Friday, October 8, 2010

When I need to sleep I cannot When I need to work I can sleep

When you’re struggling to meet the demands of a job and family life, cutting back on sleep can seem like the only answer. But if you find that you cannot sleep at night and are drowsy during the day you may be suffering from insomnia. Your body’s internal clock works on a 24 hour cycle in which sleep consists of a series of stages that will restore and energize your body and mind. If you do not get the required amount of sleep it will take a toll on your mood, productivity and ability to handle stress. If you want to stay health and perform to your potential sleep is necessary. So why is it when you need to sleep you cannot and when you need to work you can sleep? Let’s look at what is going on when you are sleeping, how to determine the amount of sleep you need and what you can do to correct you sleep/wake cycle and stop the insomnia insanity!

If you are sleeping as little as possible to keep up with your daily life you will eventually find your quality of everyday living is affected. You feel that a healthy lifestyle in which diet and exercise are a priority but also is sleep. Sleep makes it easier for us to keep us mentally sharp, creative, and physically vital, it also helps us maintain our weight. No other activity provides so many benefits for so little effort.

Sleep isn’t a time when you brain and body shut down, you brain stays constantly active managing a variety of biological functions that prepare you for the next day. As you start getting the sleep you need you will feel energized and your daily productivity will increase.

If you think by getting one less hour of sleep per night won’t affect you, you are wrong. Even trying to function on slightly less sleep can affect your ability to think correctly, respond quickly and even cause health issues like heart disease and the ability to fight infections.

Jet lag and night shift work requires at least a week for your body to adjust and correct its sleep/wake cycle. Although adjusting your sleep schedule will relieve part of your lost sleep, don’t think sleeping in the weekends or sleeping more than nine hours a night will make up for lost sleep. Quantity of sleep is important, but so is the quality of sleep. Sticking to a bedtime schedule keeps your sleep/wake cycle in check. Trying to make up sleep can affect your biological clock which will only make it harder for you to fall asleep easy when you need to.

Average Sleep Needs

Age Hours

Newborns (0-2 months) 12 - 18

Infants (3 months to 1 year) 14 - 15

Toddlers (1 to 3 years) 12 - 14

Preschoolers (3 to 5 years) 11 - 13

School-aged children (5 to 12 years) 10 - 11

Teens and preteens (12 to 18 years) 8.5 - 10

Adults (18+) 7.0 - 8

According to the National Institutes of Health, the average adult sleeps less than 7 hours per night; this is a recipe for chronic sleep deprivation. While sleeping requirements vary slightly from person to person the average adult needs 7 -8 hours of sleep. Senior citizens often find it hard to sleep this long and will change their sleep pattern from monophasic sleep to biphasic sleep. Monophasic sleep is when you get your sleep in one time period; biphasic sleep is when you sleep 5 – 6 hour during the night and have a daytime nap to make up the difference.

Getting 7 hours of sleep a night might be what you think you need, but might not be what is necessary for you to function optimally. The best way for you to figure out how much sleep you require is to keep a sleep journal and evaluate how you feel the next day after you’ve adjusted your sleep schedule. Not only try adjusting the number of hours you sleep but also try different times you go to bed and wake up in the morning. Example 1: Instead of 7 hours of sleep; sleep 8 hours. Example 2: Instead of getting 7 hours of sleep between 11pm and 6am; sleep 7 hours between 12am and 7am. (Per your work schedule)

If you’re getting less than seven hours of sleep each night, chances are you’re sleep deprived. What’s more, you probably have no idea just how much lack of sleep is affecting you, unless you falling face first into your dinner plate. Furthermore, if you have a habit of sleeping less than 7 hours a night you might not know what it feels like to be fully energized the next day. It might feel normal to get sleepy at work doing the same tasks over and over again, but the truth is it is only normal if you are sleep deprived.

Other signs of sleep deprivation are: needing a alarm clock to wake up, relying on the snooze button, having a hard time waking up, feeling sluggish in the afternoon, falling asleep if the room is too hot or in a meeting, drowsy after a heavy meal, need a nap to get through the day, fall asleep while watching television and/or sleep in on the weekends. Sleep deprivation or insomnia can lead to lack of motivation, irritability, reduced problem solving skills, stressed, memory problems, weight gain, impaired motor skills, difficulty making decisions and/or heart disease, diabetes or other health problems.

If you want to learn about foods that induce sleep see: List of Foods that Induce Sleep. You may want to avoid these foods at lunchtime to help you stay awake during the day.

As I mentioned before sleep is a series of stages that recur during the night. These sleep stages are very different from one another; from deep sleep to dreaming sleep each plays an important part in preparing you for the day ahead. The two main parts of sleep are the Non-REM or NREM sleep which consists of four stages of sleep, each deeper than the last and the REM or Rapid Eye Movement sleep which is the stage where you dream.

