Posted tagged ‘sleep deprivation’

I’m Dizzy with Sleep Debt

May 31, 2012

So although I’m a sleep expert, unfortunately that doesn’t make me immune to the havoc that life events can wreak on sleep health. My usual healthy 8.3 hour average sleep which leaves me energetic and sharp all day has plummeted to a mere 6.5 hours over the last week. I’m not alarmed, as identifiable events are interfering with my sleep, and I know that once those settle down my sleep will easily bounce back. Today I’m feeling the effects of acute sleep deprivation, a perfect chance for a blog post.

During acute sleep deprivation, people can feel a variety of somatic symptoms, like stomach or head aches. Others may feel dizzy or have difficulty concentrating. And of course there are performance decrements which we’ve discussed previously, and health problems too.

For me, today, the sleep loss is making me feel slightly dizzy, ravenously hungry for sugar (which is more difficult to resist than usual), my eyes feel irritated, and I’ve been making errors like hitting the wrong elevator button, and feel I need to work extra hard to pay attention while driving. My temperature control also seems to be off.

Now 6.5 hours of sleep nightly for 5 nights is not bad for many people. About 30% of American workers report getting less than 6 hours on work nights. What I wonder is whether people who are habitually sleep deprived get accustomed to the feelings of sleep debt, so that it becomes their normal? Granted I’m not a good person to say, both because I spend more time thinking about sleep than average, and because I’m usually well-rested, so can really notice the effects of sleep debt.

Today and the rest of the week I’ll keep my healthy sleep habits in place, and not worry about it, knowing my sleep will get back on track in a day or two. Until then, sugar anyone?

Mommy’s Sleep Holiday

February 1, 2012

Pretty regularly, women who are desperate for sleep come to me. These women say things like “I’m losing it,” “I’m going to go insane if I don’t get some sleep” or “I can’t take this anymore.”

Most of them are mothers whose sleep is being regularly disrupted by their children. You may think of mothers with infants or toddlers, but this isn’t always the case. Just last week it was a mom of 3 tweens who was being interrupted in the night, and felt completely frazzled because of it.

If this is describes you, or someone close to you – Take It Seriously! When people are so sleep deprived that they are “desperate for sleep” they need help, and soon. Professional sleep help may be needed, however, sometimes a few nights for a ‘Sleep Holiday’ can do wonders.

What do I mean by ‘Sleep Holiday?’ Arrange a few (2-3) nights when the mom can sleep completely uninterrupted. This can make a huge difference helping her feel more emotionally calm, rested, and better able to problem solve and stick to a plan to help her children sleep more independently. (Note – although it’s typically mothers who I see in this situation, it could easily be fathers, or anytone in the position of caregiving in the night).

For those 2-3 nights, arrange for the mother and children to sleep in different places – assign mom the guest room on another floor, better yet, have the children go to grandmas, or mom to go sleep at a hotel or a quiet friends house. The mother should go to bed at her earliest usual time, and sleep until she is done, without an alarm. Do all the things we’ve talked about to make the bedroom an ideal place to sleep, and turn off all phones and alarms.

For mothers who are breastfeeding, it may not be possible to have such long breaks from night-time caregiving, but is just as important. Figure out a strategy that will work for your family to get mom some long periods of uninterrupted sleep. Possibly mom can do the first feeding of the night, then dad can give a bottle later in the night. Even just using this strategy on weekends will result in a better rested mom.

Again, if you or your loved one is feeling ‘desperate for sleep’ take it seriously, and make a plan for them to have a ‘Sleep Holiday’ with less interruptions immediately, starting tonight.

Sleep and Moral Judgement

August 4, 2010

Ever noticed that when you haven’t been getting enough sleep, you have more difficulty thinking? We already knew this was true for many types of cognitive function, from mental math to logical reasoning. Also mood regulation and even humor are impaired when we don’t get enough sleep.

New research looked at moral reasoning in a military setting, where sometimes very difficult choices must be made. (Think ‘whether to attack insurgents in a setting succounded by civilians,’ the example given by these authors). This study had cadets respond to 5 moral dilemmas by rating 12 different decision making items. The cadets did this twice, when getting normal sleep, and with only 2.5 hours for the last 5 nights.

