This has been a big year in sleep. The research and knowledge the public has about the importance of sleep has been mind boggling. I have been amazed at the new ideas shared and the growth of new ideas in therapy.
The connection to sleep deprivation and sleep apnea as an independent contributor to diseases from aging to cancer to diabetes to heart disease and glaucoma has really brought to light that sleep is essential. Some of the connections have to do with the continual decrease in oxygen caused by sleep apnea. Sleep deprivation has contributed to memory issues, and other issues of brain disease.
The use of therapies for sleep apnea and sleep deprivation have improved and take into account changes in lifestyle. The use of weight loss, cognitive behavioral therapy and oral appliances to treat mild apnea and PAP intolerance has improved and become more widely available. The idea that using more than one therapy to treat a person is something that really has helped to look more holistically at sleep disorders.
Some of the research also found that we are constantly walking around sleep deprived. Our teens and young adults are so plugged in that they are texting in their sleep. We have done a poor job of associating sleep with good grades and productivity to our young adults.
But to me the most exciting thing is the number of sites out there to educate people about sleep. Doctors, technologist and therapists have been working on changing the average American's view of sleep and its role in our health.
If we can continue to make sleep a priority and understand how much healthier we will be if we get a good night sleep we will have a great New Year.
We talk about living healthier, exercising and eating whole foods. We still do not take sleep and a sleep routine seriously. We are still looking for the instant pill or the idea that will say that less sleep is better. What the studies say is that poor sleep contributes to health issues across the board.
· The studies that lead to contribution to colon, prostate and breast cancer all involve both sleep deprivation and sleep disorders that prevent sound sleep. These to conditions can be helped with therapy and possible treatment of a sleep disorder.
· Studies have shown that children have difficulty learning and learning proper behavior due to poor sleep, lack of sleep and snoring. We really do need to teach our children and teens that sleep is as important to health and good grades as studying.
· Studies have proved that we still only help 20% of those with sleep disorders. However that does not include the family that was affected by the disorder. If husband or wife cannot sleep because of loud snoring, leg movements or acting out dreams than you have more than one person affected and we need to consider all who are affected as patients. Sometimes the treatment may be time and space.
· Weight and sleep are interconnected. This is the vicious cycle the higher your weight the worse sleep disorder breathing will be, the worse the sleep disorder breathing the more difficult the body has at maintaining weight.
With all those issues you would think insurance companies and doctors would be asking more sleep questions and explaining proper sleep. The issue is they are not educated in the importance of proper sleep. In fact if you look at a medical student’s time you will see they do not live what they preach. This is a time where you need to take control. You need to go to your doctor with written questions, maybe a three to four day diary with symptoms.
Explain your desire to not just take a pill but to truly fix the problem and you may get some strong feedback. Doctors like to know a straight ahead question they can fix and that would be a sleep disorder.
The change has to start with an informed patient or at the very least a patient with relevant questions. This way we are able to work with the insurance company. Our goal ultimately is to get a good night sleep with the least amount of medication. I believe we can achieve that if we work as a team.
We all experience a night where we stare at the ceiling or cannot turn off our mind. Transient insomnia is something we experience when we are living with a stressful situation or maybe just a long day. The problem is that if you do not get a good night sleep you may find that it is difficult to concentrate, your hunger may increase, or you may experience more aches and pains.
One of the exercises that you can use is to use imagery along with breathing exercises to help relax and go to sleep. This exercise may also help with people who may be experiencing nightmares as well.
Let’s start with the breathing as this is what allows you to increase your oxygen levels and helps you to relax. Take a slow deep breathe imagine filling your lungs from the bottom to top. For women this is not as natural as you thing as we tend to be shallow breathers. Once you have filled your lungs hold it for the slow count of four then slowly exhale to the count of 8. This will also help you to increase the use of your longs. The breath hold allows some of the small airways we do not usually use to open.
