To Your Health: Good night’s sleep vital for health
By Dr. Kevin Fagan March 6, 2012 1:46PM
Dr. Kevin Fagan
Updated: April 10, 2012 10:42AM
Sleep is more than just a “time-out” to the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. A good night’s sleep is as necessary to health and well-being as diet and exercise. It gives our bodies and minds time to rejuvenate.
Unfortunately, more than 35 million Americans struggle with falling and staying asleep. If the sleeplessness (insomnia) is temporary — caused by a tough deadline at work or a common cold — returning to a good sleep schedule shouldn’t be a problem. But if you have trouble sleeping night after night, chronic insomnia will start to take its toll. You will start to feel foggy, unable to concentrate and irritable.
One of the most common sleep problems is snoring. In fact, one out of four people is a habitual snorer. It is more frequent in men and people who are overweight. If you snore loud enough to disturb others, it may be a strong indication of sleep apnea, a serious condition in which you may stop breathing for up to 10 seconds or more. Habitual snoring should be evaluated by a sleep specialist.
Certain behaviors during the day are telltale signs of sleep deprivation. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, your sleeplessness might be part of a sleep disorder and you should contact your doctor about having a sleep study:
Daytime sleepiness; difficulty staying awake while seated, watching TV or reading; excessive drowsiness or falling asleep while driving; difficulty concentrating; emotional outbursts; napping; or requiring caffeinated beverages to keep going.
The Ingalls Sleep Centers — with locations in Calumet City, Tinley Park and Flossmoor — offer testing, diagnosis and treatment for people experiencing a range of sleep conditions, including sleep apnea, snoring, restless legs or arms, insomnia, parasomnia and narcolepsy. Patients are scheduled during their regular bedtime hours in a comfortable, private sleep center bedroom.
During a study, a sleep technologist observes your sleep patterns, brain waves, heart rate, rapid eye movements and more using monitoring devices attached to your body. Sleeping with wires attached to you might seem difficult, but most patients find they fall asleep.
The sleep specialist then analyzes the results and designs a treatment program if necessary.
If you have sleep apnea, for example, one of the most effective treatments is a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device, which increases air pressure in the throat so the airway does not collapse when you breathe in. Today’s devices are quieter and more comfortable than ever.
Treatments for restless legs disorder include decreasing caffeine, a warm bath or relaxation exercises before bed. Hot or cold packs on your legs may also provide relief. Medications are available for severe cases.
Naps often help relieve the sleepiness of narcolepsy. Your doctor may also prescribe stimulants to make you more alert during the day. Antidepressants also may be used to treat loss of muscle control or feelings of paralysis upon waking.
Self-care techniques such as sleeping on your side, avoiding alcohol, smoking and the use of sleeping pills, are often effective for light snorers. Be sure to seek medical treatment for potential allergies or nasal obstructions you may have.
If you and your doctor have ruled out any medical problems that may be causing your insomnia, you should practice the following sleep habits:
Use your bed for sleeping or sexual activity only. Go to bed only when you have the urge to sleep.
Keep the bedroom dark and quiet. A dim nightlight is OK, if needed.
Follow a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends and holidays.
Avoid large meals, fried and spicy foods before bedtime. A light snack can prevent an empty stomach from waking you.
Avoid caffeine and nicotine, which are stimulants, and alcohol, which disturbs your sleep and can make you tired the next day.
Don’t exercise within two hours of bedtime.
Avoid the routine use of sleeping pills.
Avoid stressful situations before bed. Don’t allow yourself to stay awake worrying, either. If you can’t fall asleep, get out of bed, go to another room and read, work a crossword puzzle or some other quiet activity. Then try again.
More information is at (800) 221-2199 or www.Ingalls.org and click sleep centers.
Dr. Fagan is a board-certified neurologist and sleep specialist.
He is the medical director of the Ingalls Sleep Centers