Sleep Tip of the Month
January: Protect Yourself and Others by Getting a Flu Shot Now...
In December, the Center of Disease Control (CDC) predicted an early and serious flu season. Sleep Health Centers encourages you to get a flu shot as soon as possible to protect yourself, your family members and your co-workers. According to the CDC, five states -- Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas -- reported higher-than-normal reports of flu, usually not seen until after Christmas. In Tennessee, three school systems closed for a week due to the amount of students and teachers stricken. According to the former president of National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, this year’s “strain “of the flu is more serious and is “caused by a virus that causes more serious illness.”
It is not too late to get a flu shot nor does the flu vaccine cause you to get the flu. It’s in everyone’s best interest to become vaccinated.
In addition, getting the proper amount of sleep can help ward off other potential infections that fill the indoor air throughout the winter months. Sleep deprivation can weaken your immune system, making you vulnerable to colds and viruses.
For more information about Influenza go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm
back to top
December: To Nap or Not?
December can be one of the busiest months of the year. Between shopping, family gatherings and parties squeezed into an already packed evening schedule, a regular bedtime routine can become hard to follow. With so many late evenings to come, can napping help?
It can. But there are better ways to nap than others. The key is the length of the nap and the time of day you rest. Short naps can be beneficial if you’re sleep deprived and need an alertness boost. Napping becomes a problem when your daytime nap interferes with your regular nighttime sleep. For example, starting the habit of napping at a time too close to your regular bedtime can be detrimental because you are decreasing the sleep drive you will need later to get to sleep and prematurely giving your body a portion of the sleep it would get during your regular nighttime hours. By repeating this habit, you’ll risk creating a cycle of nighttime wakefulness and daytime sleepiness, which will increase daytime napping and reduce sleep continuity at night.
When the need for a nap occurs, there are varying opinions on what length of time is best. Some say it’s best to keep the nap to no more than 30 minutes. Any longer, the nap will cause you to be groggy and possibly interfere with getting a good night’s sleep later on. A recent study in the research journal Sleep showed that a 10-minute nap produced the most benefit in terms of reduced sleepiness and improved cognitive performance. If this holiday season has you missing sleep, try and keep the nap short and in the mid-afternoon. And remember, a nap is always an excellent idea if you are drowsy and have to get behind the wheel to drive.
For more information on napping, go to National Sleep Foundation’s website (make the NSF text a link using link http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/napping)
back to top
November: Drowsy Driving Prevention Week
Each year, more organizations are working to increase awareness of the dangers of drowsy driving. This year the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) has declared November 12 - 18 as Drowsy Driving Prevention Week.
A study released earlier this year in the May 2012 issue of the Journal Archives of Internal Medicine illustrated that drowsy driving carried the same risk of a serious motor vehicle accident as driving while intoxicated.
The study, conducted in France, included 679 people who were hospitalized because of a car accident between 2007 and 2009 in France. According to the study, men and younger adults were more likely to drive while sleepy. http://bit.ly/KapyWq
This and other studies have provided the information groups need to promote safe driving and being well rested before getting behind the wheel of a car. For instance, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety also stated last year that after 24 hours of no sleep, a driver is as impaired as if he or she were over the legal limit for alcohol.
Other groups moving to educate their constituents include the state of Florida, which held its Drowsy Driving Awareness Week in September, in honor of a Tallahassee girl who died when a cement truck hit the vehicle she was riding in.
Groups such as NODD.org promote "Say No To Distracted Driving" and have gathered pledges from students agreeing to not text and drive. Last month this group gathered to give out free coffee, donuts, and cookies at a rest stop on a Saturday afternoon along I-80 in Utah in an effort to keep drivers alert and prevent falling asleep on the road.
For groups or individuals interested in how they can get involved, the National Sleep Foundation founded the site, DrowsyDriving.org to help learn more about drowsy driving. The website provides resources and facts for detection and prevention of drowsy driving.
Help those you care about drive safely by spreading the word about avoiding drowsy driving. It will help you and the ones you love.
back to top
October: What is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)?
As the summer winds down and school buses return to the road, many of us welcome switching gears into the cooler autumn season. For those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD), welcoming the soon-to-be shorter days and less sunlight is not as easy.
Seasonal Affective Disorder shares similar symptoms with non-seasonal depression. Mood changes such as lack of energy, loss of interest and low self-esteem can occur. However, with SAD, the lack of daylight is most often the trigger with symptoms occurring at the same time each year. When autumn arrives and sufficient light does not reach the key part of the brain (hypothalamus) it can disrupt the production of a hormone linked to mood, sleep and appetite. Existing circadian rhythms are then interrupted. When spring arrives and days become longer, symptoms can disappear.
