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July 08, 2013
Advice for insomniacs on how to get a good night's sleep
Summer means more hours of daylight, but for many it means tossing and turning
MELROSE PARK, Ill. - Summer means more hours of daylight and for many, it contributes to trouble falling asleep. More than 40 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders, resulting in $18 billion to employers in costs from sleep loss issues.
”The inability to get a good night’s sleep can be a complex issue and is not as easy to cure as telling people to count sheep,” said John Wilson, MD, a neurologist at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, part of Loyola University Health System. Wilson regularly works with the sleep lab to diagnose patients with chronic sleep issues.
Omar Hussain, DO, a Gottlieb pulmonologist who is board certified in Sleep Medicine agrees. ”Many societal trends, such as working from home or working the swing shift, are part of economic-based lifestyles that prevent regular sleep patterns,” he said. Obesity, which was recently declared a disease by the American Medical Association, also has a direct link to poor sleep, said Ashley Barrient, RD, who counsels patients at the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery & Bariatric Care.
Wilson, Hussain and Barrient provide some tips on how to get a better night’s sleep:
Relax. “At least one hour before bedtime, start quieting down and relaxing. Don’t exercise or engage in vigorous activities,” Wilson said.
Turn off the handheld devices. “The need to text and email is a real problem for many when it comes to sleep,” Hussain said. “Turn the electronic device off and put it in another room. That way if you wake up in the middle of the night, you don’t automatically reach for the phone. Instead you should turn over and fall back asleep."
Read a magazine. “Lighter content and shorter articles are ideal,” Wilson said. “Many like entertainment- and celebrity-focused magazines as quick bedtime reads."
Darken the room. “Close the curtains or blinds; darkness is conducive to sleep,” Wilson said.
Diminish noise. “Use a sound machine to create white noise or experiment with soothing noises such as rain or the lap of waves,” Hussain said.
Create a comfortable environment. “A consistent temperature, bedding, mattress and bed clothing should all be appropriate to the season and comfortable,” Hussain said.
Go to the bathroom. “Waking up to use the bathroom is a complaint of many,” Wilson said. “Do not eat or drink several hours before bed to avoid sleep interruptions from a trip to the toilet."
Check medications. “Some people who take medications before bed may do better to take them in the morning when they wake up,” Wilson said. “Talk to your physician about changing your pill dosing schedule."
Write it down. “Jot down worries, future errands or simply what is on your mind before bed,” Barrient said. “This helps to allay anxieties, organize thoughts and prepare for sleep."
Have a regular routine. “Try to go to bed at the same time every night to build a routine and consistency,” Wilson said.
Limit animals. “Pets may be comforting and companionable, but if they move in the night and make noise, they disturb sleep,” Wilson said.
Partner with your partner. “Talk to those you live with and share your strategies,” Hussain said. “You need to get the cooperation of those in the entire household to be successful."
Reserve the bedroom. “Train the body and mind to associate the bedroom with relaxation and sleep, not watching TV, playing games or exercising,” Wilson said.
Stick with the new routine. “You may not change sleeping patterns overnight, so give it a few weeks to acclimmate your mind and body and establish the new habits,” Barrient said.
Don’t do this:
Eat two hours or less before bed. ”If you have to have something, try a small cup of hot chamomile or other decaffeinated tea,” Barrient said.
Have an alcoholic drink. “Alcohol does induce sleep, but it is not restorative sleep,” Wilson said.
Watch TV or play electronic games before bed. “And don’t turn them on if you awaken in the middle of the night,” Hussain said.
Many people with sleeping disorders undergo sleep studies and are diagnosed with chronic sleep apnea. Medical devices such as a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine pumps oxygen into the air passages by way of a mask to keep the airway open. “Often it is the partner of the person with sleeping troubles who cannot stand the snoring or the irritability and issues an ultimatum for the person to get help,” Wilson said. “When one person has a chronic sleep disorder, the whole family suffers.”