Tag Archives: sleep hygiene

Electronic device use prior to bed hindering Americans’ sleep quality

HealthDay reported that “many Americans might be losing valuable shut-eye because they spend the hour before bedtime in front of the electronic glow of a television, cell phone, or computer,” according to the National Sleep Foundation’s annual Sleep in America poll results released earlier this year. Continue reading

ATTENTION: Daylight savings starts tomorrow — don’t let it disturb your sleep pattern

Well, technically this year’s DST (or what some countries call “Summertime”) begins on Sunday, Mar. 13, 2011, at 2 am. And while it may be time to “spring ahead’’ and move the clock up by one hour, that lost hour of sleep has many wishing it was “fall back’’ to bed instead. Continue reading

Six doctor-recommended sleep aids

Tired of counting sheep? Consider one of these remedies for the possibility of getting a good night’s sleep when you have occasional insomnia. These tips were posted on Health.com and are from RealSimple.com:

1) Aromatherapy

Try it: When you’re drowsy but slightly tense.

How to use it: Massage a dab of aromatherapeutic balm or oil into the back of your neck and shoulders (and inhale deeply) before you hit the sack. Certain fragrances, including lavender and lemon balm, promote snooze-inducing relaxation, says Rubin Naiman, Ph.D., a sleep specialist at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, in Tucson. (Try Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins Night Health Bedtime Balm, which contains lavender; $25, origins.com.)

Good to know: You don’t have to stick to traditional aromatherapeutic scents — any fragrance that makes you feel good can be calming, says Dr. Phyllis Zee, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of neurology and the director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Northwestern University, in Chicago.

2) Valerian tea

Try it: If you are getting a full night’s sleep but still feel tired in the a.m.

How to use it: Sip a brew made from the flowering plant an hour or so before bedtime. (Try the Republic of Tea Get Some Zzz’s; $10.50 for 36 bags, republicoftea.com.) Some studies have shown that valerian can help increase sleep quality (it’s packed with antioxidants, too). You may have to drink it for several nights in a row before it works, says Naiman.

Good to know: Valerian shouldn’t be taken for more than two weeks at a time, since prolonged use can lead to dependency. And it can interfere with some prescription medications, including cholesterol drugs, so check with your doctor before steeping.

3) GABA-enhanced drink

Try it: When your head is racing with worries.

How to use it: Down a shot of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) right before bed. (Try Arizona P.M. Relax FastShot; $3, drinkarizona.com for stores.) “GABA, an amino acid found in your body, has been shown to quiet the mind when taken orally,” says Naiman.

Good to know: Certain foods, including brown rice, bananas, and mackerel, contain GABA. Consuming them during the day may help you sleep better at night.

4) Melatonin supplement

Try it: If you don’t feel tired until way past bedtime.

How to use it: Take a three-milligram tablet 15 to 20 minutes before bed. (Try GNC Melatonin 3; $5 for 60 tablets, gnc.com.) Your brain makes this neurohormone naturally to “tell the body that it’s time for sleep,” says Naiman. “But many people have suppressed melatonin production because they’re overexposed to light in the evening.” Naiman has been using it nightly for 20 years.

Good to know: Consult with your doctor before taking melatonin. It is not recommended for pregnant women, women trying to conceive, children, and adolescent boys (it can affect testosterone levels in maturing males).

5) Over-the-counter sleeping pill

Try it: When you’re going through a short period of sleeplessness, like during a stressful time at work.

How to use it: At bedtime, take two tablets that contain diphenhydramine, an antihistamine that makes you feel sleepy (research shows that an excess of histamine in the body may cause insomnia). “The less often you take these pills, the better,” says Dr. Lisa Shives, M.D., a sleep specialist in Evanston, Illinois. “You can build up a tolerance, and then they won’t work as well.” (Try Unisom SleepGels; $10 for 32 gel tabs, at drugstores.) Note: Never mix alcohol and sleeping pills.

Good to know: “The older you are, the slower you metabolize this type of drug,” says Shives. That means you may experience lingering sleepiness in the morning.

6) Prescription medication

Try it: When insomnia becomes a chronic problem.

How to use it: Work with your doctor to figure out which medication is best for you. Shives’s favorite is Rozerem (rozerem.com). It acts on the melatonin receptors in the brain that help you fall and stay asleep (other aids act only as a sedative). However, only Lunesta (eszopiclone) and Silenor (doxepin) are approved by the FDA for long-term use. Take a tablet about 30 minutes before bed.

Good to know: Finding the right medication may require trial and error: Some can make you more wired and awake. Side effects are common, says Shives, and range from the annoying (headaches, grogginess) to the serious, like unconscious nighttime binge eating and driving. Pregnant women may want to avoid these aids, even though they have not been proven to be dangerous.