Seasonal Affective Disorder can be treated with medications, light therapy and psychotherapy. More is being learned about this disorder all the time. If you experience these symptoms at the same time each year but improve in the spring time, talk to your doctor about SAD.
back to top
September: Student Athletes - Sleep Makes a Difference
The Olympic games have wound to a close and parents across the country are gearing up for their child's return to school athletics. So, what can the Olympics teach us about aspects of sleep that are important to athletic performance?
Quantity of sleep matters. Twenty-one-year-old British weight lifter Jack Oliver overslept by an hour on the morning of his Olympic competition. Despite having less morning prep time, he achieved a personal best in the competition. Studies suggest that the extra hour of sleep may have contributed to his excellent performance.
From studies on sleep deprived people, we already know that people who are either totally sleep deprived or partially sleep deprived over a long period of time have decreased attention, concentration, reaction time and impaired judgment--all of which have significant potential to impact athletic performance. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation may impair athletic performance and recovery from exercise. At the same time, increasing sleep time may improve athletic performance. A 2011 study of college basketball players showed that increasing sleep time by over an hour a night improved their sprint time by a second and shooting accuracy by almost 10%.
Timing is everything. We all have a natural body clock (i.e. circadian clock), which is largely based on our time zone, sleep schedule and our exposure to light. As a result, there are times of day when we perform better than others. A 1997 study suggested that the timing of Monday Night Football may give west coast teams a competitive advantage due to the difference in circadian time of day between the east and west coast players. At the same time, the lack of travel and the ability of host country athletes to remain in their time zone may contribute to Olympic host country advantage.
How can these principles be applied to help your school athlete perform at their best on the field or in the gym?
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.
Stay in the zone! A consistent sleep schedule on weekends and weekdays can improve sleep quality and daytime performance. Wide swings in bed and wake times between weekdays and weekends can be the equivalent of changing time zones twice a week.
If the summer has brought later sleep and wake times, try gradually moving bed and wake times back by 15 to 20 minutes at a time to ease into the new routine.
back to top
August: Don't Let Jet Lag Ruin Your Vacation
Summertime means vacations and long-distance travel. Although taking a trip to a foreign country or different coast is exciting, changing time zones can have a big impact on your sleep.
The most common problem is jet lag. The timing of when you sleep is controlled by your body's internal clock, called the circadian rhythm. This clock causes you to sleep at certain times and be awake at certain times. Jet lag occurs because modern travel takes you across times zones faster than your body can adjust. This puts your internal clock out-of-sync with your destination's clock. Just because it's 8PM in Berlin when you land, your body won't be ready to go to sleep at 11 pm in that time zone. It takes your circadian rhythm roughly 1 day to move 1 hour, so that it will take a week to fully adapt to a 7 time zone flight.
Things you can do to make it easier to adapt
- Start switching before you arrive; for a day or two before your flight, move your mealtimes and bedtime closer to the schedule of your destination.
- Upon arrival, switch as rapidly as possible; try to eat meals, go to bed and wake up on the schedule of the new time zone.
- Strategic napping; try to avoid sleeping before bedtime but if you are too sleepy take a short 20-30 minute nap.
- Use the sun for help; the sun is the strongest force to change the internal clock so spend a lot of time outdoors the first few days.
- Practice good sleep habits; give yourself enough time for sleep, avoid excess caffeine or alcohol and avoid sleep depriving yourself prior to the trip.
These easy measures may not be enough for some people, everyone reacts differently to jet lag. If you know you have troubles with travel and sleep, see your sleep specialist. They will have additional methods to improve your ability to minimize the impact of jet lag. Most of all have a great trip!
back to top
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!
back to top
June: Do Teenagers Need Less Sleep?
In a few weeks, most teens will be out of school for the summer. After the year end parties, proms and beach trips celebrating the completion of the school year, most parents look for kids to settle down to part-time jobs, a summer sports activity or at the very least, a regular sleep schedule.
Instead, what we witness are even more irregular schedules, already late nights becoming later and teens rising in the late morning or even early afternoon. According to the National Sleep Foundation, most teenagers need 9 hours of sleep at night. However, during the school year they get closer to 7 hours per night. Come the summer, many stay up later and sleep in later. Are they just trying to make-up for lost sleep? Are they trying to annoy their parents? Are teenagers just lazy? Sleep experts say its part behavioral and part physiological.
