Healthy sleep isn't just about getting enough sleep; getting the right kind counts, too. While you sleep your brain stays active, and it actually takes several stages of sleep to make you feel well and refreshed. Just how much sleep we need changes as we age, from 16 to 18 hours a day for newborns to 7 to 8 hours a night for adults. If you find yourself feeling tired or fatigued during the day even after a full night in bed, you may have a sleep disorder. See your family doctor or a sleep specialist for help.
1 AnswerPeter Bongiorno, ND, Naturopathic Medicine, answeredA good naturopathic sleep regimen includes getting to bed on time, dimming the lights, and shutting down bright screens (cell phones, tablets, computers, etc.). Sometimes, certain foods like oatmeal or pumpkin seed powder can help. Finally, many people need to look more into their emotions to help them process the thoughts that might be running through their heads and keeping them awake. I have excellent results in my clinic helping people sleep without drugs by working on these issues and using the right supplements.
1 AnswerPina LoGiudice, Naturopathic Medicine, answeredIn 2008, over 56 million sleep medications were prescribed in the United States, and most experts believe the stress from worldwide economic challenges have only increased these numbers. While these pills can help us fall and stay asleep, it is known that these medications do not allow the body to fall into the deep phases of sleep that allow for the best health benefits sleep can give us. It is also well known that all of these medications have a risk of dependence and withdrawal effects, which can make them hard to stop using.
Most alarming, a large study of 30,000 people published in the British Medical Journal found a 300% increase in deaths in people who took fewer than 18 sleeping pills a year (less than two a month). Higher doses were linked to a greater than 500% increase in death. The authors of this study concluded that these sleeping drugs “may have been associated with 320,000 to 507,000 excess deaths in the USA alone.”Helpful? 1 person found this helpful.
1 AnswerDawn Marcus, Neurology, answeredAs we get older, our sleep patterns change because of changes in brain chemicals, such as cortisol, growth hormone, and melatonin. These chemical changes cause us to spend more time in the less restful, lighter stages of sleep, and less time in the deeper stages 3 and 4 of non-rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. That's why, as you get older, you may notice you wake up more easily and more frequently at night, and have a harder time falling back to sleep. Because your sleep is less restful, it's especially important that you don't shortchange yourself on total sleep hours.
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1 AnswerDawn Marcus, Neurology, answeredSleep can be divided into rapid eye movement (REM) sleep when you have dreams, and sleep during which your eyes don't move, called non-REM sleep. The deeper stages of non-REM sleep are also referred to as restorative sleep. Healthy adults who sleep 8 hours a night will spend approximately 6 hours in non-REM sleep and 2 hours in REM sleep. Sleep generally occurs by moving through a series of stages, starting with the lightest: Stage 1 of non-REM sleep; moving to deeper stages of non-REM sleep; and, finally, to REM, or dream, sleep. It's easy to be roused during the lighter stages of sleep. If you wake up during Stage 1, you'll probably feel as if you haven't slept at all. This is often the stage people experience when they fall asleep in front of the television. When you wake them up, they might say, "I wasn't sleeping. I was just resting my eyes."
Sleepwalking can occur during the deep sleep you experience before REM sleep. Once you're in dream sleep, you can no longer move. Some experts believe this temporary paralysis during dream sleep is the body's natural defense to keep people from acting out their dreams while they are asleep.
In general, people spend approximately 90 minutes in non-REM sleep before REM sleep begins. They continue to move through this cycle of light, to deep, to REM sleep, and back to light sleep again throughout the night. You may hear people say, "I was in a deep sleep all night," but everybody actually shifts between light and deep sleep several times each night.
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1 AnswerWe all know that men and women have different sleep tendencies -- think of all those early bird/night owl partnerships out there -- but we’re now beginning to understand more about why gender matters when it comes to sleep. I was particularly interested in a recent study that shows evidence of some fundamental biological differences between men’s and women’s sleep.
In this study, researchers observed the circadian cycles of 157 men and women between the ages of 18 to 74, measuring melatonin levels and body temperature in order to track the 24-hour sleep-wake cycle. Over the course of a monthlong inpatient sleep period, researchers found significant differences between men and women in both the timing of their circadian clocks -- which help govern sleep times and wake times -- and the duration of the circadian clock itself. Among those differences:
- Women’s circadian clocks are set to an earlier hour than men’s, making them more inclined to fall asleep earlier and also to wake earlier. Women showed a stronger inclination for activity earlier in the day than men.
- Circadian cycles were actually shorter for women than for men, by six minutes. Even a slight difference can have significant impact on nightly sleep and on energy levels during the day. Think about a clock that runs a handful of minutes behind every day. Over time, those minutes really add up!
- Not only did women’s circadian clocks generally run earlier and shorter than men’s, but also many more women had internal clocks that ran a full cycle in under 24 hours.
1 AnswerHere are some basic guidelines you can follow that will help prevent your alcohol consumption from interfering with your sleep:
- A glass for a glass: For every alcoholic drink you consume, also drink a glass of water.
