Sleep Tip of the Month - Archives
March: Be Ready for Daylight-Saving Time
Daylight-Saving Time will soon be upon us. With a little preparation, you can be ready. The transition to Daylight-Saving Time pushes sunrise and sunset an hour later on March 11. Your body's internal clock, however, has no way of knowing about the onset of Daylight-Saving Time.
To prepare yourself, consider advancing bed and wake times by about 15 minutes for 4 nights through March 11. For example, if you normally go to bed at 10 PM, go to bed at 9:45 PM on Wednesday the 7th, then at 9:30 PM on the 8th, 9:15 PM on the 9th and then finally at 9:00 PM on the 10th.
If you typically awake at 6:00 AM , awaken instead at 5:45 AM on the 8th, 5:30 AM on the 9th, and then at 5:15 AM on the 10th. You'll be aiming to go to bed at 9 PM on the 10th, but you will awaken at 6 AM on the 11th. Such a schedule keeps your sleep opportunity constant. If you are a natural night owl, you may need to maximize morning light and minimize evening light to help move your sleep times earlier.
Several authors have attempted to link clock changes to car accident and medical emergencies. The data thus far are mixed. However, teenagers are particularly susceptible to the March leap forward because of their natural night owl tendencies--when the sun goes down later, their internal clocks end up being reset later. Therefore, maintenance of a regular sleep schedule and the other principles of good sleep are particularly valuable for young folks and, following the March leap forward, natural night owls.
Note that Arizona and Hawaii do not observe Daylight-Saving Time. Though the technique will help you advance your clock for Daylight-Saving, it is also the same technique you can use to advance your bedtime if you need to get more sleep. If you are not being rested by the amount of sleep you are currently getting but have a hard time going to bed earlier, try the steps outlined above. You can shift your bedtime and get more sleep, which will leave you feeling rested and allow you to be more productive during the day.
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February: Sleep Deprivation and Heart Disease
February is American Heart Month. Heart disease is the number one cause of death according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and there is more and more evidence strengthening the connection between sleep deprivation and heart problems.
Not getting enough sleep can happen for many reasons. Small children, work schedules and wanting to fit everything in a short amount of time can affect how much sleep we get. Studies have shown that people who regularly sleep less than 7 hours per night have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure, which can increase the risk of heart disease. The risk is even greater in those sleeping less than 6 hours a night. In a large study involving over 70,000 nurses, people who reported sleeping 6 hours or less a night had a higher risk of heart disease.
Sleep deprivation can also happen when there is a sleep disorder present such as sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome or insomnia. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common disorder that causes repeated blockage of air flow during the night, which results in pauses in breathing. OSA has been shown to increase the risk of developing high blood pressure by 2 to 3 times over a 4 year period. OSA is also associated with a 2 to 3 fold higher risk of developing heart disease (including blockage of the arteries of the heart and heart attack) and with an increased chance of developing heart failure and heart rhythm problems. Restless legs syndrome is associated with leg movements during sleep (called periodic limb movements of sleep or PLMS) that also cause increases in heart rate and blood pressure. Two large studies showed that these increases in heart rate and blood pressure are associated with a higher risk of heart disease. Insomnia has also been linked with heart disease. A recent study involving over 50,000 patients showed that insomnia is associated with a higher risk of heart attack.
There are enough contributing factors to heart problems, don't let sleep deprivation be one of them. Talk to your doctor to review your risk factors for heart disease and let your doctor know if you are having sleep problems. Our Sleep Disorders Screening tool is available online. Visit our website today.
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January: A New Year's Resolution that Feels Good!
January is the time for New Year's resolutions, when we assess how we spent the previous year and establish goals for the coming year. Many of these goals relate to wellness. According to the USA.gov website, New Year's resolutions relating to health are among the most common, and include goals such as getting fit, losing weight, drinking less alcohol and quitting smoking.