The people who made their judgements based more on principles when rested, shifted into more rule-based and self-oriented reasoning when sleep deprived.

This study has important implications for those situations when sleep deprived people are having to perform in a situation that involves moral dilemmas. For instance, military, police, other emergency workers. Can it also have relevance for more common situations, when we are faced with doing the right thing (or not)? Maybe so, something to think about.

Olsen. SLEEP 2010;33(8):1086-1090.

Sleep Well in 2010

January 2, 2010

So . . . ’tis the season for making New Year’s Resolutions. Here’s my healthy sleep resolutions that will help make this the best year ever!
1. Get enough sleep each night, enough so I am ready to get up and start the day with enthusiasm!
2. Stop work, TV and computer about an hour before bedtime so that I can unwind before lights out, and fall asleep easily.
3. Schedule my work day in accordance with my circadian rhythm – mentally hard work in the morning and late afternoon, with filing and less demanding tasks during the mid-day circadian dip (for me this is about 1:30-2:30pm)
4. Keep my bedroom a great sleep environment – cool, dark, quiet, and without all that clutter which makes me think of my ‘To Do’ list rather than sleep.

What sleep resolutions will you make this year?

Dr. Catherine Darley is director of The Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine in Seattle. More at http://www.naturalsleepmedicine.net

Ahhh . . . 10 hours of Sleep

December 29, 2009

The last two nights I’ve gotten 10 hours of sleep each night, and it’s been fabulous. All day I’ve had lots of energy, a sharp mind, and a sense of humor. All those things a person gets from being well-rested. A quote by Ovid comes to mind “Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.”

A friend asked is it normal to sleep 10 hours? Here’s my answer.

Given how 47% of Americans get less than the recommended amount of sleep each night, it is thought that many people have an accumulated sleep debt. (One expert is said to have estimated the average American has a 50 hour sleep debt).  So sleeping longer once in a while will help.

However, some people are considered “long sleepers.” These are folks who sleep 10 to 12 hours for at least seven nights in a row.  This typically begins in childhood, and over their life they consistently need more than the typical amount of sleep.  Their sleep architecture and stages are normal, and there are no other signs of disorder.  About1.5% of women and  2% of men are long sleepers.  These folks tend to be slightly anxious or depressed.   It is thought that these people are on the high end of the normal continuum of sleep needs.

If you are one of the people who have a chronic sleep debt, or are a long sleeper, either way, get ready for the new year by getting the sleep you need – it will make all the difference!

Dr. Catherine Darley is a naturopathic physician who specializes exclusively in the treatment of sleep disorders using natural medicine.  Learn more at www.naturalsleepmedicine.net.

Optimal Sleep

October 21, 2009

The Most Common Sleep Problem

Once again, in 2008, insufficient sleep was the most common sleep problem in America.   More than 47% of adults and 57% of children get less than the recommended amount of sleep each night.   This chronic partial sleep deprivation can have global health effects, some of which we’ve discussed in past newsletters.   Here are some of the effects:

    – appetite regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin are disordered, causing increased hunger, increased appetite for high caloric, high fat and simple carbohydrate foods, and weight gain
    – physical agility, coordination and reaction time are impaired, contributing to drowsy driving auto accidents
    – irritability and mood impairment increases
    – memory, concentration and creative problem solving are impaired

The Optimal Sleep Test

We’re raising awareness of insufficient sleep by sponsoring The Optimal Sleep Test.   Sleep optimization is done by researchers to determine how much sleep is ideal.   During sleep optimization participants spend much more time in bed and allow themselves to sleep as long as they can, and wake on their own without an alarm.   Participants will commonly sleep hours extra for the first couple weeks, and then their sleep will settle into a regular nightly amount.