Stages of Sleep:

Non-REM sleep

Stage 1 (Transition to sleep) – Stage 1 lasts about five minutes. Eyes move slowly under the eyelids, muscle activity slows down, and you are easily awakened.

Stage 2 (Light sleep) – This is the first stage of true sleep, lasting from 10 to 25 minutes. Eye movement stops, heart rate slows, and body temperature decreases.

Stage 3 (Deep sleep) – You’re difficult to awaken, and if you are awakened, you do not adjust immediately and often feel groggy and disoriented for several minutes.

Stage 4 (More intense deep sleep) – The deepest stage of sleep. Brain waves are extremely slow. Blood flow is directed away from the brain and towards the muscles, restoring physical energy.

REM sleep

REM sleep (Dream sleep) – About 70 to 90 minutes after falling asleep, you enter REM sleep, where dreaming occurs. Eyes move rapidly. Breathing is shallow. Heart rate and blood pressure increase. Arm and leg muscles are paralyzed.

The sleep cycle:

You may think that once you go to sleep you fall into a deep sleep that advances to a light sleep in the morning, but in reality the sleep cycle varies during the night

When you chart the sleep stages over the course of the night, the result looks like a city skyline—which is why it is called "sleep architecture"

During the night, your sleep follows a predictable pattern, moving back and forth between deep sleep and more alert stages and dreaming or REM. Together, the stages of REM and NREM sleep form a complete sleep cycle that repeats until you wake up.

The amount of time you spend in each stage of sleep changes as the night progresses. For example, most deep sleep occurs in the first half of the night. Later in the night, your REM sleep stages become longer, alternating with light Stage 2 sleep. Even if you get a full 7 hours of sleep it still might not be easy to wake up in the morning. This is when you are in the middle of the deeper stages of sleep. If you want to wake up easier set your alarm clock in multiples of 90 minutes which is the average length of a sleep cycle. For example if you go to bed at 10pm set your alarm for 5:30am instead of 6am. You will feel more refreshed at 5:30am than you will if you wake up 30 minutes later, because your brain and body are closer to wakefulness. Sleep deprivation is caused from inadequate deep sleep as it is in this cycle when the body repairs and stores energy for the next day. Deep sleep helps maintain your health, stimulate growth, repair muscles and tissues and boosts your immune system. Factors that lead to poor deep sleep are; external noise, shift or late work hours and heavy smoking or drinking before bedtime.

As deep sleep regenerates our body, REM sleep plays a key role in our learning a memory. REM sleep processes and consolidates the information we have learned during the day, replenishes its supply of neurotransmitters, including feel-good chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine that are mood boosters. If you aren’t getting enough deep sleep your body will make it up first robbing you of REM sleep. Remember as you schedule your time for your work and family you need to schedule enough time for sleep. Here are 10 common sleep stealers:

1. You don’t shut down.

The kitchen is finally cleaned up and the kids are in bed, now it’s time to surf the internet and see what your friends are doing on Facebook. Computers are one of the biggest sleep stealers as their light triggers the suprachiasmatic nucleus, a tiny receptor in the brain that regulates our circadian rhythms or our body’s natural clock including the sleep-wake cycle. Exposing our eyes to this light can make our brain think it is time to get up. Shut down the laptop at least 1-2 hours before retiring.

2. Your bedroom is your office.

Sleep studies have shown that people can fall asleep faster in test rooms or meetings than in their own bed. That’s because most people do more than sleep in bed. They’re also busy working, eating, playing video games and watching TV. Keep your bedroom a sanctuary for sleep and sex only. You fall asleep best when your room is quiet, dark, cool and free from distractions…this includes the family pet.

3. Your mind is filled with worries.

You have been let go from your job and you don’t know how you’re going to pay the rent this month. More than 30% of 1,000 households polled in 2009 by the National Sleep study reported that stress over the economy had disrupted their sleep at least a few nights a week. And 12% said they worried about money every night. With all this worry, it is important not to stress over sleep too. Too decrease stress, avoid watching the news before bed. Television really isn’t relaxing according to Sandra Horowitz M.D., the regional medical director of Boston’s Sleep Health Center and clinical instructor at Harvard University’s Division of Sleep Medicine. “It is geared to keep you watching it” Distraction is the best anti-stress medicine, try soothing sounds such as an audio book, soothing music or white noise.

“If you have noise in your bedroom, it leads to relaxation, because part of your brain pays attention to the sound in a good way,” Shives says.

Medication, mind/body relaxation techniques and self-hypnotic tapes can combat stress. Before you fall asleep focus on deep breathing exercises, or picture a peaceful place. Mentally work your way from head to toe relaxing your body one part at a time.