Insomnia is considered chronic when it lasts most nights for a few weeks or more. This longer-term condition deserves professional attention, says Tom Roth, Ph.D., head of the Sleep Disorders and Research Center at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. If you’re unsure about whether you have chronic insomnia, Roth suggests looking at it like a headache. “If it goes on day after day and nothing you do makes it go away, then you should see a doctor,” he says. “Ask yourself: Do you know the cause?”

Time change tonight offers chance to try to improve on slumber, experts say.

When you turn your clocks back an hour tonight, it might be a good opportunity to think about whether you’re getting enough sleep. The switch from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time officially occurs at 2 a.m. tomorrow (Sunday) morning, and it moves one hour of daylight from the evening to the morning. You’ll likely appreciate the extra hour of sleep you’ll gain with the return to Standard Time, but it won’t be enough to eliminate any major sleep debt you may have accumulated due to a hectic lifestyle, experts say. Here are the details from HealthDay News:

Chronic sleep deprivation can affect attention levels, reaction time and mood, leading to decreased productivity at work, increased family stress, and potential health problems, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).

“People tend to ignore the need for sleep in order to get other things done, but sleep is as important as what you eat, how much you exercise, and other healthy lifestyle practices,” Dr. Nancy A. Collop, director of the Emory Sleep Center and president-elect of the AASM, said in an academy news release. “It’s important to acknowledge the role that sleep plays in our daily lives, and recognize that how we feel, think and perform is all dictated by the amount of sleep we get.”

The amount of sleep needed for good health and optimum daytime performance varies by age: preschoolers need 11 to 13 hours a night; school-age children should get 10 to 11 hours; teens must have at least nine hours; and adults should get seven to eight hours each night.

The AASM offers these tips for a good night’s sleep:

  • Don’t exercise or have caffeine, alcohol, nicotine or heavy meals close to bedtime.
  • It’s fine to eat a small snack before bedtime to avoid going to sleep hungry.
  • Follow a consistent bedtime routine.
  • Keep your bedroom quiet, dark and cool.
  • Don’t sleep in on the weekends. That just makes it harder to wake up on Monday.

For More information, the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about sleep here.

Strategies for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

Here’s some excellent information on avoiding insomnia and getting a good night’s sleep using common-sense sleep hygiene. It’s from my friends at the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. However, I find that many of my patients are not aware of some (or even most) of this information. So, here’s to a good night’s sleep for each of you.

What Is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a common complaint. Some symptoms of insomnia are difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, and difficulty with early morning awakening.

Sometimes insomnia only lasts for a short time and can be easily managed. Persistent insomnia is more troublesome and can affect work, school, social relationships, and health.

Many conditions are associated with insomnia such as depression, anxiety, allergies, and pain. Much of the time insomnia is simply the result of poor sleep habits.

How Is Insomnia Treated?

Insomnia treatment in adults may include use of an over-the-counter medication or, in other cases, use of a prescription sedative.

Over-the-counter sleep medications (diphenhydramine [Benadryl]) may worsen insomnia in children.

It is important to determine the cause of insomnia before treatment begins. Maintaining a sleep diary for one to two weeks is a good way to start. Keeping track of sleep times, caffeine and alcohol ingestion, etc. may provide clues as to the cause of insomnia.

Behavioral changes are often all that’s needed to improve sleep. By maintaining good sleep habits (sleep hygiene) the need for medication may be avoided. In children, ensure a regular sleep schedule and calming bedtime routine.

PRINCIPLES OF SLEEP HYGIENE

  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule—even on weekends.
  • Exercise regularly—avoid exercise in the late evening.
  • Go to bed only when sleepy.
  • Put your worries away when you go to bed.
  • Do something relaxing and enjoyable before bedtime.
  • Make your bedroom quiet and comfortable.
  • Avoid large meals just before bedtime.
  • Use your bedroom only for sleep and sexual activity.
  • If you cannot sleep within 15 to 20 minutes get up and go to another room. Return to bed only when drowsy.
  • Remove the clock from eyesight.
  • Do not nap during the day. If you must nap, limit it to 30 minutes in the early afternoon.
  • Avoid alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine use.
  • Avoid frequent use of sedatives.
  • Schedule outdoor time at the same time each day.
  • Have your pharmacist check your medications for potential sleep effects.
  • Avoid bright lights (e.g. from TV, computers, video games) before bed.

Adapted from Jermain DM. Sleep disorders. PSAP. 1995:139-154.

What If Nondrug Treatment Fails?

If you or your child are still having difficulty getting a good night’s sleep, you should talk to your pharmacist or other healthcare provider. The cause of your insomnia will need to be determined and a medication may be needed.

Even if medication is used for insomnia, sleep hygiene principles should still be followed and can provide added benefit.