Skip to content

Archive for

How To Tell If You’re An Insomniac

Insomnia is one of the most common sleep difficulties reported in the United States today, as it’s currently estimated that up to 30% of Americans have been diagnosed with some form of the disorder,1 which is characterized by a problem falling and/orstaying asleep.

Some of the tell-tale signs of insomnia include difficulty falling asleep, waking up during the night and having trouble going back to sleep, waking up too early in the morning and feeling tired upon waking.

There are two particular known types of the disorder: primary and secondary insomnia. Primary insomnia is a condition that affects people who do not otherwise suffer from any other medical problems. Secondary insomnia is a condition, by contrast, that affects people who do suffer from other ailments, the complications from which cause a person to lose sleep at night. People who’ve been diagnosed with asthma, heart problems, depression, anxiety, or arthritis pain frequently suffer from the secondary category.

An important variable related to insomnia is the amount of time that one can suffer from it. Insomnia is either considered “acute” [short-term] or “chronic” [long-term]. Acute insomnia can last anywhere from just one night up to a few weeks, whereas the chronic variety can, in certain cases, last for several months or even years, occurring some three times a week or more2.

  • Stress: Whether it’s created by your job, schoolwork, or love life, stress can cause anxiety which often keeps you awake at night.
  • Health Conditions: Diagnoses such as depression, asthma, heart problems, restless leg syndrome, cancer, and arthritis pain can all contribute to trouble sleeping.
  • Disturbing Environment: Attempting to rest in a room that’s too noisy, too hot or cold, or that has too much light can affect your sleep.
  • Medications: Those drugs that are prescribed for colds, allergies, high blood pressure, or in the treatment of depression can contribute to sleep loss.
  • Caffeine, Nicotine, and Alcohol: Drinks containing caffeine are well-known stimulants, and consuming coffee, for example, in the late afternoon can keep you from falling asleep at night. The nicotine found in tobacco products is another stimulant which can cause insomnia; and though the sedative effects of alcohol may help you fall asleep, drinking it will prevent deeper stages of sleep and often cause you to awaken in the middle of the night3.
  • Eating Habits: Either ingesting a big meal just before going to bed or eating something that causes your stomach to become unsettled can keep you up at night. Eating too much can cause you to feel uncomfortable in when you lay down, and eating something spicy can cause you to lie awake suffering from indigestion and heartburn.
  • Owning an Uncomfortable Mattress: A worn-out or otherwise uncomfortable mattress can easily keep you awake at night. Those manufactured of spring coils, water beds, and air mattresses can all create both pressure on and stiffness throughout the body. The best remedy is a simple switch to a memory foam mattress, which will increase blood flow and thus create improved circulation… not to mention its unique ability to alleviate pressure by conforming to your unique shape.

If you believe you may have insomnia and would like to find out for certain, the most practical course of action is to seek the opinion of a professional health care provider. An accurate diagnosis of insomnia can typically be detected by a standard physical examination, accompanied by your documented history of medical and sleep problems. In certain instances, the medical examiner may ask to interview your sleep partner, or request that you keep a journal in order to document your sleep habits. Advanced cases may also be referred to professionals who will perform more detailed tests at a sleep center.

Although insomnia is a serious sleep disorder that affects a tremendous number of people every night, you may “rest assured” that it can be both treated and cured– quite often by simply monitoring bedtime habits and making the necessary adjustments. If modest changes to your nightly ritual, etc. do not have the desired effect, however, don’t be afraid to make an appointment with your doctor, who can discuss appropriate alternatives [ranging from a temporary sleep medication prescription to referral to a behavioral therapist] for lasting relief.

1. Vogin, Gary D. M.D.To Sleep, Perchance to Dream: All about Insomnia. http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=50772. Last reviewed, January 30, 2005. 1996-2005. Retrieved on June 8, 2009.

2. WebMD. What is Insomnia?http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/insomnia. Retrieved on June 8, 2009.

