Sleep Guide: Ways to Outsmart Insomnia
Sleep: We (should) spend almost a third of our lives doing it – and for good reason. Quality shut-eye boasts a variety of physical and mental health benefits; however, many people face an unfortunate, nightly battle with The Sandman.
“Typically, people need seven to eight hours, but ever since the advent of power, people are getting less and less sleep,” says Anthony Suchoski MD, a sleep medicine specialist at Group Health – a TriHealth Physician Partner.
Sleep Problems: What is the Cause?
There are more than 100 different sleeping disorders that usually fall into four main categories:
- Problems falling and staying asleep (insomnia)
- Problems staying awake (excessive daytime sleepiness)
- Problems sticking to a regular sleep schedule (sleep rhythm problem)
- Unusual behaviors during sleep (sleep-disruptive behaviors)
One of the most common sleep disorders is insomnia. Dr. Suchoski attributes this to lifestyle habits. “We’re so inundated with TV, cells phones, Netflix … we just have more things to do,” he says.
He also says the rise in obesity is another issue that causes sleep problems. People with higher body mass indexes might experience sleep apnea, which is a condition where people stop breathing for short periods of time while they sleep.
Lay Sleep Anxiety to Rest
While it’s not always possible to fall asleep at a decent hour every night, Dr. Suchoski suggests waking up at the same time every day. “If you wake up every day at the exact same time, eventually you’re going to be able to sleep at a regular time.” He also suggests:
- To avoid taking naps
- Reducing caffeine intake
- Eating a well-balanced diet
- Exercising (Avoid strenuous exercise within two hours before bedtime.)
He also says to avoid doing other activities, like watching television, or working, in bed. “A lot of people tend to make their room into their home base, where they do everything,” he points out. “That person has learned to associate their room with not sleeping.”
For those who experience problems with waking up in the middle of the night, Dr. Suchoski recommends moving to another room and doing a calming activity – like reading – and then going back to the bedroom to try sleeping again. “The longer you stay in bed, it trains us to stay awake.”
Another way to ease sleep issues is to create an environment that is conducive to sleeping. Our bodies secrete a hormone called melatonin that helps regulate our body’s circadian rhythm, or internal 24-hour "clock," which plays a crucial role in our sleep cycle. Darkness triggers the release of melatonin, while light can have the opposite effect. "Light resets your clock and tells your body that it's time to wake up," he explains.
Naps: What’s the Right Length?
While Dr. Suchoski doesn’t recommend napping frequently, he says they can be effective, if they are the right length.
“If somebody sleeps longer than 90 minutes, they’re going to be tired. Why? Because they develop what’s called REM inertia,” he explains. REM inertia occurs when someone wakes up during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep cycle.
It normally takes 80 to 90 minutes for someone to enter into a deep sleep, so he suggests napping for no longer than 30 to 40 minutes. “You’ll wake up feeling more rested because you’re only in stages 1 or 2."
Sleep Resources at TriHealth: