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Sleep Support

There are few lifestyle factors that have a more regular impact on our lives than the quality of our sleep. We all know how it feels to lose just an hour of sleep, not to mention even more. In fact, some studies have shown that both acute and chronic sleep deprivation (either nightly or consistent loss of only 1-2 hours of sleep) can mimic the effects of driving under the influence of alcohol on motor (physical) and cognitive (brain) skills. While every person’s tolerance for both sleep deprivation and alcohol can be varied, this illustrates the effects of sleep loss in a dramatic way. The reasons for not getting a good night’s sleep are numerous. Not sleeping due to poor habits such as working/watching TV late can be corrected by changing one’s actions. However, when sleep is difficult to come by, other actions must be taken.

Sleep Hygiene refers to the practice of maintaining some simple guidelines to ensure that the act of sleep and the sleep environment will assure a restful period of sleep. Behavior is often indicated as the main as the main cause of insomnia. Curtailing the following activities can often dramatically help obtain a good night’s sleep; some aspects of poor Sleep Hygiene include the following:

  • Smoking cigarettes before bedtime
  • Drinking alcohol before bedtime
  • Ingesting excessive amounts of caffeine
  • Excessive napping in the late afternoon or evening
  • Irregular or continually disrupted sleep/wake schedules
  • Expecting to have difficulty sleeping and worrying about it
  • Anxiousness
  • Eating 3 hours prior to bedtime

Similarly, doing the following are ways to promote a restful night of sleep:

  • Make the bedroom a comfortable and hospitable place by keeping it cool and quiet. Make sure the room is as dark as possible, and wear earplugs if absolute silence cannot be achieved.
  • Go to bed and get up at the same time everyday to ensure regularity of habit, so the body is more ‘prepared’ to sleep.
  • Get exposure to some form of natural (outdoor) light each day. If this is not possible, there are natural light alternatives such as lamps or light bulbs. This is important as the brain produces a sleep-assisting hormone (melatonin) after exposure to natural lighting.
  • Cover your alarm clock to avoid checking the time when awake – continuing to check the time builds frustration and anxiety, and more sleeplessness.
  • Aid your body in proper posture, breathing, muscle relaxation and blood circulation with an ergonomic pillow.

Sleep and Self-Medication

Often times, people who take sleep enhancing medications think their lack of sleep is an external problem, when it may be an indication of a deeper concern. The key to resolving sleep issues is identifying this cause. Physical problems such as; pain, asthma or other physical discomfort can be readily treated with medicines respective to the problem. Treating insomnia from other causes (psychological stress, worry, etc) with sleep inducing drugs carries a risk in that the original problem is never addressed and such medications can cause dependency and have a rebound effect. These drugs are meant to be prescribed as a short term solution. Sleeping medications are not meant for long-term use and do nothing to bring the body back into a normal sleep rhythm. Used in the short term, they can be effective for bringing sleep, but I don’t recommend using them consistently.

The most popular insomnia standby treatment, alcohol, is mistakenly thought to assist one in obtaining a good night’s sleep. At first glance, it may even seem to work, looks can be deceiving. Alcohol consumption can diminish the quality of sleep by disruption of the sequence and duration of the various sleep states and therefore should be avoided by any person with sleeping problems. If consumed close to bedtime, alcohol may make it easier to fall asleep, but the sleep quality will not be good. The latent effects of alcohol on sleep are reason enough to discontinue using it as a sleep aid, as many people do. When one continues to rely on alcohol for a bedtime sleep aid, the sleep inducing effects are decreased while its sleep disrupting affects increase.

Improving your Sleep Hygiene

Exercise may be one of the best remedies for troubled sleep. Sleep is the time for the body to rest and repair itself. If you exercise during the day you have made an impact on your body by; causing “damage” to the muscles, exerting energy, and elevating body temperature. Exercise forces the body to take full advantage of its time during sleep. Therefore, the more we exercise; the body becomes more efficient at doing the things it needs (like sleeping) to recover from the ‘side effects’ of exercise.

Sleep experts agree that one of the most important factors for a good nights sleep is the pillow you use. Believe it or not, your pillow can have a major effect on your overall health and will directly benefit the neck, shoulders and back.

Improperly supported curves of the spine do not allow the musculature surrounding the spinal column to adequately rest at night. This makes way for residual muscle tension to last throughout the night, setting one up for a host of health problems. When the muscles of the head, neck, shoulders and back can properly relax this sets up a cascade effect of allowing other parts of the body to relax as well. Some benefits of a properly relaxed cervical spine (neck) include an open respiratory tract that allows healthy breathing all night long, and the skin, muscles, ligaments and vertebrae in the neck will all be relaxed from a day of tense muscles. Blood and nerve supplies of the neck will be unobstructed allowing for passage of nutrients and nervous transmissions during restorative sleep to other parts of the body where needed. In turn, blood supply to the brain will be made adequate as well. Poor blood supply in the neck may result in numbness and pain in the neck, shoulders, back and arms while poor blood supply to the brain may lead to dizziness, headache, altered vision, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) or nausea. With all of this considered, having proper alignment is critical for sufficient rest and repair.

Nutrients for Sleeping Well

There are many natural sleep aids, each with varying effects, sometimes dependent on the person. Some of the most effective sleep aids include; magnesium, 5-HTP, and Melatonin.
Subsequent depletion of magnesium associated with low intake is thought to disrupt normal biologic rhythms including sleep cycles. Low intake is associated with hypo and hyper-function of the biologic clock; hyperfunction can lead to depression, headaches, and myalgias (fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome) while hypofunction is associated with expression of nervous hyperexcitabity such as delayed sleep onset, age-related insomnia, anxiety, and migraine.
The compounds, 5-HTP and Melatonin are well researched with proven effects on sleep dysfunctions. Used with varying effects in different circumstances, each benefits in some way our natural sleep processes. Highly effective at treating insomnia and sleep dysfunction, these are a reliable treatment for many forms of insomnia.

Summary

As both a symptom and a condition, insomnia is best treated when its origins are known and the original cause is treated. Behavioral and lifestyle modification are perhaps some of the best ways to ensure a good night’s sleep, and there are many adjuvant tools to help with sleep. If you are successful at sleeping throughout the night and feel refreshed when you awake, you are one of the few. Otherwise, it may take a conscious effort to get a restful night sleep.

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Health Tips On the Go!

Improve Posture

  • 1.Avoid slouching. Be aware of your posture as you walk, sit, and drive, keep shoulders squared and head pulled back and up.

  • 2.Imagine a thread pulling the top of your head toward the ceiling. Visualization can help improve your sense of position.

  • 3.If your job requires you to sit for long periods, take frequent breaks to stand, stretch and shake it out.

  • 4.Maintain a strong core to help support proper posture. Add core-training exercises to your daily routine.

  • 5.A firm mattress and ergonomic pillow help achieve proper back support while you sleep, so you'll stand straighter in the a.m.

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