3. MayoClinic.com. Insomniahttp://www.mayoclinic.com/health/insomnia/DS00187. Retrieved on June 8, 2009.

Why Do People Sleepwalk?

Watching a person sleepwalk must be one of the most eerie events you could ever experience.  Until I witnessed it myself, I thought sleepwalking was just something that happened on Saturday morning cartoons.  My perception of the phenomenon was changed forever when I was just a kid, and I was woken up in the middle of the night by the sound of our doorbell ringing. I cautiously opened my bedroom door and peered down both ends of our hallway, scared that it could be someone dangerous. My mom and dad followed soon after, wondering what on earth I was up to.  “Nothing,” I remember saying. “I think someone’s at the door.”  We crept together in alarm toward the front door, and then we suddenly heard a loud knock– which really scared me half to death.  Angered, my dad quickly swung open the door… only to find my kid sister standing there in her pajamas. “ASHLEY! What are you doing??” came my father’s booming voice.  My poor sister just stood there, looking terribly confused.  “I don’t know, I don’t know,” she insisted, and started to cry.  My Dad was shocked to find his baby girl outside so late at night. He was really starting to get upset when my mom finally suggested that Ashley had perhaps been sleepwalking. Apparently, my little sister had wandered outside while she was asleep, and had ended up locking herself out of the house.  She finally woke up only because it was so cold!

This story presents an accurate description of what usually happens when a sleep walker is awakened, as feelings of disorientation and utter confusion are typical after-effects from this sort of incidents.  But what happens during the rest of the process? What could make certain people suddenly arise and take a midnight stroll– all while fast asleep?  Researchers everywhere are fascinated by this question, and are at last beginning to make some headway in the research of the underlying causes.

Sleepwalking is a particular disorder that occurs when the normal physiological functions of the body are active at what would normally be considered “inappropriate” times1. In fact, people who sleep walk have been found performing an intriguingly wide range of activities, from simply raising upright in bed to attempting to cook a complete meal in the kitchen.  The unusual occurrence originates during the sleep cycle period known as Non-Rapid Eye Movement, or NREM.  This is the deepest portion of sleep that people experience every night, and is the period that proceeds dreaming.  Because NREM activity occurs more frequently early in life, children are often much more susceptible to sleepwalking events.  Though the reason this is true is still unknown, one thing that’s quite clear is that the condition is genetically passed along from one generation to the next.

Although the mysteries behind sleepwalking are as yet unsolved, there are some interesting theories that are worth talking about.  Some research, for example, suggests that fatigue contributes to the level of frequency at which sleepwalking occurs.  Other researchers have suggested that particular chemicals are released during NREM which tell your brain to perform normal daytime functions.  In a recent study at the University of Montreal, 40 participants were chosen to be observed during two periods of sleep. The first period was referred to as “baseline” sleep which consisted of a normal, healthy night’s rest.  The next period, however, was observed after those in the study were kept awake and monitored for 25 hours.  Out of said 40 participants, fully 32 showed such signs of abnormal activity from playing with the bed sheets to actually attempting to jump over the rails of the bed.  If you’re someone, therefore, who is known to sleepwalk, do make sure you are getting plenty of rest, and this may go a long way to alleviate the condition.

Oftentimes, this “mixed state” of being exists when someone is simply aroused during their sleep mode.  And, to contribute to the idea that fatigue leads to sleepwalking, those that suffer from sleep deprivation disorders [such as insomnia and sleep apnea] are also known to sleepwalk.  A few simple solutions that are worth a try should you find yourself or someone you love having difficulty keeping from nighttime wanderings include getting to bed earlier, watching what you consume in the evening, and avoiding disturbances that could arouse consciousness during the restful state.

Finally, be aware that the conventional wisdom suggesting that awakening a sleepwalker has permanent effects which can be harmful to one’s well being is only a myth.  The worst it could do, in fact, is embarrass the one who’s doing it… and waking them up may help save you from disturbing late-night doorbell rings.

