Sleep - What is Normal?
John Mayer - Are You Slow Dancing in a Burning Room?
Don't let this be you!
NO! Do NOT Buy for $19.99!
The Promise of Sleep
Yes - Even animals must sleep!
Sleeping Beauty - Tchaikovsky
Are you sleeping as much as you should?
Yes - sleeping! Sleep deprivation is an insurmmountable problem in the world. Did you know that most car accidents occur due to a driver falling asleep behind the wheel?
Sleep research has come a long way since the 1950's. Doctor's used to only pay attention to our waking, day time health. With strides in sleep research we now know that sleeping is vital for good health. The second thing I would like to impress is that NOTHING can replace sleep.
As a sleep technologist nothing would annoy myself and my coworkers more than the scams that we see advertised on television. For instance - the pillow that is designed to help you stop suffering from snoring? They are misleading because they lead the video with a great description of sleep apnea - then they explain how the pillow is designed. A pillow will not alleviate true sleep apnea. The pillow might be designed to allow your airway to stay open but lets see how long you keep your head in the perfect position all night. Not gonna happen. I have also seen a product that you spray into the airway and it magically will stop your snoring. The toothpaste that is $19.99? It contains "melatonin" and other "herbal extracts." Sorry, but it doesn't work that way.
What is Normal?
Sleep need is highly dependant upon many other factors such as age, sex and previous sleeping patterns. Newborns need approximately 16 hours of sleep per night. Adults typically need approximately 7 - 8 hours of sleep each night.
Sufficient sleep is defined as the amount of actual sleep one requires to wake up feeling refreshed. Seniors usually report sleeping less each night.
How do we know?
The first book published about sleep medicine was in 1913 by a French scientist, Henri Pieron. It was "Le Probleme Pysiologique du Summeil." My French is vey bad but I believe that would be translated as, "The Physical Problem of the Sleep." Sleep Medicine wasn't highly investigated in the United States until the 1950's when REM and NREM were discovered by a doctor who used his own son to observe while sleeping. He noticed the eye movements and began to recognize that there was a pattern to the eye movements.
Dr. William Dement established the Stanford University Sleep Center in 1970. I have had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Dement and it was much more exciting to me than meeting a movie star. Our lab worked in conjunction with research facilities such as Stanford, Harvard and UCLA on several reseach studies.
Sleep deprivation is one of the most interesting to me. Early research in sleep was done rats. They found that when they deprived or disrupted non rem sleep in rats there was a "reliable syndrome" that included:
- Debilitated Appearance
- Skin lesions
- Increased food intake/appetite
- Weight loss
- Decreased body temperature in later stages
Studies in humans found that if we decrease sleep - even for just a few nights you may see:
- Increase in heart rate and blood pressure
- Increase in inflammation (as measured by a blood protein)
- proposed risk for Coronary Artery Disease
- Impaired glucose tolerance (could be a precursor to diabetes)
- Increased hunger and appetite
- Increased risk in dying and mortality
Decreasing sleep time per night to 5 or 6 hours after several nights resulted in a delayed response time. In one study, they restricted people to 6 hours of sleep for 12 consecutive nights and found that those people responded as slowly as those who had been deprived of an entire night of sleep!
In childhood and adolesence - sleep is extremely important. Studies have shown that children lacking sleep will have an increased risk for disciplinary problems and may lead to exacerbated emotional problems.
Good sleep and increased time spent sleeping in bed will increase your mood, alertness and performance and that is a proven fact.
There are approximately 84 different types of sleep disorders. Sleep apnea, sleep walking (somnambulism) or sleep talking (somniloquy), bed wetting, narcolepsy, shift work, night terrors, nightmares, restless legs, perodic limb movments, REM behavior disorder, excessive daytime sleepiness and bruxism (teeth grinding) seem to be the most popular.
The basic measuring stick for sleep wellness is how do you feel when you wake up in the morning? Do you feel refreshed and ready to start a new day or do you want to hit the snooze button and sleep another 10 minutes?
A major problem for sleep practitioners is that many people accept feeling tired when they wake up. They believe this is how they always feel. If you don't feel rested then you are cheating yourself. Good sleep will contribute many more good things in your life than you can imagine.
Sleep is still a mystery, for example why it happens, what is going on in the body? We are smart enough to figure out that it is vital to have and it can't be denied. One of the most interesting things I have contemplated about sleep while watching patients "go there" is that the brain takes over and it is in charge.
The eyes begin to close and we see slow rolling eye movements then the brain waves begin to spread apart, all of the muscle tone in your body begins to drop and the person sleeping is no longer in control behind the wheel. So as you can see - not only does sleep affect your daily life but your span of life as well. Many studies were done and the conclusion is that we still do not understand the exact function of sleep but studies have proven time and time again that deprivation of sleep causes horrible consequences.
If you don't sleep well see your primary care physican to determine if there is a treatment available for your symptoms. There are drugs that can help with Restless Leg Syndrome and Periodic Limb Movement Disorders, for example. Snoring and bruxism can be treated with a dental appliance or Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP). Insurance companies agree to pay for most of the cost involved because it is a very REAL medical problem.
Everyone has a bad night of sleep occasionally. Insomnia is normal and most people experience transient insomnia at some time in their lives. I have used benadryl to help me fall asleep faster which is the active ingredient in most over the counter sleep aids. Melatonin - in my opionion should never be used unless it is under the care of a doctor. It was approved for use in the United States in 1984 as a dietary supplement and does not require approval by the FDA as it is a substance that is in some of our foods. Melatonin is a hormone and the only one available without a prescription in the US.
Again, medicines that are not regulated by the FDA can be made and produced in factories where doses are known to not be accurate!
Don't accept feeling less than your best everyday! If the action of sleep - isn't going on in the bedroom then there is also an increased liklihood that you are way too tired for any other actions to be going on in there. I have talked to hundreds of people about what IS going on in the bedroom, trust me on this....good sleep leads to more action and less deprivation!
"But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep." ~Robert Frost