To do The Optimal Sleep Test:
1. Start at the beginning of your weekend, and continue for at least 5 nights.
2. Set your bedtime close to your regular bedtime, maybe 30 minutes earlier.
3. Make your room as dark and quiet as possible, consider turning down phone ringers or other sounds that may disturb you.
4. Allow yourself to sleep as late as possible in the morning, waking without an alarm.
5. At the end evaluate the symptoms above and see how they’ve improved.

You may find that the added sleep benefits you to the point that it is worth having fewer active hours in exchange for feeling better during the time that you are awake!

Prevent Drowsy Driving

October 20, 2009

Planning ahead before driving will help you reduce your risk of drowsy driving. Get adequate sleep the night before. Try to travel long distances with a companion who can take turns driving and can help you stay alert with some good conversation. Plan enough time so you can take plenty of breaks – at least every 2 hours or 100 miles on long trips. Avoid alcohol and sedating medications while driving.

While you are driving if you are yawning, constantly blinking, or find your head nodding those are signs that you are drowsy. Mentally you may not remember driving the last few miles, you may feel irritable, or experience wandering, dream-like thoughts. You may drift in your lane or even hit the side rumble strip.

If you experience any of these symptoms Stop and Rest! Even a twenty minute nap can hold drowsiness off for a while. You can also use the alerting effects of caffeine. A good plan is to pull over, drink a caffeinated drink and take a 20 minute nap. Because it takes about 30 minutes to feel the effects of caffeine this plan will provide the benefits of both the nap and caffeine. (Be aware that caffeine is less effective in people who regularly drink a lot of it).

Although it is just the end of October, soon the winter holidays will be in full swing. Let’s help make this a happy holiday season for everyone by getting enough sleep to be a safe driver, and making other arrangements when those holiday festivities cut our sleep short!

Children are Sleep Deprived

September 21, 2009

Children are sleep deprived just as adults are – 27% of children get less sleep than they need each school night. How much sleep does a child need? Preschoolers (ages 3 to 5) need about 11 to 12 hours, children aged 6 to 12 need 10 to 11 hours, and high school students need 9 to 9.5 hours.

If a child doesn’t get enough sleep they can have mood and behavior problems. For example, they may be irritable, overly emotional, have difficulty cooperating or controlling impulses. Teens especially will take more risks when they are sleep deprived.

School performance is also impaired by sleep deprivation. It becomes more difficult to pay attention, creativity declines, and memory is impaired. Certainly not what we want for our children in school!

Tips to help your children get the sleep they need:
If you suspect your children are not getting the sleep they need to feel good and do well in school there are steps you can take today to improve their sleep.

First, set a consistent wake up time for your child. The time you wake up is the most important for setting your body clock. Next, get them to bed 15 minutes earlier every couple days, until they awaken refreshed on their own. When a preschool or grade school child is getting enough sleep they will be able to awake on their own (this may not be true of teens, more on teen sleep another time).

“Screen time” in front of a computer or television can interfere with easily falling asleep both because of the bright light and because it is mentally stimulating. So establish a bedtime routine that does not involved the TV or computer.

Caffeine stays active in the body for 6 to 8 hours. Ensure your child is not having any caffeine after noon to help sleep well at night.

Overweight and Sleep Deprived

September 17, 2009

Weight Loss
Recent research has established that when a person is sleep deprived by even just a few hours (say sleeping 6 hours a night), their appetite and metabolism are affected. When you are sleep deprived you will feel more hungry, and want to eat more fatty and starchy foods than when you are well rested. Also your blood sugar regulation will change, so that your blood sugar is higher than when you get adequate sleep. For those of you who’d like to lose weight, make it easier to make healthy food choices by getting the sleep you need.

Are you sleep deprived?
If you must always be awakened by an alarm, find yourself yawning through the day, or have low energy you may be sleep deprived. Recent polls of Americans showed that 16% of Americans are getting less than 6 hours of sleep per night, and 27% characterized themselves as not getting the sleep they need.

To remedy sleep deprivation try going to bed slightly earlier each night, until you feel energetic and ready to start the day when the alarm goes off. Keep your wake time the same each day, as this is most important to set your body clock. Ideally you will get to the point that you will wake up ready to go even before the alarm! That will be a great feeling!


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