1. Navarro, Carlos. Scientific American Mind. Why Do Some People Sleepwalk?.http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=why-do-some-people-sleepwalk. Retrieved on June 10, 2009.

How To Alleviate Chronic Pain So You Can Sleep

Are you popping Advil and Tylenol P.M. like Pez candy before bedtime just to get a good night’s rest? Well, if the answer is yes, you may be someone who suffers from an inability to sleep due to chronic pain.  The condition is far more common than you might think: nearly half of America’s population suffers from some sort of chronic pain, ranging from athletes with common sports injuries to cancer patients fighting to survive.  Of those, between 50-90% say they lose sleep at night because of their discomfort, and a recent online poll conducted by a major news media revealed that some 46% of the pain sufferers polled have lost sleep due to pain in the last two weeks1 alone.  In this article, we’ll explore ways to alleviate nighttime chronic pain so you can enjoy more restful sleep.

Chronic pain and lack of sleep are often co-occurring conditions that create a disturbing cycle difficult for anyone to recover from. The formula for conquering this problem may seem obvious: more sleep equals less pain, but this is unfortunately easier said than done. In order to reach a solution, it’s important to first evaluate your bedtime habits.  You’ll essentially have to re-think the way you sleep, and one of the first things you’ll need to consider is the type of mattress you’re sleeping on.

The mattress you choose significantly affects the amount of pressure created throughout your body.  For example, spring-coil mattresses consist of tough metal springs that wear out over time and lack the ability to give you adequate support where you need it most.  Force is applied to your entire body by these springs, and they push harder against it where your weight is heaviest [ie; on your shoulder and hip if you’re a side-sleeper].  Considering that these mattresses dominate 80% of the market, it’s no wonder that the number of chronic pain sufferers with difficulty sleeping is so high.  A tremendously superior alternative to spring-coil [and unreliable, high maintenance beds such as the waterbed and air mattress]: visco-elastic memory foam mattresses.  Memory foam alleviates uncomfortable pressure points because it easily conforms to the natural shape of your body no matter how you sleep, and the visco-elastic material is designed to serve as a shock-absorber.  Pain is further relieved because memory foam will effectively improve blood circulation throughout your body.

Your evening habits may need to be re-adjusted as well to help you conquer nighttime chronic pain problems.  Consider the following:

  • Watching television in the bedroom, which creates bothersome light and noise that can keep you awake long past bedtime;
  • Using your computer before bed, as it involves staring at the monitor’s light which will cause bio-chemicals to be released in your brain that can ward off sleep; and
  • Consuming alcohol, food, nicotine, and certain medications prior to bedtime, which can either keep you up or cause sleep disturbances in the night.

One final remedy to consider when trying to mange sleep loss acquired from chronic pain are therapeutic methods for the mind.  Engaging your brain in quiet activities such as reading, stretching, or meditating can help you fall asleep more quickly.  Furthermore, developing a repetitive nightly routine [such as brushing your teeth, washing your face, and then going on to the bedroom] can help you drift into rest more easily because it will train your brain to follow this routine with sleep.  These relaxing activities and consistent routines are effective ways to unwind both mind and body before bedtime.  I welcome you to take these ideas into the bedroom with you tonight and try them out, remembering that better sleep management creates better pain management, and thereby better health on the whole.

1. Griffin, R. Morgan. When Aches & Pain Disrupt Sleep. http://www.webmd.com/osteoarthritis/guide/arthritis-aches-keeping-you-up. Reviewed January 1. 2007. Retrieved on June 9, 2009. Gilles Lavigne, DDS, MSc, FRCD, professor in dentistry, physiology and psychiatry, University of Montreal.

Helpful Tips to Stop Snoring

Are you sick of being labeled a lumberjack in the morning? Is “sawing logs” during the night causing you grief? Well, if you’re like me and have a problem with snoring, read on for some tips to help you out.