Sleep is an important component when considering how we can live a healthier lifestyle. According to the National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America Poll on adult sleep habits, 40% of respondents reported getting less than 7 hours of sleep on weekdays and 47% of respondents reported that they stayed up later than they wanted to or planned at least a few nights a week. Meanwhile, the current recommendations are 7 to 9 hours/night.
Not getting enough sleep impairs our concentration, our ability to learn, our mood and increases the risk of accidents or injury. What's more, people who are chronically sleep deprived are more likely to be overweight and are at higher risk for serious medical conditions such as heart disease. Getting enough sleep on a nightly basis may reduce the risk of accidents and chronic medical conditions. Adequate sleep also helps you to perform at work or school, manage stress and feel at your best.
Making sleep a priority is an essential part of achieving a healthier lifestyle. So, when you make a list of resolutions this year, take the opportunity to evaluate your sleep habits and consider how improving your sleep can improve your life and health in 2012. Wishing you a happy and healthy New Year from Sleep HealthCenters!
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December: Holiday Indulgences Can Affect Your Sleep
The holiday season is upon us and along with the drawing down of our bank accounts, holiday activities can have us creating a deficit in our much needed sleep accounts.
With family and office parties filling the calendar, alcohol can be the worst culprit. Although you may feel relaxed and drowsy after a few glasses of wine or yuletide cheer, alcohol can interfere with the deeper restorative level of sleep your body needs. Try limiting yourself to fewer drinks earlier in the evening. Also be aware that alcohol magnifies the impact of sleep deprivation, making you even more prone to errors at work or while driving.
Another thief of getting a great night's sleep? Caffeine. During the holiday season, avoid the temptation to reach for extra caffeine to fuel you through the busy days. Caffeine is a stimulant and can affect your sleep quality long after your trip through the drive-thru. According the the National Sleep Foundation, it may take as many as 6 hours for one half of the caffeine to be eliminated from your system. Remember that tea and chocolate also have caffeine and can affect your sleep.
With time at a premium this season, sleep is one activity that keeps you going through the entertaining, shopping and socializing. Remember, you can't make up lost sleep. Waiting until after the new year to recover from the deprivation is not a substitute for missed sleep. If you attend parties late into the night, plan to sleep in or take a nap the following day. Don't let a fatigue related car crash, a sleep deprivation-related headache or poor work performance from not getting enough sleep ruin your holidays.
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November: Drowsy Driving Prevention Week 2011
Although Drowsy Driving Prevention Week is not among the more well known weeks within the world of healthcare awareness days, drowsy driving dangers are closer to our daily lives than we may realize. Texting and drunk driving may grab the news headlines first, yet drowsy driving can have the same devastating results.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows drowsy driving was involved in one in six deadly crashes and the National Highway TRAFFIC Safety Administration estimates that fatigue is the major cause in over 100,000 crashes a year.
The individuals at greatest risk? Young people (especially males under the age of 26), shift workers, commercial drivers, people with untreated obstructive sleep apnea and business travelers.
Warning signs that you need to pull over include difficulty focusing, frequent blinking and/or heavy eyelids, trouble keeping your head up, drifting from your lane and the inability to clearly remember the last few miles driven.
Tips to Avoid Drowsy Driving
- Don't be too rushed to arrive at your destination. Many drivers increase their crash risk when they try to maximize the holiday weekend by driving at night or without stopping for breaks.
- Use the buddy system. Just as you should not swim alone, avoid driving alone for long distances. A buddy who remains awake for the journey can take a turn behind the wheel and help identify the warning signs of fatigue.
- Avoid driving at times when you would normally be asleep.
- Take a nap. Find a safe place to take a 15 to 20-minute nap if you think you might fall asleep.
The National Sleep Foundation provides information and statistics that illustrate how drowsy driving affects our roadways. Learn more here: Drowsy Driving at the National Sleep Foundation.
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October: National Breast Cancer Awareness Month
While many people are aware that nausea and fatigue are common side effects of cancer or cancer treatment, cancer-related sleeping problems have received much less attention. However, insomnia (problems falling asleep, staying asleep, or poor quality sleep that impairs daytime functioning) is also a very common side effect in cancer and has the potential to significantly affect quality of life. Studies have shown that up to half of newly diagnosed or recently treated individuals with cancer report sleep disturbance. Cancer patients with sleep disturbance are more likely to report pain, depression, anxiety and a worse sense of well-being compared to those without insomnia.