- Cork the bottle early. Don’t drink alcohol within three hours of bedtime.
- Break the bedtime habit. Avoid using alcohol directly as a sleep aid. Instead, look for other relaxation aids -- music, meditation -- that will promote healthy sleep.
1 AnswerAs a parent, here are some things you can do to help your teen sleep better and perhaps avoid some of the related health risks:
- Talk to your teen about sleep. You’ve made a point to have conversations about drinking, smoking and sex, right? It’s time to add sleep to the list of topics to cover.
- Give them a little time to sleep in -- but not too much. Allowing your teenager to sleep in on the weekends is okay and can help them catch up a bit on any sleep they might have missed during the week. Just don’t let them sleep more than one or two hours beyond their regular wake time.
- Encourage your teen to get regular exercise. This can be in the form of organized sports or just free-form recreational play. Physical activity -- ideally outdoors, where they can also be exposed to sunlight -- will help overall health and nightly sleep.
- Limit their exposure to technology. Let’s be realistic -- cell phones, computers, video games and PDAs are not going away. The goal here is to set reasonable limits, which should include no electronics in the bedroom.
- Make sure to include your teen’s doctor in the conversation. Don’t let sleep be overlooked at your teen’s checkup. If your child’s doctor doesn’t ask about their sleep, raise the topic yourself.
1 AnswerHere are some basic habits that can help everyone maintain a healthy weight and strengthen their sleep:
- Exercise. This one’s a no-brainer. Regular physical activity will help you maintain a healthy weight. It can also improve your sleep. Research has shown that aerobic exercise can improve sleep for people with insomnia. For the most sleep-enhancing exercise routine, get moving in the morning and get outside in the sunlight. This early-in-the-day exertion and exposure to sunlight will strengthen your circadian rhythms, helping you to feel more alert during the day -- and sleepier at night. If morning exercise doesn’t fit in your schedule, find another time during the day that does. To avoid exercise interfering with winding down for sleep at night, schedule your workout no closer than four hours before bedtime.
- Drink in moderation. Drinking alcoholic beverages comes with lots of calories, which can undermine an otherwise healthy weight-loss routine. Alcohol is also disruptive to sleep. A couple of glasses of wine may help you fall asleep faster, but in actuality the presence of alcohol your system prevents you from reaching the deepest stages of sleep, which are the most restorative. I’m not saying you have to abstain altogether, just keep things very moderate. To avoid having even a small amount of alcohol interfere with your sleep, make sure your last drink happens no closer than three hours before bedtime. And try my glass-for-glass strategy: for every alcoholic drink you consume, alternate with a glass of water.
- Strive to be consistent. We are creatures of habit. Our bodies respond to routine. Setting regular wake times and sleep times, as well as mealtimes and times for exercise, has been shown to help improve sleep quality and reduce insomnia rates, particularly in older adults. Another place where routine matters? Bedtime. If you’re a parent, you know how much a bedtime routine can soothe, relax and prepare your child for bed and sleep. As adults, we’re no different! A nightly routine that includes time to wind down, away from television, computers, PDAs and the like, will help your body and mind relax and prepare for sleep.
1 AnswerA recent study explores the effects of extra weight on sleep and also examines how gender may play a role in the equation. The study was conducted by Northwestern University’s Comprehensive Center on Obesity and BodyMedia, Inc., which makes armbands that measure an individual’s energy expenditure. Researchers were looking for differences between the sleep times of men and women across a range of BMI levels. BMI, remember, is body mass index, a measurement of body fat based on height and weight.
The study included 6,344 men and women ages 20 to 60, with BMI from 18 to 40, which spans the range from underweight to healthy weight, overweight and obese. All of the participants were users of the BodyMedia armband, which in addition to measuring calorie output also collects data from the body that can be used to predict sleep. They wore the device at least 23 hours per day. When measuring sleep, researchers included both nightly sleep and naps.
- Women slept more than men, by an average of 20 minutes. The average nightly sleep time for women was 6.9 hours, compared to 6.6 hours for men. This was true across the spectrum of BMI levels.
- For both men and women, there is an overall decrease in sleep as BMI rises.
- The relationship between sleep and BMI is different for women than for men: researchers found that diminished sleep is more closely linked with higher BMI in women than in men.
1 AnswerKids -- teens especially -- are particularly prone to late and erratic bedtimes, midnight snacks and a general lack of sufficient sleep, which can lead to weight gain. We know that adolescents require more sleep than adults, but they’re too often making do with much less sleep than they need to function well, and with obesity an increasingly common health problem for children as well as adults, new research provides yet another reason kids and teens need the structure of a sleep schedule -- one that includes curbing eating at a reasonably early hour. Weight problems that develop during childhood and adolescence can have long-term consequences that affect health for a lifetime. Let’s give our kids a healthy start by helping them develop the skills they need to eat and sleep well.