Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Sleep Questions - 8 of 16 by Kermit Bauer

This set of FAQs contains the first eight questions of a two-part series. These Qs & As contain information regarding the importance of sleep, sleep related illnesses, and getting better sleep.

Why do I need a restful night's sleep?

Eating right, exercising and sleeping well are key contributors to a healthy lifestyle. But many people underestimate the value of sleep. Like proper nutrition and exercise, sleep is essential to feeling your best. 

The mind and body do not shut down during sleep. Sleep allows the brain to consolidate the day's learning into memory and improves the ability to learn repetitive skills. During sleep, the body replaces old cells with new ones and re-energizes organs and muscles. Getting the right amount of sleep and getting a combination of light and deep sleep provide the most restorative benefit. 

Sleep loss that accumulates from one night to the next is known as a "sleep debt" or sleep deprivation. Even a modest loss may produce a serious sleep debt when sustained over several nights. Hint: You can't train your body to need less sleep. 

The National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research estimates that sleep deprivation costs billions ofdollars annually in accidents and lost productivity to our society. The effects on quality of life for millions of individuals and families are incalculable. 

In some instances, severe sleep deprivation is a sign of a sleep disorder such as insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy or restless legs syndrome. If you feel you have a chronic or serious sleep problem, see your doctor or a sleep specialist.

What is insomnia?

Insomnia is the term that refers to the difficulty of getting to sleep or waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep. It doesn't only refer to the chronic sleeplessness that keeps one up all night. There are many causes of insomnia, and doctors are learning more and more about insomnia and how to treat it.

What can I do to sleep better?

Getting comfortable is one way to help you sleep better. Here are some tips you can try tonight to help you sleep better: 

Make sure that your room isn't too hot or cold; keep your room between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. If your feet are cold, wear socks. 

If you have an allergy, close your window. 

Make sure your pillows are comfortable. Clean under the bed and wash the drapes, blankets, and bedspread to eliminate irritants. 

Use a humidifier during the winter months and use air conditioning when it's warm and humid. 

Listening to soothing music at a low volume can be helpful to some.

whether you are sleeping at night or during the day?

Drinking alcohol late in the evening. Because alcohol in modest amounts is a stimulant in many people, even two or three drinks can distort the body's metabolism. Try to keep nightcaps to one drink, or replace alcohol altogether with a glass of warm milk.

Can a nice mattress sooth back pain?

Yes. An extra concentration of coils in the middle third of the sleep set where your lower back is located can help relieve back pain.

Why can my co-worker get away with only five or six hours of sleep a night when I find myself needing at least eight or nine or I start falling asleep in the afternoon? What's the right amount of sleep?

It differs for every person. Some people may need as much as 10 hours a night and others need much less. The average person needs 7-8 hours a night. If you find yourself sleepy during the day, you probably need more sleep at night. Or if you sleep longer on the weekends than during the week, you probably need more sleep during the week.

Lately I find myself waking up more tired than I used to. How can I get a better night's sleep?

A few key things should help. Try going to bed and getting up at the same time every day - even on the weekends. This will help keep your biological clock in sync. Develop a sleep ritual by doing the same things each night just before bed. This is a signal for your body to settle down for the night. Unwind early in the evening so that worries and distractions don't keep you from getting a restful night's sleep. Finally, create a restful sleep environment - sleep in a cool, quiet, dark room on a comfortable, supportive mattress and foundation - to get your best night's rest.

I sleep during the day now because I'm working a different shift at work. Is there anything I can do to help myself sleep better?

Make sure your room is dark - use heavy window coverings to block out the light. Also, make sure your room is cool, between 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (16 to 18 degrees Celsius). Sleep on a comfortable, supportive mattress and foundation that offers you enough space to move around comfortably. And sleep in a room that's quiet. The sleep environment is a very controllable part of restful sleep - whether you're sleeping during the day or at night. You can adjust the temperature, replace an uncomfortable or worn-out mattress, block out noise with earplugs or a white noise machine and keep light from your bedroom with dark blinds or eye shades. Don't allow bad sleep surroundings keep you from achieving excellent sleep!