Several complex factors contribute to the development of insomnia in cancer. Possible contributing medical factors include pain, breathing problems, hot flashes or nausea that can accompany cancer or cancer treatment. Certain medications used in the treatment of cancer can cause or worsen insomnia symptoms. Depression and anxiety symptoms are common in cancer patients and can impact sleep. Finally, environmental factors such as being hospitalized can contribute to not sleeping well.
An important first step in treating insomnia is to discuss these symptoms with your doctor. One study showed that only 1 in 7 cancer patients with sleeping problems discussed the problem with their healthcare provider. Insomnia can often be treated with behavioral therapy that may involve changing schedules, behaviors, thoughts or attitudes around bed and sleep. Medications can also be used to treat insomnia. If you are a cancer patient, know that working with your healthcare provider can help to improve the quality of your sleep.
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September: ADHD or Lack of Sleep
If your child has a behavior or learning problem, his or her doctor may want to consider a sleep disorder.
The number of children diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD)/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has been skyrocketing. Frustrated parents may turn to physicians for solutions to their children's behavior and learning challenges. For some children, physicians prescribe stimulant drugs. For other children, a fundamental and long-term solution lies in treatment of sleep disorders.
As in adults, children who have trouble sleeping or find themselves falling asleep during the day may have a sleep disorder. Unlike adults, some children with sleep disorders may be not sleepy but hyperactive. In particular, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in children increases hyperactivity and impairs attention. In OSA, the airway collapses repeatedly and blocks breathing intermittently throughout the night. There are several risk factors for sleep apnea in children: snoring, obesity, prematurity, nasal congestion, high blood pressure, genetic syndromes, craniofacial abnormalities and neurological disorders.
Treatment of sleep apnea in children may be complicated. A pediatric sleep specialist can evaluate the child and may request a "sleep study," an overnight assessment of several body functions including breathing. If a sleep study shows OSA, then an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) physician may evaluate your child's throat. If the ENT removes the tonsils, a second sleep study can confirm resolution of OSA. In children with sleep apnea and ADD/ADHD, OSA treatment may improve learning and behavior.
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August: Back to School Bedtimes
Summer brings long days at the beach, camping trips and family cookouts. But for many school-aged children summer can also mean sleepovers, later bedtimes and sleeping in. With the return of the school schedule on the horizon, many parents dread transitioning from the carefree summer lifestyle to the inevitable back-to-school routine. However, you can ease the changeover with some advance planning.
Two weeks prior to the first day of school, try gradually moving bed time and morning wake time earlier by 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Keep in mind that school-age children (between 6 and 12 years) generally require 10 to 11 hours of sleep, while adolescents (13 to 18 years) require approximately 9 hours of sleep; and the goal bedtime and wake time should be planned accordingly.
Certain activities such as rigorous physical exercise and use of computer/electronics/television in the hour or two before bedtime can make falling asleep more difficult. Limit these activities before bed. Reserve the last couple of hours before bed for a relaxing bedtime routine.
No matter what the season, minimizing exposure to light in the evening signals a child's internal clock that it is time to "wind down" for sleep. Having them avoid caffeine beverages such as sodas, particularly after noon, will make it easier to fall asleep at an appropriate bedtime.
Once school begins, helping them keep a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at approximately the same time every day (including weekends) can improve your child's overall sleep quality.
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July: Does Sleep Affect Your Weight?
Many people are unaware of the connection that their sleep has to their weight.
When you are sleep deprived, your body reduces the level of the hormone leptin, which supresses your appetite and increases the level of the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates your appetite. This is why we tend to crave carbohydrates when we haven't gotten a good night's sleep.
Instead of reaching for cakes, cookies and muffins aim for an earlier and more consistent bedtime. Poor sleep can also cause or contribute to impaired regulation of glucose, insulin and cortisol levels, which are directly related to weight control.