To make the most of your efforts to stop snoring, it’s helpful to understand what exactly causes you to snore.  Simply put, snoring is a result of the narrowing of your air passages. When the air passage is constricted, the soft, floppy tissue in your throat vibrates and creates the snoring sound.  The narrowing of the air passage can be accredited to several different reasons, but the two that are most frequently associated with snoring are poor sleep posture and abnormalities of the soft tissues in your throat.

Abnormalities, you say?  Well, yes — but don’t worry.  I promise you’re not weird or anything, and you’re certainly not alone. Chances are that if you’re a middle aged man, these irregularities will apply to you. Men naturally have narrower air passages than women, and that explains why it’s mostly men who are condemned to the couch at night. Another reason for such irregularities can be attributed to heredity: if your mom or dad snored, chances are they passed it along to you.  Other factors that can cause your throat to relax more and create that unpleasant snoring sound include smoking, a history of asthma or allergies, alcohol, certain medications, and just being middle aged.

Now that we’ve pinpointed some of the reasons you snore, let’s take a look at what you can do to stop the problem. The first step is to make some small changes to your bedtime routine, and the following are a few tips to help keep the sawmill quiet when you get between the covers:

  • Sleep on your side — If you snore while laying on your back, turn on your side. If you can’t seem to help lying on your back, try the tennis ball trick: simply sew a tennis ball on the back of your sleep shirt. The ball will create an uncomfortable feeling when you start to roll onto your back that will help keep you on your side.
  • Elevate your head — Elevating your head will help you breathe easier. To do this, you could either sleep on a thicker, firmer pillow, or even try raising the head of your entire bed some four to five inches, and thereby sleep without a pillow. If you have an adjustable bed, experiment with keeping it raised while you sleep.
  • Avoid eating before bedtime — This is recommended because certain foods and beverages can increase mucus in your air passages.  Specifically, you should avoid high-fat, milky products [or even soy milk products, for that matter].
  • Avoid alcohol and certain medications before bedtime — These items can increase relaxation of both the throat muscles and the tongue, which will narrow your air passages and restrict breathing.
  • Lose weight — One of the most effective ways to end snoring is by simply losing weight, even a little bit. The reason: your throat contains fatty tissues too, and the fewer you have, the more open your air passage becomes.
  • Clear your nasal passages — That “stuffed-up” sensation means that inhalation is being blocked.  Such a blockage of the air passages though the nose will create a one-way vacuum through your mouth and consequently increase snoring.  Be sure to blow your nose and apply a nasal strip before you go to sleep.
  • Stop smoking — This is probably the most obvious tip to end snoring because just about everyone knows that smoking is one of the unhealthiest things you can do. If you cannot give up smoking, however, try to not smoke at least before you go to bed, as it will increase relaxation of the throat muscles and significantly restrict your breathing.

If your snoring persists in spite of taking these steps, you may need to seek professional medical help.  Observation by a either a dentist or an ear, nose, and throat specialist may reveal specific problems that are beyond your own control, and in these instances, you may be prescribed the use of particular devices such as a CPAP [Continuous Positive Airway Pressure] machine, or a mouthpiece which will keep your air passages open throughout the night. Some extreme cases may even require surgery.

Whether you’re a mild snorer or someone at risk of having a chronic snoring disorder that requires medical attention, one thing is certain: you need to monitor the problem and get some help if your own efforts to control it don’t work.  Snoring, believe it or not, can be both an indicator and a cause of serious health risks that can take a toll on your body.  A lack of air through those passages at night will create pressure on your heart, which is often linked to high-blood pressure.  Just a simple case of snoring is often not the problem, and sleep apnea may instead be the proper diagnosis.  This disorder occurs when the air passage is so constricted during the night that breathing completely stops, and the sufferer will often wake up for a second to gasp for the next breath– thus interrupting their REM cycle.  When REM sleep is interrupted, a fatigued feeling is prevalent throughout the next day.  In the worst cases, the sleeper may not wake up at all, and the problem can be fatal.

