Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Truth about Sleep Myths

Do you need eight hours of sleep every night? Do you need a sleep aid to fall asleep easy? Do women suffer from insomnia more than men? Here is the truth about sleep myths.

Everyone needs at least eight hours of sleep. Studies have shown that those who sleep seven hours may live longer than those that sleep eight or more. Too much sleep is associated with chronic conditions including diabetes and obesity. Also you could be suffering from depression or chronic fatigue syndrome. On the other hand, sleeping six hours or less can also cause health concerns. Many people like Martha Stewart and former President Bill Clinton can sleep on only four hours, but many of us accumulate a sleep debt that causes lack of mental focus and delayed physical response. When sleeping less becomes a habit people are just not aware of how sleepy they are. Sleeping too little or too long increases the risk for heart conditions and even death. How do you know how much sleep you need? Try varying your sleep schedule. Add or reduce the time you sleep until you wake up in the morning feeling fully refreshed, don’t require an alarm clock to get out of bed and don’t get sleepy during the day.

More women suffer from insomnia than men. According to the statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, women are twice more likely to have insomnia than men. Menstrual cycles, menopause, hormones, age, stress, work, health, mood, parenthood and even being single can disturb a woman’s sleep. While woman who are married sleep better than single woman, new mothers lose a lot of sleep.

[caption id="attachment_1125" align="alignright" width="251" caption="The Truth about Sleep Myths - Alcohol Makes Thor Snore"][/caption]

Alcohol will help you get a good night’s sleep. The calming, drowsy effects of alcohol may help you fall asleep, but it increases your chances that you will wake up during the night. If you snore or suffer from OSA (obstructive sleep apnea), alcohol will only exacerbate these sleep disorders. Never combine alcohol with another sleep aid as this can lead to erratic behavior, memory loss and even blackouts.

Prescription and over-the-counter sleep aides can lead to an addiction. Doctors do prescribe sleeping pills for those who are sleep deprived due to short-term situations like a divorce or job loss to break the insomnia cycle. The key word is “short-term” situation meaning “short-term” use. Not only can you become physically dependent you can also be psychologically dependent on them. They also have other side effects including daytime drowsiness, memory loss and can impair driving. Usually chronic insomnia is caused by an underlying physical or mental condition and when treated the insomnia is cured. Trying healthy lifestyle changes, incorporating cognitive behavior therapy and creating a sleep schedule can help you to sleep better while your underlying condition is being resolved.

To nap or not to nap, is it healthy or are you just lazy? I find that I need a nap after a meal and this includes lunch. According to an article that was published by the Harvard Medical School a 45 minute nap can improve your mood and memory, especially if you had little sleep the night before. Remember if you take a nap after 4pm you may find it hard to fall asleep at night. Also if you take a long nap you may experience temporary grogginess or confusion upon waking, also known as sleep inertia.

Some well-known people like John F. Kennedy and Winston Churchill made taking a nap a lifetime habit. Research has shown that a biphasic sleep pattern (sleep at night and nap in the afternoon) not only boosts ones energy it also restores brain power…making you smarter! Sleep is needed to clear the short-term memory storage and make room for new information. A memory-refreshing process occurs during a specific stage of sleep, stage 2 NREM. So taking a siesta in the afternoon may be a cost effective solution. Some European and American companies are proving nap rooms to allow their employees to sleep on the job! See: Taxes to Royal Wedding a US National Sleep Debt.

Surfing the internet or reading in bed will make you sleepy. There is a place for watching television, playing video games and surfing the net and it is not in the bedroom. You need your day behind you and give yourself some time to power down your brain so you can relax enough to fall asleep. Your bedroom should be a haven for sleep and intimacy only. Keep it cool, dark, quiet and cozy. If you find that you can’t stop your mind from racing about all the things you have to do or a problem you have to solve, GET UP and write them down. It is better to get it out of your head and onto paper than to lay there tossing and turning. Note: answers to problems come more easily when you're more refreshed and can concentrate better in the morning,

You can make-up your sleep debt on the weekend. Let’s do some math (I know this will put some people to sleep)…if you get 6 hours of sleep during the week and you need 8 that equals a sleep debt of 10 hours of sleep. Sleeping in on Saturday or Sunday can’t make up for all that lost sleep. If your insomnia was created due to anxiety over not being able to fall asleep that sets up a cycle of continued sleep debt and disrupts your natural sleep/wake cycle. Try adding an extra hour each night until you correct your deficit and not sleep binge on the weekend. You need to reset your sleep/wake cycle and the best way to do this is being consistent with your sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time every day, even on the weekends. See ways to reset your sleep/wake cycle: Easier Sleep

[caption id="attachment_1126" align="alignright" width="300" caption="The Truth about Sleep Myths - Swallow Spiders while Alseep - Who can answer that one? YUCK"][/caption]

Need to lose weight, than sleep. Do you crave food late at night? When we are tired scientists suspect we have lower levels of appetite-controlling hormones. Many times we are so busy with work and family schedules we end up eating late at night. If you find that you are eating late or crave that midnight snack, stick to light meals and foods that are loaded with tryptophan, an amino acid that causes drowsiness. Heavy spicy meals can cause acid reflux, indigestion and heart burn which will only wake you up during the night. Stay awake from caffeine in soda and chocolate. Have a cup of decaffeinated SleepyTime tea or a warm glass of milk with a turkey sandwich made with whole grain bread. Milk, turkey, whole grains, pumpkin and nuts are a few of the foods that have tryptophan. Although tryptophan converts into the sleep inducing hormones melatonin and serotonin, you may not get enough to bring about sleep. It is the psychological association and a “good” sleep habit that creates a calming effect allowing our mind and body to know it is time to fall asleep.

The content provided in The Truth about Sleep Myths is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for your sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional.

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