A recent study done in New Jersey with over 260 teenagers by the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School showed as much as a 50% increase in desire to snack on carbohydrates when experiencing daytime sleepiness.
Sleep problems are common in people who are overweight. Being overweight is one of the most important risk factors for developing sleep apnea. For example, 40% of those who are overweight also have sleep apnea (a frequent closing of the throat while sleeping).
Most dramatically, weight loss surgery (lab banding, gastric bypass, etc.) eliminates sleep apnea in up to 80% of patients once they reach their goal weight.
Already have a sleep disorder? Sleep disorders can increase the chance of weight gain and make it harder to lose the weight once it's on. The quality of your sleep can have an impact on your weight. Tonight, consider indulging in a few more hours under the covers instead of dessert!
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June: How Much Sleep Do You Need?
We spend about one third of our lives sleeping. This isn’t just a “time out” from daily life. Scientists have shown the brain to be highly active during sleep. The different types of brain activity occurring during our sleep are critical for renewing different aspects of our mental and physical health each day.
A study recently published in SLEEP showed that those who slept greater than or less than the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep demonstrated decreased brain function, in a manner suggesting a speeding up of the impact of aging on their brain. Funded by the National Insititute for Aging, the study showed that those who veered from getting 7-8 hours of sleep had a faster decline in memory, reasoning skills, and vocabulary than those who kept to a regular sleep routine that included 7-8 hours a night.
Sleep need is not the same for everyone. Genetic researchers have found a select group of people who are able to function on less than 5-6 hours of sleep a night on a regular basis. Researchers have found that “Short Sleepers”—as they have been dubbed—may share a common gene variation that was discovered in a mother-daughter pair in 2009. Although many of us claim we can operate on less than 6 hours of sleep, few can. However, this group actually excels at this pace without the need for naps and caffeine to stay awake.
How can you determine how much sleep you really need? The next time you have the ability to sleep as much as you want for a week, such as while on vacation, go to bed without setting an alarm, sleep as long as possible and wake up naturally. After several days catching up from prior sleep deprivation you will start getting the same amount of sleep. When you wake up feeling alert, awake and focused, and go through the daytime without being sleepy, you will have found your required sleep length. The key is to make sure that once your vacation ends you arrange your schedule to get that amount each night.
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May: What to Avoid for Better Sleep
Sleep is a period of rest for the brain and the body. It allows the brain and body to be restored and rejuvenated. Sleep is essential for energy, learning, memory, growth, preventing illness, and overall health and well-being. There are many things you can do to improve your sleep but here are a few:
Don't take your worries and responsibilities to bed. If necessary, plan some time earlier in the evening for processing your thoughts or planning the next day's activities. Taking 15-30 minutes to make a "worry list" after dinner may prove helpful in relieving some concerning thoughts during the night.
Don't stay in bed if you feel frustrated about having difficulty falling asleep. Trying harder and harder to fall asleep often makes the problem worse. Instead, leave the bedroom and do something relaxing. Reading in dim light or listening to very quiet, non-verbal music can be calming.
Do not use the computer, do chores or watch engaging television programs; these activities may be too stimulating. Return to bed only when you feel very sleepy and rise at your usual wake time.
Only use your bed for the three "S" activities. Train yourself to use the bedroom only for sleeping, sickness and intimacy. This will help teach your brain to see the bedroom as the place for sleeping. Working, watching television, or eating in bed should be avoided as they may create unhelpful associations.
If you're not getting a good night's sleep, talk to your doctor. Sleep problems can lead to a lowered quality of life and reduced personal health. Certain sleep disorders may increase the risk of stroke, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and depression.
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April: Could You Have Restless Legs Syndrome?
Do you experience a jittery or burning sensation in your legs as you settle down to sleep in the evenings? Or an irresistable urge to get up and move around once you've gotten into bed? It is estimated that 5% of the general population and as many as 10% of those over 65 years old suffer from Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS).