My best advice for all you lumberjacks out there: try to get some relief from the tips I’ve listed, but above all, don’t ignore the problem.  It could be more serious than you think.

How Much Sleep Does a Body Need?

It would be great to know the exact amount of sleep necessary to start the next day refreshed [with just the right amount of energy to glide through tasks easily], and then fade easily into peaceful sleep when hitting the pillow that night. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a “magic number” of resting hours, as it varies for everyone despite the popular eight-hour rule. In fact, sleep trends indicate that getting a good night’s rest is at the bottom of our national “to-do” list.

Our bodies are pre-programmed to be sleepier at certain times of the day than others. For example, that afternoon slow-down and evening fatigue is completely normal for adults, and is due to your body’s natural “time clock” [scientifically referred to as the Circadian rhythm]. In contrast, the Circadian rhythms of teenagers make for highly alert late-evening hours– which would explain why staying up all night used to be so easy to do. If your household is composed of several age groups, altering schedules to accommodate everyone’s sleeping needs may be difficult but is certainly necessary.

The National Sleep Foundation has established guidelines, seen below, based on particular age groups:

  • Newborn (1 to 2 Months) – 10.5 to 18 Hours
  • Infant (3 to 11 Months) – 9 to 12 hours at night, and 30-minutes to 2-hour naps 1 to 4 times a day
  • Toddlers (1 to 3 years) – 12 to 14 hours
  • Preschoolers (3 to 5 years) – 11 to 13 hours
  • Children (6 to 10 years) – 10 to 11 hours
  • Teenagers (11-17 years) – 8.5 to 9.25 hours
  • Adults – 7 to 9 hours

So how do you find out how many hours of sleep you personally need? The answer is found by simply going to bed. Mark everything off the to-do list, clear your mind, and sleep for a set number of hours, making a note of how you feel the next morning. Some people perform perfectly well on just six hours, but others easily need nine—the key is to listen to your body. Try testing several different times to determine which is ideal for you, and then maintain that routine, even on the weekends! Tailor a routine to fit your entire family based on their needs, and avoid planning activities that will disrupt their respective sleep schedules.

Most importantly, designate your bedroom the “sleep-only room” and make it as peaceful and comfortable as possible so you can fall asleep easily and stay asleep. If your mattress or pillows are making it difficult to rest, it’s time for an upgrade. All activities such as eating, watching television or working on the computer need to happen in another room. Still having problems winding down? The National Institutes of Health recommend that you try taking a warm bath, listening to soothing music or drinking a warm beverage. They also advise that you avoid consuming alcohol or caffeine two to three hours before bed, and that you get your exercise several hours before bed. Sleep well!

Sources:

  1. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/prof/sleep/res_plan/sleep-rplan.pdf “2003 National Sleep Disorders Research Plan”
  2. http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need “How much sleep do we really need?”

How to Prevent & Control Bed Bugs

The truth is bed bugs can be an itchy topic.  Bed bugs have been dining on humankind since ancient times, but they have made a bigger comeback than ever.  According to research at the Mayo Clinic, bed bugs had been eradicated with the help of a pesticide known as DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane)1Today, DDT use has been banned in the US since it was found to be extremely harmful to human health and toxic to the environment.  Pesticides like DDT can cause serious health effects. In this article we will discuss how to prevent and control bed bugs from entering into your family’s home. We will also discuss the safest, healthiest, and most economical ways to handle these uninvited guests.

The risk of picking up these little hitchhikers has increased significantly. Bed bugs are typically exchanged where people are coming and going often and/or crowded places. You may be at a greater risk of bringing these uninvited guests into your home if you have spent time (or plan to spend time) in hotels, motels, inns, hospitals, apartment complexes, and college dorms.

