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Healthy Sleep

March 28, 2013

DrowsyStages of Sleep:

Non-REM Sleep

  • Stage One: This is experienced as falling to sleep and is a transition stage between wake and sleep. It usually lasts between 1 and 5 minutes and occupies approximately 2-5 % of a normal night of sleep. This stage is dramatically increased in some insomnia (restless legs) and disorders that produce frequent arousals such as apnea.
  • Stage Two: This follows Stage 1 sleep and is the “baseline” of sleep. This stage is part of the 90 minute cycle and occupies approximately 45-60% of sleep.
  • Stage Three & Four: Stage 2 sleep evolves into “Delta” sleep or “slow wave” sleep in approximately 10-20 minutes and may last 15-30 minutes. It is called “slow wave” sleep because brain activity slows down dramatically from the “theta” rhythm of Stage 2 to a much slower rhythm of 1 to 2 cycles per second called “delta” and the height or amplitude of the waves increases dramatically. In most adults these two stages are completed within the first two 90 minute sleep cycles or within the first three hours of sleep. Contrary to popular belief, it is delta sleep that is the “deepest” stage of sleep (not REM) and the most restorative. It is delta sleep that a sleep-deprived person’s brain craves the first and foremost. In children, delta sleep can occupy up to 40% of all sleep time and this is what makes children unwakeable or “dead asleep” during most of the night.

REM Sleep

  • This is a very active stage of sleep. Composes 20-25 % of a normal nights sleep. Breathing, heart rate and brain wave activity quicken. Vivid Dreams can occur. Sleep Specialists call this 5th stage of sleep “REM” rapid eye movement sleep because if one is to watch a person in this stage, their eyes are moving rapidly about. After REM stage, the body usually returns to Stage 2 sleep.

What are your Sleep Patterns?

Do you have trouble falling asleep? Do you fall asleep easily, then wake up 5 hours later and can’t fall back asleep? Do you wake up several times during the night and have trouble staying asleep? If so, you are one of over 100 million Americans who experience some form of insomnia and your sleep may be improved by better sleep habits.

Tips for better Daytime Habits

  • Do not nap during the day. If you are having trouble sleeping at night, try your best not to nap during the day because you will throw off your body clock and make it even more difficult to sleep at night. If you are feeling especially tired, and feel as if you absolutely must nap, be sure to sleep for less than 30 minutes, early in the day.
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol. Avoid drinking caffeinated or alcoholic beverages for several hours before bedtime. Although alcohol may initially act as a sedative, it can interrupt normal sleep patterns.
  • Don’t smoke. Nicotine is a stimulant and can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Many over-the-counter and prescription drugs disrupt sleep.
  • Expose yourself to bright light/sunlight soon after awakening. This will help to regulate your body’s natural biological clock. Likewise, try to keep your bedroom dark while you are sleeping so that the light will not interfere with your rest.
  • Exercise earlier in the day. Exercise is very important for a good sleep, but be sure to exercise in the morning or afternoon. Exercise stimulates the body and aerobic activity before bedtime may make falling asleep more difficult.

Tips for a better Sleep Environment

  • Make sure your bed is large enough and comfortable. If you are disturbed by a restless bedmate, switch to a queen- or king-size bed. Test different types of mattresses. Try therapeutic shaped foam pillows that cradle your neck or extra pillows that help you sleep on your side. Get comfortable cotton sheets.
  • Make your bedroom primarily a place for sleeping. It is not a good idea to use your bed for paying bills, doing work, etc. Let your body recognize that this is a place for rest or intimacy.
  • Keep your bedroom peaceful and comfortable. Make sure your room is well ventilated and the temperature consistent. And try to keep it quiet. You could use a fan or a “white noise” machine to help block outside noises.
  • Don’t let your clock make you anxious. A big, illuminated digital clock may make you anxious. Place your clock so you can’t see the time while you’re in bed.

Tips for a better Pre-Sleep Ritual

  • Keep a regular schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at approximately the same time everyday, even on the weekends.
  • Incorporate bedtime rituals. Listening to soft music, sipping a cup of herbal tea, etc., cues your body that it’s time to slow down and begin to prepare for sleep.
  • Relax for a while before going to bed. This may include practicing relaxation and/or breathing exercises or taking a warm bath or sitting in a hot tub before bedtime. Try listening to recorded relaxation or guided imagery programs.
  • Eat only a light snack before bed. Eating a large, heavy meal can interfere with your normal sleep cycle.
  • Drink warm milk before bedtime. In addition to being soothing, milk and dairy products contain tryptophan, a natural sleep enhancer. Plus, the warmth may temporarily increase your body temperature and the subsequent drop may hasten sleep. Other foods which contain tryptophan may also help.
  • Jot down all of your concerns and worries. Think about your worries and possible solutions before you go to bed, so you don’t need to ruminate in the middle of the night. A journal or “to do” list may be very helpful in letting you put away these concerns until the next day when you are fresh.
  • Go to sleep when you are sleepy. When you feel tired, go to bed.
  • Avoid “over-the-counter” sleep aids and make sure that your prescribed medications do not cause insomnia. There is little evidence that supplements and other over-the-counter “sleep aids” are effective. In some cases, there are safety concerns. Antihistamine sleep aids, in particular, have a long duration of action and can cause daytime drowsiness. Always talk to your doctor or healthcare practitioner about your concerns!

Tips for Getting Back to Sleep

  • Do visualization. Focus all your attention on your toes or visualize walking down an endless stairwell. Thinking about repetitive or mindless things will help your brain to shut down and adjust to sleep.
  • Get out of bed if unable to sleep. Go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy
  • Don’t do anything stimulating. Don’t read anything job related or watch a stimulating TV program (commercials and news shows tend to be alerting). Don’t expose yourself to bright light. The light gives cues to your brain that it is time to wake up.
  • Eating foods containing tryptophan raise the levels of serotonin produced in the body, which in turn increase a person’s feeling of sleepiness. It is best to eat tryptophan on an empty stomach. Foods, besides turkey, that contain a notable amount of tryptophan are: milk, cottage cheese, yogurt,¬†cashews, soy beans and tuna.

Tips for Keeping a Sleep Diary

Used in order to determine where your sleep troubles lie a sleep diary allows you to learn about your sleep patterns and habits by keeping a daily sleep diary. Make up a chart with spaces for:

  • The time you went to bed and woke up; how long and well did you sleep.
  • When you were awake during the night
  • How much caffeine or alcohol you consume and when
  • What did you eat and drink and when
  • What emotion stress did you have
  • What drugs or medications did you take



From → Health, Sleep

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