Our Town: Sleepless in America

Dr Tom Ferraro

The NFL now buys Smart Beds for their athletes to ensure better sleep.

Google, Ben and Jerry’s and Proctor and Gamble encourage all their employees to nap each day.

The University of Michigan has sleep rooms for undergraduates to nap in and there is a growing industry in America called Sleep Coaching. These companies all realize how important good sleep is. To enhance their bottom line.
Sleep disturbances are very common in America with 75 percent of adults suffering sleep deprivation. Sleep problems are estimated to be the number one health issue in America. Drowsiness causes over 100,000 vehicle crashes each year.

Sleep disturbances are proven to cause accidents, weight gain, lowered performance and poor focus. Lack of proper sleep lowers our immune system which leads to more colds and upper respiratory infections.
The pharmaceutical industry reaps in at least $5 billion a year selling an estimated 43 million sleeping pill prescriptions each year.

In short, America is a sleepless nation. Let’s review the symptoms of sleep disturbance, the variety of causes and the cures.
Symptoms: It is healthy to have about 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Any less then that is a problem.

If it takes you more than 30 minutes to fall asleep, if you are awake five times or more each night for a total of over 30 minutes you are sleep disturbed.

Other symptoms include fatigue upon awakening and inability to concentrate well during the day.
Causes of sleep disturbance. There are a variety of causes for sleep problems which include anxiety, stress, overwork, poor diet, too much caffeine, television watching, alcohol use, too much noise, or foul odors.

All of these factors deprive us of a solid night of sleep.
Proper Sleep Hygiene: We all work too hard in America and many have two or three jobs and a long commute. This makes it all the more important to know proper sleep hygiene. The following are the things I tell my patients to do to improve sleep.
1. Typically body temperature needs to drop about one degree before you fall asleep and one way to induce this is to take a shower or bath and as you exit the bath this tends to drop body temperature.

One should keep a window open to get fresh cool air to circulate. Avoid exercise after five p.m. because that serves to raise body temperature which prevents sleep.
2. Get a new mattress and new sheets and pillows. Keep your sheets clean and buy a good pillow that fits your body size. Then sleep on your left side.
3. Lights should be turned off and noise should be dampened.
4. Do not drink caffeine after2 p.m. each day and avoid heavy meals at night.
5) Bedtime should be determined by when you must get up. If you must arise at 6 a.m. you need to be sleeping by 10 p.m. at the latest.

That means you need to start preparing for sleep by 9 p.m. Take a shower, cool off and shut off the TV, cell phone and all electronic devices.

You can read in bed if you like and the best books are the long ones like “Remembrance of Things Past” by Proust, “Moby Dick by Melville” or “Don Quixote” by Cervantes.
6. Knowledge of sleep cycles: As we age our sleep becomes more fitful as our sleep mechanisms slowly decay. This is not unusual and nothing to be alarmed about.

Typically we go through two REM – non-REM cycles over the first four hours of sleep. After that one may awaken briefly.

The best way to handle this is to try to follow your breathing pattern with your mind and each time you catch yourself thinking any thought at all just say “Cancel it” and go back to following your breathing.

I always teach this to my athletes who are anxious before big tournaments and it is more effective than sleeping pills, without any side effects the next day.
7. Typically you will have dreams towards the end of your sleep cycle and if you want to recall them have a pen and paper handy next to the bed to jot them down.

Dreams are the way the mind repairs itself emotionally and the field of psychoanalysis is partially based upon the analysis of one’s dreams. Pay attention to them and you may be able to see patterns.
If you want to get healthier, look better, think more clearly and perform better learn how to manage your sleep. Adults need eight hours or more each night and if you follow the simple tips you just read I guarantee your sleep will improve and so will your life.

TAGGED: Williston Times
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