Another factor that may put your family at risk for bed bug infestations is buying second-hand items.  The economy has impacted families across the country, so it is not surprising why more people are buying family necessities second-hand. Be careful! A great bargain may give you a warm feeling in your wallet, but you may find yourself in a severe case of the bed bugs. The following items should not be purchased at a second-hand store unless absolutely necessary: mattresses, box springs, bedding, linens, and furniture.  The list is not all inclusive. Always use your best judgment when shopping second-hand.  The truth about bed bugs is they do not mind if your home is clean or dirty, they simply need you- a host to live off of.

Prevention is truly the key to protecting yourself against these parasites. According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), bed bug populations in different geographic areas of the country have developed resistance to various pesticide modes of action2. If you are dealing with a resistant population some products may only make the problem worse. The safest way to prevent bed bugs without the use of toxic chemicals in your home is to use a mattress that is a naturally resistant to bed bugs.  The best type of mattress to help fight the war against bed bugs is one made of foam. The bed bugs are less likely to be able to live IN the mattress as they cannot move easily through the foam like a spring mattress that has open spaces within the mattress.

memory foam mattress is an affordable and easy way to protect you and your family. Another practical method of preventing an infestation is to invest in a research backed, bed bug resistant mattress cover. These covers will incase the entire mattress and trap the bed bugs, preventing them from getting to a host (You!). Bed bugs are very resilient and can live up to a year without feeding! A mattress cover is beneficial so that if an infestation occurs you will not have to throw out your mattress. Remember- bed bugs are visible (dust mites are not) and can be vacuumed away, so be sure to vacuum regularly if you suspect an infestation.

So, “Sleep tight, and don’t let the bed bugs bite!”

Sources:
[1] Staff, Mayo Clinic. “Bedbugs: Risk Factors – MayoClinic.com.” Mayo Clinic. Sept. 2010. Web. 03 Mar. 2011. <http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/bedbugs/DS00663/DSECTION=risk-factors&gt;.

[2] “Bed Bugs | Pesticides | US EPA.” US Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 08 Mar. 2011. <http://www.epa.gov/bedbugs/&gt;.

The Ten Most Common Sleep Myths

Although sleep is something that we all need every day, there are many misconceptions that abound regarding this nightly necessity.  In an effort to help you ensure a thoroughly restful night, we’ve examined the ten most prevalent myths surrounding sleep.

1. Sleep isn’t really that important!  I can get by with just a few hours a night.

Incredibly, this idea remains a popular myth.  In today’s fast-paced society that’s overwhelmed by our desire for instant gratification, people all too often attempt to make up for lost time by cutting into their shut-eye.  The truth is that lack of sleep actually cuts down productivity by causing us to make more mental mistakes the next day.  Your body and brain operate far more efficiently when you get at least the recommended eight hours per night, as sleep is how both recover from our daily activities.  Although the brain does not entirely shut down at night, adequate rest allows it to process the information you took in the previous day.

2. I can wind down at the end of the day by watching TV or browsing the web.

Almost everyone has fallen prey to this belief at one time or other.  I remember that my own favorite way to fall asleep in college was to pop in a movie and wait until I felt drowsy.  The problem with that, as you may imagine, was that I usually ended up watching the whole movie.  It turns out that watching TV or surfing the Internet before bed will disturb your sleep environment and actually makes it more difficult for you to fall asleep.  Furthermore, if you let the television or computer run when you drop off, the ambient light and sound they create will interrupt your sleep cycle because your brain remains unconsciously aware of its surroundings, preventing you from acquiring the deep sleep you need at night.

