging in a full , clinical evaluation that may include night time monitoring of your sleep and brain activity is best to inform the right treatment approach for you.