Orthosomnia

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What is orthosomnia?

Orthosomnia is a condition described by a group of sleep researchers in the US, who noted they were seeing an increased group of individuals who had developed an unhealthy over-focus on their sleep, in the absence of any sleep problems.

Individuals frequently monitor their sleep, often using smartphone apps, and become concerned about the quality or quantity of their sleep, resulting in limitations to their daytime and/or night time activities in the service of their sleep, to an unhealthy degree. Some of these individuals paradoxically go on to develop insomnia as a result of this unhealthy preoccupation with sleep.

How can I tell if I'm suffering from orthosomnia?

If you start to find you are relying on your sleep tracker to tell you whether or not you have had a good night’s sleep, rather than focusing on how you feel when you wake in the morning, or find yourself constantly worrying about getting enough good quality sleep, and then struggling to sleep when you go to bed, try switching off your tracker for a few nights, and listen instead to your body and brain which will tell you whether you have had a restful night’s sleep.

Is orthosomnia a new syndrome? What has caused it?

Orthosomnia has not formally been confirmed as a sleep diagnosis, but the rise of sleep trackers and the “wellness” movement, together with a wider understanding of the importance of sleep for health and wellbeing, has probably resulted in an increase in the number of individuals who have an unhealthy focus on their sleep 

What do you recommend for patients suffering with orthosomnia?

Try switching off your tracker for a few nights. Listen to your body and let it tell you if you have had enough, quality sleep. Stick to a regular bedtime and getting up time, avoid screens in the hour or so before bed and during your sleep period and keep alcohol, caffeine and nicotine to a minimum. If you find you wake rested each morning, that is a good sign that you are having sufficient quality sleep. 

Are the number of patients suffering from orthosomnia increasing?

Anecdotally many of us working in sleep medicine feel we are seeing more individuals with what could be described as orthosomnia, although no data exists yet to confirm this

What is the best bedtime routine for people suffering from orthosomnia?

Having a regular bedtime is important so that your body and brain can settle into a rhythm. Turn off electronic devices 30-60 minutes before bed and have a period of “winding down” for 10 -15 minutes. A warm bath or shower can help you relax and lowers core body temperature, to aid readiness for sleep. Avoid worrying about what lies ahead in terms of sleep for that night and trust your body and brain to let you fall asleep. 

What would you recommend would be an ideal bedroom environment to get the best night's sleep?

The bedroom should be cool, dark and quiet. Earplugs or white or pink noise apps can help if you live in a particularly noisy area, or shared residence, but should otherwise not be necessary. Similarly, eye masks or blackout blinds can help if you cannot keep the room dark, particularly in the summer months. A comfortable, supportive mattress and pillow will help you remain comfortable through the night, particularly if you have pain or joint issues. 

What is your sleep wardrobe?

I keep things as simple as possible: a supportive mattress which is turned and replaced regularly, clean, breathable cotton bedding to help regulate my body temperature overnight and an “all seasons” duvet so that I can reduce the thickness (tog) in the summer months and increase it for additional warmth in the summer. 

Sleep Expert, Dr Allie Hare, shares her small tips that can make a huge difference to your sleep. Give them a try and see how you get on.

Dr Alanna Hare is a consultant in respiratory medicine at Royal Brompton Hospital, where she treats private and NHS patients.

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