Mary A. Carskadon, Ph.D. has shown that circadian rhythms change as children enter adolescence. The circadian rhythm is the body's internal clock and influences the timing of most of our internal systems, including the timing of when we go to sleep and when we wake up. Most people are programmed by their circadian rhythm to sleep at night and be awake during the daylight hours. Most adults' circadian rhythm prompt them into a pattern that fit the societal norm of getting up and going to work in the morning and looking to sleep later in the evening.
When children enter adolescence their circadian rhythm shifts so that they want to go to bed later and get up later. Carskadon states that teenager's circadian rhythms cause their "biological night to occur later". This explains their response of "I'm not tired" when you ask them to retire at a reasonable hour. They are telling the truth. When the shift in circadian sleep tendency is combined with their desire to participate in late night social activities, adolescent's sleep cycle can become quite altered. To complicate matters, Caskadon sees this slow down of rhythm colliding with the teen's true need for more sleep. Although they may not feel like sleeping, they still need quality sleep. Without the proper amount, they experience the deficit in various ways that can be dangerous, including falling asleep while driving.
How can you help as a parent?
- Educate your teens about the need for adequate sleep and good sleep habits.
- Keep a regular sleep wake cycle even during the summer. This can help offset the circadian rhythm shift.
- Develop a pre-sleep routine that marks the end of the day and sets up sleep.
- Limit caffeine intake after 2PM to prevent difficulty falling asleep
- Set a good example. Parents should emphasize the importance of sleep and model good sleep habits
back to top
May: Are Allergies Stealing Your Sleep?
With approximately one in five Americans suffering from allergies, many of us have been robbed of a good night's sleep by allergy symptoms during specific times of year. However, this year's unseasonal warm weather caused many of us to experience symptoms much earlier than usual.
The earlier in the season a sufferer is exposed to allergens, the more susceptible they are to develop symptoms and to have problems with even lower levels of these allergens later in the season. This process of early exposure causing increased sensitivity later is called nasal priming. As a result, people are being affected differently in different parts of country. (See ABC news report) Since much of the Northeast experienced warm, dry spring weather as early as March, many physicians are now seeing their patients sooner in the season than in years past.
The most common allergy symptom preventing quality sleep? Congested nasal passages, better known as a stuffy nose. Some antihistamines that treat the allergy itself can cause daytime sleepiness and difficulty functioning at your best. However, newer drugs have improved so that daytime drowsiness is no longer a problematic side effect. Decongestants, however, can have the reverse effect due to commonly found ingredients such as pseudoephedrine, phenylpropanolamine or phenylephrine that can keep us awake. There are also antihistamine and corticosteroid nasal sprays that are effective in treating nasal stuffiness without experiencing sleep loss. These medications require a prescription from your doctor.
If your allergies are affecting your sleep, talk to your primary care doctor or sleep specialist about your symptoms and any sleep problems that you may be having as soon as possible. You don't have to suffer! To see more sleep tips, click here.
back to top
April: Sleep and Taxes
With taxes due on April 15, April can be a month filled with days of unpleasant tasks collecting financial information that most of us would prefer not to do.
We can't avoid tax season, but we can try minimizing the effect of stress on our sleep. Short-term stress may cause long-term difficulty sleeping.
Reduce your risk of developing insomnia. Try relaxation exercises such as yoga, meditation or progressive muscle relaxation. Sleep HealthCenters has relaxation CDs specially made to help with sleep that are available at each of our Centers.
Google Video and YouTube provide many "relaxation techniques" online. Choose one activity that appeals to you, and make the activity part of your nighttime routine. Also, you may benefit from creating a "worry list" at least three hours before dinner time. Think to yourself, "I am writing these concerns down now so that I don't have to think about them later".
Along with practicing relaxation exercises, practicing good sleep hygiene can also help reduce our anxiety before we sleep. Stay on a regular schedule, avoid naps and avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine after lunch.
Stress may worsen sleep, but lack of sleep may worsen stress. All of us have experienced tense situations that were magnified after not getting a good night's sleep. So allow yourself at least seven to eight hours to sleep this tax season. Maybe these good habits will become life-long, and not just for tax season!
As always, if your sleep does not improve after your stressor resolves, let your primary care physician or sleep specialist know.
back to top
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.
back to top
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.
back to top
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!
back to top
If you would like to view CPAP specific tips, please click here.