3. Snoring is a normal thing some sleepers do.

For years, it was a generally-accepted belief that snoring was just a normal part of sleep for certain people.  Many people still believe that notion because the discovery that snoring is actually hard on the body was only made in the last half-century.  In fact, snoring only occurs when there is a narrowing, or constriction, of the air passages.  Such constriction will cause the soft,  “floppy” tissue in the back of your throat to vibrate, and create the [sometimes very noisy] snoring sound.  Snoring has been proven to be difficult on the heart [causing high blood pressure], and serious cases may lead to a diagnosis of sleep apnea, which can actually be fatal.

4. Naps don’t help if you’re sleepy.

I actually used to believe this one myself for a long time, and I avoided taking naps because I felt they only teased my appetite for sleep enough to make me grumpy when I woke up.  The truth of the matter, however, is that naps are a very good way to catch up on lost sleep: studies have shown that people perform cognitive tasks better after napping for one hour or more.  Be sure to time them properly, though, as taking a nap for longer than three hours or past three o’clock in the afternoon can make it difficult to fall asleep that night.

5. A lack of sleep during the week can be made up over the weekend.

This common sleep myth is possibly one of the worst habits to form, as sleeping long hours on the weekend while cutting down on them through the week can throw your body’s biological clock all out of whack.  Trying to catch up on your rest over the weekend will not actually reduce fatigue during the week either, and can lead to costly mistakes at work.

6. Getting just an hour less of sleep at night will not have any effect on daytime functioning.

This lack of sleep may not make you noticeably sleepy during the day, but even slightly less sleep than you’re used to can affect your ability to think properly and respond quickly, and it can even compromise your cardiovascular health and energy balance as well as your body’s ability to fight infections– particularly if the lack of sleep continues.  If you’re consistently not getting enough sleep, a sleep debt will eventually build up that will indeed make you excessively tired during the day.

7. Your body can quickly adjust to different sleep schedules.

In fact, your biological clock makes you naturally most alert during the daytime and drowsy as night falls.  Thus, even if you work the night shift, you’ll simply automatically feel sleepy when nighttime comes.  Most people do have the ability to “reset” their biological clock, but only with appropriately-timed cues, and even then, by just one to two hours per day at best.  It can take more than a week, therefore, for you to adjust to a dramatically altered sleep/wake cycle, such as that you’d encounter when traveling across several time zones or switching from first shift at work to third.

8. Sleep is a time when your body and brain shut down for rest and relaxation.

No evidence whatsoever exists to prove that any major organ [including the brain] or regulatory system in the body shuts down completely when you sleep.  Interestingly enough, certain physiological processes actually become more active while you sleep.  For example, your body’s secretion of particular hormones is accelerated when you rest, and the activity of the pathways in your brain needed for learning and memory is heightened.

9. Children who don’t get enough sleep at night will show signs of sleepiness during the day.

Unlike adults, children who don’t get enough sleep at night actually become more active, on average, than normal during the following day.  They may also show difficulty in both paying attention and behaving properly, so these children may be consequently misdiagnosed as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD].

10. The main cause of insomnia is worry.

Although worry or stress may lead to a brief bout of insomnia, a persistent inability to fall asleep [or stay asleep] at night can be caused by a number of other factors.  Taking certain medications or suffering from a sleep disorder can easily keep you awake at night.  Other common causes of insomnia include depression, anxiety, asthma, arthritis, or a number of other medical conditions with symptoms which become more troublesome at night.

American Medical Network. Top 10 Sleep Myths. http://sleep.health.am/sleep/more/top-10-sleep-myths/. Retrieved 06.15.09.

National Institute of Mental Health. “Power Nap” Prevents Burnout; Morning Sleep Perfects a Skill.http://www.nimh.nih.gov/science-news/2002/power-nap-prevents-burnout-morning-sleep-perfects-a-skill.shtml. Retrieved 09.15.09

What is sleep?

We spend fully‭ one-third ‬of our lives asleep and it’s a vital part of every person’s life,‭ ‬but it’s an activity that most people know very little about— and we oftentimes even take this important need for granted. If you’ve ever been out of your usual sleeping schedule or have suffered from a lack of sleep,‭ ‬you know how critical a good night’s sleep is.‭ ‬In order to improve the quality of your sleep it’s important to understand what happens while we rest.