The second step is to use imagery. Choose a place you want to be. I personally am a warm white beach person or on a flower covered meadow person. You choose an image that suits your personality. Now focus on that image. Image the smell of the air, the temperature of the sun, fell the grass under your feet. The more you can focus on the details the more it will help you to relax.
In my mind I travel to a valley between the mountains. I am lying looking up at the sky watching the clouds pass through the sky. I feel the grass under my hands and between my fingers. I smell the sweet smell of violets and wildflower. I can hear the wind across the pond and rustling in the leaves. The more I concentrate the more relaxed I become. Along with the slow deep breathing I can feel my muscles relax. I allow myself to float along and eventually I drift off to sleep.
This exercise was taught to me when I was in high school as a way to get past my test anxiety. I found that doing this exercise for just three to five minutes really reduces my stress. I use this on nights when I can not turn off my mind to ideas or to my family. It allows me to drift and it does help minimize the nightmares I experience.
Are there exercises or imagery you use to help you to relax and unwind?
We all live in a stressful world. We have work, family, unexpected issues and the last thing we think about is how it will affect us as we are lying in bed staring at the ceiling. We do not think about what we can do to help solve the problem or prevent it. Let’s take a few minutes to find a solution for you.
Oxygen is one of the great ways to reduce stress. It is easily available and easy to get. Take five minutes to breathe deeply and recruit more of your lung to help transfer the oxygen to your blood. There are many routines you can use to help you to relax. I like the inhale, hold, exhale practice. Inhale through your nose for the count of six, hold for the count of 4 (you do not want to stress yourself), than exhale slowly through pursed lips for the count of six. As you are inhaling imagine your lungs filling from the bottom out and when you are exhaling imagine them emptying from the top down. Not only do you get benefit of increased oxygen level but the focus on breathing will help you to calm your mind.
Practice a little yoga. A simple routine can help you stretch your body, help you focus on your breathing and the health benefits will amaze you. A simple routine is all you need and you do not have to worry about being perfect. It is more about getting you ready to sleep. I use Yoga.about.com for a website to choose my workout. She has excellent routines you can follow. Just remember you can modify the move for you. When I first started I could not reach lower than my knees. Now I can touch the floor most days. Choose an easy one like a Sun Salutation to help you to get ready for bed. This is to help you focus and deep breathe and calm your mind.
Turn off the electronics. The television, cell phone and other electronics are designed to stimulate you and your mind. It is really hard to get ready to sleep when you are stimulated by light and information. Try turning down the lights and journaling. Not only will it eliminate the electronic stimulation but it will help you to put your ideas on paper so you can deal with them in the morning and turn them off at night. It might also allow you to find solutions to what is bothering you and allow you to relax and fall asleep.
Get out of bed. If you are lying there staring at the ceiling lying in bed will frustrate you and keep you awake longer. Get out of bed and read or do something for 20-40 minutes than go back to bed. Take that time to relax and unwind. Use one of the ideas above to help you. Bed should be for sleeping and other activities should be done outside of bed. So get up and relax than go back to bed when you are feeling more relaxed.
Learning how to relax when you are having an occasional bout of insomnia is an important habit for you to learn. These techniques can be used during the day to help you to relieve your stress, as part of your bedtime routine or as a solution to the occasional night of stress induced insomnia.
_ As we go through out review of the past year and look forward to our next year it is important that the time we take to review and pledge to move forward we considers all aspects of our lives. If we do not create a life that is balanced we cannot be optimally healthy. There are several steps you can take to make goals more successful when you are planning how to balance them.
Your health should always be your priority. You cannot be successful in other areas of your life if you do not care for yourself. If you find that you have more chores than hours of the day you need to prioritize. You should always write them down whether it is on your smartphone, on paper or on your computer. You will have emergencies arise but if you plan for things like exercise, meal preparation and your yearly physical than you are more likely to to accomplish them. The same is true of your sleep time. If you plan for bedtime than you are more likely to go to bed in a timely manner.
