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Posts from the ‘How to Get Better Sleep’ Category

How To Tell If You Are Getting Enough Sleep

Everyone has heard that the ideal amount of sleep is 8 hours every night. The truth is everyone is different. Some people function just fine on as little as 4-5 hours of sleep. On the other hand, there are just as many people out there who sleep 9-10 hours every night. So knowing how much sleep you need as an individual is the most important factor in determining if you are or aren’t getting enough sleep.

How much sleep are you getting now?
The first step is to determine exactly how much sleep you are currently getting. Most people tend to think, “I go to sleep at this time and I wake up at this time, so I got this amount of sleep.” It’s not that simple, as there’s the time it takes you to fall asleep and it also does not count the number of times you wake up or amount of time you were awake before going back to sleep. Once you factor that time in, the 8 hours you thought you got may be more like 6 or 7 hours.

Is it enough sleep for you?
There’s a short test you can take that will determine if you are getting less than your ideal amount of sleep. Ask yourself the following questions; Do I need an alarm clock to wake up at the right time? Do I have trouble getting out of bed every morning? Do I get tired quickly when driving? Do I have trouble remembering things or concentrating? Do I fall asleep as soon as I get in bed? If you answer yes to any of these questions, then you are not getting enough sleep.

Determine if you are getting enough sleep.
On average most people need to get another hour to an hour and a half more sleep than they are currently getting. You can determine this by going to bed around a time you normally can fall asleep that is close to 8 hours before you need to be up. Stick to going to bed around this time and take note of when you wake up. You may wake up early for a few days because you are used to the shorter sleeping schedule, but if you aren’t getting enough sleep, you will begin to sleep longer. Once you start sleeping longer start going to bed 30 minutes earlier for a week, then 15 minutes earlier the next week. Keep adding 15 minutes a week until you are able to wake up when you need to and have energy through the whole day. You can also make sure you have the correct amount of sleep each night by going to bed 15-30 minutes late one night, and see if you feel drowsy the next day, if you do, you know you are getting the right amount of sleep.1

In conclusion
If you are one of the lucky few that are consistently getting the proper sleep they need to make it through the day alert, focused, and in the proper mood, congratulations. Share your suggestions, methods, or tips for how you get the right amount of sleep in the comments.

1. Maas, Dr. James B., Megan L. Wherry, David J Axelrod, Barbara R. Hogan, and Jennifer A. Blumin. Power Sleep: The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance. New York : Villard, 1998.

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?”