So, what exactly is sleep? Sleep as defined by dictionary.com is “to take the rest afforded by a suspension of voluntary bodily functions and the natural suspension, complete or partial, of consciousness; cease being awake.”1 We do know sleep is so vital to our survival that it’s a matter of life and death. Laboratory rats that were deprived of sleep only lived two to three weeks.1 A basic sleep tip, therefore, would simply be: don’t underestimate the importance of a good night’s sleep.

The National Institute of Health acknowledges that even though we don’t know the exact reason we sleep, it is something our bodies and mind must have. You might think that while we sleep so does our body and mind, yet even though we aren’t aware of what’s going on while we sleep, our bodies and minds remain busy.2

Sleep is regulated by a pair of systems in our body: the sleep-wake process and our circadian/internal rhythmic biological clock. These systems work in tandem both to make us feel tired, [preparing our bodies to sleep], and to help us feel awake during the day— acting as a mechanism to drive our activity and rest. Changes in our daily routines, as well as any kind of stress [in addition to myriad other factors], can alter these sensitive systems and cause people to feel tired in the morning as well as unable to sleep at night. An important sleep tip to remember is that even something so small as missing an hour of sleep for a couple days can throw our internal systems entirely off-balance.

There are two types of sleep: non-rapid eye movement [NREM] and rapid eye movement‭ [‬REM].‭ ‬As we rest,‭ ‬we cycle between NREM and REM around every hour and a half.‭ ‬It’s during REM sleep that dreaming, a vital part of sleep, occurs most often. Though we have barely begun‭  ‬to‭ ‬understand their importance and the reasons for them, they are surrounded by folklore— such as the idea that eating spicy foods just before bed will give you strange dreams. ‭ In fact, a‬ great tip to help you sleep better is to avoid eating or drinking anything at all for at least‭ ‬2-3‭ ‬hours before going to bed‭ so that you‬ fall asleep faster.3

If you feel tired throughout the day, if you can’t fall asleep at night, or if you have some other problem affecting your sleep, “rest assured” that you’re not alone: one out of nearly every four people in the United States suffers from some form of  sleep disorder.3 Sleep problems can be caused by just one or a cavalcade of events and can occur at any age. The most common sleep disorders are:

  • Insomnia‭ ‬– inability or difficulty getting to sleep and staying in a resting state.
  • Sleep Apnea‭ ‬– sufferers will snore loudly while sleeping,‭ ‬stop breathing for a short time,‭ ‬then gasp for breath.
  • Narcolepsy‭ ‬– prevents people from entering a regular sleep/wake cycle,‭ ‬causing them to fall asleep uncontrollably.
  • Restless Leg Syndrome‭ ‬– causes a person’s legs to have a sensation of tingling,‭ ‬only alleviated by moving,‭ ‬which interferes with sleep.4

Sleep is both an important and vital part of a healthy, happy life. We have put a great deal of research and development into our  memory foam mattress line, but getting quality rest is affected by many things in your life. The more you understand about sleep and what factors can effect it, the better your overall well-being may become.

Bibliography

  1. Sleep. (n.d.) On Dictionary.com— Retrieved May 11, 2009, from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/sleep
  2. United States Department of Health & Human Services. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Your Guide To Healthy Sleep. Nov. 2005. Jan. 2012. <http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/sleep/healthy_sleep.pdf>.
  3. Sleep and Aging (Published March 16, 2005)— Retrieved May 11, 2009, from http://nihseniorhealth.gov/sleepandaging/aboutsleep/01.html
  4. Can’t Sleep? Science Is Seeking New Answers; CAM at the NIH Focus on Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Volume XVII, Number 3: Summer 2005—Retrieved Jan 10, 2012, from http://nccam.nih.gov/research/results/spotlight/090106.htm