What Would you Give for a Good Nights Sleep?
Well, what would you give?
Poor sleep is the most frequent complaint I hear from patients. Patients report sleep deprivation is a permanent part of their life. Some can't fall asleep, or when they do fall asleep they may wake up multiple times, or they wake up after a few hours and can't get back to sleep. They commonly report feeling as unrested in the morning as they did before they went to bed. Tired, sleep deprived Americans are ubiquitous.
AMERICA IS ONE OF THE MOST
SLEEP DEPRIVED COUNTRIES.
1 out of every 4 adult men report inadequate sleep
1 out of every 3 women report inadequate sleep
7 out of every 10 teenagers don't get enough sleep
6 out of 10 middle schoolers don't get enough sleep
HOW MUCH SLEEP DO WE NEED?
School-age children need at least 10 hours of sleep daily
Teens need 9-10 hours
Adults need 7-8 hours
If you are sleep deprived, you will not be healthy.
Nothing else matters if you don’t get adequate rest.
Do you have high blood pressure? Sleep deprivation both causes and aggravates hypertension.
Do you have heart disease in your family? Sleep deprived people are more likely to have heart attacks and strokes.
Do you have diabetes? Sleep deprivation is one of the causes of diabetes.
Do you have depression? Sleep deprivation increases the risk of depression.
Are you overweight? Recent studies have shown that when overweight people improve their sleep, they tend to lose weight.
Do you have cancer in your family? Sleep deprivation increases your personal risk of cancer.
Are you trying to start an exercise plan? Sleep deprivation interferes with exercise. Sleep deprived individuals are far less likely to successfully implement an aerobic exercise program. One of the first positive changes when they improve their sleep is that their exercise participation generally improves.
Do you have aches and pains? Sleep deprivation causes hyperalgesia. Hyperalgesia means that you will hurt everywhere. Any sore joint or painful area will become much more painful if you are sleep deprived. In fact, medical studies show that even people with no pre-existing pain will begin to hurt, often after just one night of total sleep deprivation.
Do you have headaches and migraines? Sleep disruption triggers migraines and chronic headaches. Sleep correction is essential to eliminating headaches.
Do you have fibromyalgia? Sleep deprivation appears to cause fibromyalgia, the painful condition that causes people to hurt everywhere. In fact, sleep deprivation and lack of exercise are the 2 main causes.
Do you have back pain? Sleep deprivation causes back pain. A recent study showed a 150% increased risk of back pain for people that get poor sleep, and an even higher risk for women.
You Really can Improve your sleep!
There are really just a few things most people need to do to improve their sleep. These simple steps, described below, are actually quite effective. Because of Big Pharma marketing, many people think sleeping pills can replace these essential steps. However, these simple steps help more than sleeping pills.
Follow these 5 steps and your sleep WILL improve!
Follow a consistent sleep schedule.
Get up and go to bed at the same time, every day of the week. Do NOT sleep in on weekends.
Get up at the same time regardless of how late you get to sleep. If you sleep in you will keep your body off schedule, which will perpetuate the problem.
Do NOT nap during the day. Napping will disrupt your day/night schedule.
These steps take commitment, but are essential to getting a good sleep schedule.
Use Light to reinforce the day/night schedule.
Bright lights and curtains open, all day, starting when you get up, until dinner time or shortly thereafter.
Dim lights all evening, starting around dinner time, or around 6 PM.
All screens off at least an hour before bedtime.
As near to total darkness as possible all night while you sleep. Black out curtains may be needed, cover up all extraneous light sources, use an eye mask if needed. The dim lights in the evening and total darkness at night, will increase your melatonin production and your sleep will improve.
And do NOT turn on the light in the middle of the night if you have to get up to empty your bladder. If needed use the dimmest night light you can find.
Use Activity to reinforce the day/night schedule.
A general rule of thumb is: the more active you are during the day, the better you will sleep at night. You can't be sedentary all day and hope to sleep well at night. In the morning when it is time to get up, you should get dressed and get busy, engaging in many activities during the day. You should be busy enough all morning and afternoon, that you are worn out by the end of the day.
Aerobic exercise (a half hour of walking or 15 minutes of jogging), every day, generally during the first half of the day. For some people exercise close to bedtime disrupts sleep, so better to get your exercise earlier in the day.
You should transition to sedentary activities in the evening. This allows your body and mind to slow down and get ready for restful sleep.
Use the bedroom environment to promote sleep.
People sleep better in a cool room, between 60 and 68°F.
You need silence at night, and all sound makers must be turned off. No TV, no radio, no cuckoo clock. Ear plugs if needed.
No pets in your bedroom.
And of course, as near total darkness as possible, no lights.
Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.
If you use these substances, QUIT.
If you will not quit, at the very least avoid caffeine and alcohol for 6 hours before bedtime. Alcohol does speed the onset of sleep, but the sleep is low quality and you are more prone to waking during the night, and waking up early.
What if I do all those things and still have bad sleep?
Some people have obstructive sleep apnea, and they should be referred to a sleep clinic to get tested. A C-PAP may be change your whole life if you have sleep apnea. There are lots of other really good options for those that don't want to use a C-PAP or can't use a C-PAP. Overweight people are more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea. Other signs are loud snoring, gasping in your sleep, and waking with a dry mouth or sore throat, or waking with a headache.
Some people, very few, are just not able to achieve good sleep and sleep medicine may help them. These people are relatively rare, so I recommend doing the 5 steps above first. But if you really have done everything you can, and obstructive sleep apnea has been ruled out and you still can't get good sleep, you should consider using some sleep medicine.
For those few people people that need sleep medicine, there are quite a few natural medicines, some of which are a pretty good option. There are also lots of OTC and prescription pills to pick from, some are better than others. All of the sleep medicines, natural, OTC or prescription are more effective if you are already doing the 5 things above. If there is interest, I may do a Newsletter in the near future about some of these medicines, for those few people that actually need sleep meds.
Take care and BE HEALTHY!