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Sleep disorders

Sleep is a period of rest we need to restore physically and mentally. There is no such thing as a standard for ‘good, healthy sleep’. The need for sleep differs per person. Many sleep complaints are based on wrong expectations, perception and behaviour. Sleep complaints are always subjective. One person may feel that he sleeps very well while someone else with a comparable sleep pattern feels that he does not sleep well at all.

We speak of a chronic sleep problem when complaints occur at least three times per week and are accompanied with complaints such as tiredness, sleepiness during the daytime, concentration problems and irritability for a period of at least three months.

Forms of expression of sleep complaints

Sleeping badly can be expressed in various ways.
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Sleeping badly can be expressed in various ways.

Sleeping badly at night
Sleeping badly often has to do with problems with falling asleep and sleeping through and waking too early. Worrying, stress, anxiety and possibly a depression may make sleeping difficult for you. Or the wrong sleeping habits lead to sleep problems. There may also be physical disorders such as a breathing disruption during sleep (sleep apnoea) or the restless legs syndrome.

Sleepiness during the day
Some people experience increased sleepiness and tiredness during the day. They fall asleep at random moments without being able to control themselves. These people may suffer from the rare sleep disorder narcolepsy. Or they have become exhausted due to a breathing disorder during sleep (sleep apnoea). There are also people suffering from the consequences of sleeping badly at night, sometimes due to physical complaints, sometimes caused by an irregular lifestyle or the use of particular medicines and/or stimulants.

• Disturbed sleep-wake rhythm
The sleep-wake rhythm is controlled by a regulation center located at the base of the brain. This biological clock is different for each person. Through the eyes, this regulation center in the brain responds to changes in the light intensity of the world outside which influences the time of sleeping and waking. The biological clock can be disturbed for instance by sleeping late on weekends or vacation, airplane travel or working shifts. For some people this biological clock differs from the social rhythm by nature. This may seriously affect their functioning.

Unwanted behaviour at night
For instance, sleepwalking, anxiety attacks, bedwetting, teeth grinding and restless behaviour during the REM sleep. These – mostly innocent – symptoms usually occur among children and sometimes among adults.