Affecting both men and women, patients with RLS often find it difficult to articulate the symptoms they may be feeling. Words such as "uncomfortable, antsy, electrical, creeping, painful" are commonly used to describe the Restless Legs Syndrome experience. Although some people have little or no describable sensation, they still have a strong urge to move. While an RLS sufferer may be unable to describe the sensations to a non-sufferer, someone else with RLS understands completely. Staying active during the day helps provide temporary relief but because the sensations worsen at night, sleep is affected.
RLS can be caused by genetic factors or an associated medical condition (e.g. patients with damage to nerves in their hands and feet can suffer from RLS). Dialysis for kidney failure, iron deficiency and pregnancy are also risk factors for developing RLS.Sometimes, medications can cause or aggravate RLS. These include antidepressants, antihistamines (used in over-the-counter nighttime sleeping pills, cold remedies and decongestants), alcohol (even small amounts) and nausea medications. Although RLS cannot be 'cured', there are many effective treatments. Sleep doctors specialize in the treatment of RLS and keep up to date with the latest advances in treatments.
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March: Springing Forward
This month, we move the clocks ahead on Sunday morning, March 13. Many people look forward to the return of extra daylight, which signals the coming of warmer weather and longer days to enjoy outdoor activities.
"Springing forward" puts your body's internal clock out of sync with the new time. Adjusting to the new time is easy for some of us but can be difficult for others. However, there are things you can do to make the transition easier. Plan for a healthy spring forward. Make sure you know when your clocks are changing. Go to bed half-an-hour earlier for two nights before the shift. If this is too difficult an adjustment, try moving up your bedtime 10 minutes each night, beginning six nights before the clocks change. Do this with your children as well. Also, during the first few days of the time change, limit your exercise time to happen before 4PM. Physical activity later in the day may keep you awake longer than you want to be.
Expose yourself to light, preferably sunlight, as early as you can in the morning. Have your coffee in front of a sunny window. Above all, do not stress about it. If you are sensitive to changing your sleep patterns consider taking a vacation day or starting your day later no matter what your clock says.
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February: Cardiovascular Activity Improves Sleep
According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular diseases are our nation's leading killer. Since 1963, Congress has proclaimed February "American Heart Month." Did you know that regular cardiovascular exercise could lead to better sleep?
A recent study done at Northwestern University set out to explore the link of exercise to sleep. They began by dividing two groups of sedentary women aged 55 and older into exercising and non-exercising groups. Over a 16-week period, one group took part in cardiovascular activities four times a week while the other group participated in activites such as cooking classes and library lectures.
At the end of the study, the women who had been exercising reported that they experienced "improved quality of sleep and fewer depressive symptoms". Along with having more energy during the day, the women in the exercise group reported less daytime drowsiness than the non-exercise group. Some who considered themselves "poor sleepers" became "good sleepers". Cardio activity has long been found to improve heart health, burn calories and increase energy but it can even help to improve sleep!
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January: Does Light Affect Sleep?
Holiday festivities may be behind us, but winter is still here and daylight hours remain short. Controlling your exposure to nighttime and morning light can dramatically improve your sleep.
Our bodies' need for sleep builds slowly as we move through the day towards bedtime. Our exposure to natural and artificial light helps the brain produce chemicals that keep us alert. When the evening unfolds, light begins to fade. Ideally, this decrease in light produces melatonin, one of the brain messengers that help us go to sleep and stay asleep. Too many of us keep lights on throughout the evening and continue to look at even brighter computer screens close to bedtime. This light is strong enough to postpone the production of melatonin and instead produce the chemicals we need during the day. This can result in lying in bed unable to fall asleep or falling asleep but waking again in an hour, alert and thinking.
What can you do to improve your sleep? Try lowering your lights after dinner time and limit computer use to early evening. Many people have bedrooms that gradually begin getting lighter because of thin drapes and blinds. Even this slight morning light can awaken a person much earlier than they would like. Instead, try installing room darkening shades or blinds and let the alarm clock wake you at the preferred time.
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