With bedtime in mind you might want to consider adding 10 minutes of stretching or yoga to help you to relax. Giving yourself time to unwind that is not electrical in nature will help you to go to sleep easier. The light from television, your cell phone or your computer can be too stimulating to your brain and keep you from going to sleep. The proper amount if sleep will help you be healthier, think clearer and lose weight of that is one of your goals.
Take time to pack your meals. Eating healthy is difficult but if you take a little time to pack your breakfast and lunch you will find you will eat healthier and feel better. In the morning if you do not have the time to eat a full meal consider a meal replacement shake. Having your breakfast will help you to not be so hungry at night. This is especially important for those with acid reflux, hiatal hernias or GERD because you really should not eat right before bed.
Plan your exercise time in advance. If you are not a morning person do not plan to get up early to exercise because you are setting yourself up for failure. If however you know you work late every night than plan to get up a little earlier and go for a walk or do a video. The nice think about videos is that no one else will see how uncoordinated you are.
Take time to connect to your friends and family. People who are connected are less stressed. When you have less stress you are less likely to suffer from insomnia. If you do have insomnia issues behavioral changes have been found to be more successful than medications for long term treatment.
Looking forward to the new year we need to find the balance between work, family and taking care of ourselves. It is not an easy goal but with a little planning you can put your health at the top of your list. As it is said when you feel good those around you feel good.
Many people suffer from insomnia. Whether it is a child or an adult, a stressful time or an ongoing problem, or you can’t fall asleep or stay asleep. Insomnia affects everyone at some time or another. The issue is that although there are medications that might help many people do not want to start with medication to solve this problem. So what care some solutions to help?
Spring is a time for rain, plants, and the happiness of longer days. It is also the time of year where we spring the clock ahead one hour; thereby changing the time we get up and go to bed. Although the clock on the nightstand may say it is an hour later, our bodies do not change quite so easily. Every year many people suffer from insomnia due to the inability to adapt to this change. There are some steps you can take to help make the adjustment go a little more smoothly for yourself and your family.
The first step you should take is to go to bed at the same time. That means the time on the clock. If you go to bed at 10 p.m. then you should continue to do so. Although you may not be tired you should continue to keep the same routine. For example at 9:30 read for 15 minutes. At 9:45 wash up and brush your teeth, at 9:55 get on your pajamas and prep your bed and at 10:00 go to bed. By keeping the same routine you tell your body this is bed time and that your brain needs to slow down. This does not mean you will not have difficulty. If you find that after 20 minutes you cannot go to sleep you should get up and do a quiet activity for a little while, then try again. Remember that you do not want to be exposed to bright light during that activity because it stimulates the brain telling your body it’s daytime and that you should be awake.
The day of the change and the next few days it might benefit you to do a little more strenuous activity as this might help make you feel more fatigue, which will help you initiate sleep. Go outside and play catch with the kids or do some extra gardening. If the weather does not permit outdoor activities then go to the mall for a nice long walk.
Keep in mind that it stays light later and you will need to keep the light out of the bedroom. This is an excellent time to wash the curtains and change them out if they are not the type that block light. This is especially true with the children’s room as they tend to go to bed earlier. Our brains work on a rhythm, and light helps to stimulate the brain to say it is time to be awake. At night we need the darkness to help us to go to sleep.
The last thing is to make sure you get a good dose of sunlight in the morning. Remember your brain is stimulated by light. The florescent lights in the office and classroom are not the same as sunlight. A minimum of 20 minutes of sunlight tells your brain this is time to be awake. So as important as it is to keep your routine for going to bed it is just as important to not sleep in the next day and to go out for a little walk to get your brain going. The mixture of the light, exercise, and adjusting your wakeup time will help you to adjust faster to the change in time.
Our body’s internal clock does not know that it is daylight savings time but with a little effort we can shift our rhythms so we can enjoy the extra time we have during the longer summer days.
This is a high honor for us. We try to help others and I am very appreciative to Dana for concidering our blog.
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