There are also de-stressing supplements on the market today. GABA or Gamma-aminobutyric acid or GABA is an important chemical that is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that regulates the firing of neurons which maintain the balance between the body and the state of excitation. GABA supplements can increase this valuable resource in your body and increase the level of HGH or Human Growth Hormones, help you to relax and sleep, reduce muscle tension along with stress, anxiety and depression to promote an overall well being.

4. You end the evening with a nightcap.

True, a scotch just before you head to bed is relaxing and will help you fall asleep. But in the long run, it’s actually a sleep stealer. That initial drowsiness doesn’t last.

“You metabolize the alcohol and that sedating effect wears off, generally in four hours,” Shives says. “You then wake up – more awake than ever.”

Why? Alcohol disrupts production of serotonin and norepinephrine, two neurotransmitters that regulate sleep stages, especially later in the night.

Alcohol also can make snoring louder and exacerbate obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder that disrupts breathing, says Gregg D. Jacobs, M.D., an insomnia specialist at the University of Massachusetts' Sleep Disorders Center and author of Say Goodnight to Insomnia (Holt Paperbacks). Never drink alcohol if you are taking sleep medication. Taking one with a few glasses of wine for example, can lead to blackouts, memory loss and erratic behavior. A healthier option is a glass of warm milk, cup of chamomile tea or another warm, non-caffeinated beverage. Why a hot liquid? It first raises the body’s core temperature, which in turn will drop rapidly. A cool body helps you to sleep better. Plus the ritual having the drink every night can be added as part of your nightly routine which prepares your mind and body that bedtime is near.

5. You like a toasty room.

During the cold months you may turn up the heat but be warned you may be in for a long, sleepless night. Insomnia is associated with higher core body temperatures, according to a 2008 Australian study. Lowering the room temperature helps the brain cool the body while you are sleeping. Your thermostat should be around 60-65 degrees. Also taking a hot bath or shower 2-4 hours before bed can help as it too raises the core temperature then when the body cools (just like drinking a hot beverage) you can fall asleep easier. Remember not to take a hot bath right before bed as it takes time for your body to cool down and you’ll lay there tossing and turning until you do.

6. You’re eating late, heavy meals.

You have a business dinner and don’t get served until after nine at night. A hearty steak dinner, complete with a thick piece of chocolate cake is a great way to end a day. But hold off on the foodfest. Digesting a heavy meal only stimulates your gastric system when the body should be slowing down. Plus eating too close to bedtime can cause indigestion, heartburn or acid reflux, a condition in which stomach acids flow back up into the esophagus. This condition can lead to Barrett’s esophagus a precursor to esophageal cancer. On the other hand, don’t go to bed hungry. Hunger trumps sleep when it comes to your body’s basic needs. Eat dinner 2-3 hours before bedtime, so your body is done with most of its digesting. Still want a bedtime snack? Stick to dairy, meat and carbohydrates that contain tryptophan, as tryptophan is an amino acid the body needs to promote sleep hormones. PS. No chocolate, it has caffeine.

7. You love that cup of Joe after dinner.

Speaking of caffeine, coffee is great in the morning but it can keep you awake if you drink it late in the afternoon or at night. Beware of other caffeinated beverages like Coke or Jolt they sometimes contain twice the amount of caffeine per cup of Joe. Limit your coffee to 1-2 cups before noon and avoid high energy drinks if you have trouble sleeping.

8. Your bedtime varies each night.

You like the night life, but you try to make up for lost sleep by going to bed at 8pm the next night or sleeping in until noon on Sunday. You may be trying to catch up on your zzz’s, but this is one sure way to cause insomnia. Varying sleep and waking times throws off your internal clock, making it harder to doze off. You feel as if you have traveled several time zones. You’d sleep better if you establish a regular sleep schedule. That means going to bed and getting up the same time every day.

9. You’re tossing and turning.

If you are just laying there tossing and turning watching the minutes tick by and saying to yourself "I really need to sleep but I can't fall asleep!" only makes it harder for you to fall asleep. The best thing to do is if you are lying there more than 30 minutes to get up and go to another part of the house. Why? Getting out of bed for awhile allows the brain not to think about why you are not falling asleep and can relax. When you do return to bed, turn your alarm clock towards the wall so you won’t be tempted to check it.

10. Your nose is congested.

Allergies or dry forced air making it hard for you to breathe can also keep you from falling and staying asleep. Try a non-medicated saline nasal spray, hot shower or nasal strips to open up nasal passage ways or invest in a humidifier to keep the air in the bedroom moist.

The content in When I need to sleep I cannot When I need to work I can sleep is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for sleep disorders and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.
GLG America Logo

No comments:

Post a Comment