Archive for the ‘sleep deprivation’ category

Sleep Health in the News

March 30, 2011

It’s been fun the last week to talk with several folks in the media, both here in Seattle and on the web.  Here’s the links:

Interview about sleep & social skills with Linda Thomas of KIRO news
radio will air Weds, 5-8am, 97.3 fm

Interview on sleep needs & performance with Michael Harthorne of KOMO
community news

Interview about insomnia with Myrna Sandbrand, RN on BlogTalkRadio

I love to talk to people about sleep health, the may ways it impacts their well-being, and what to do to improve sleep.  If you’d like a speaker for your group let me know,

Sleep In America Poll – Using Technology

March 7, 2011

The new Sleep In America Poll came out today, the first day of National Sleep Awareness Week 2011.

This poll was all about our use of technology during the hour before bed, our nightly sleep, and daytime function. Here are some of the highlights:
– 63% say that during the week their sleep needs are not met
– 60% say they have a sleep problem almost every night
– 95% of us use technology during the hour before bed a few nights a week or more
– 20% of 13-29 year olds say they are awoken by a text, phone call or email several nights a week
-22% of 13-18 year olds are clinically sleepy
– About 10% of 13-45 year olds say they drive drowsy 1-2 times a week

Even the light from your TV or laptop is enough to suppress melatonin. During the hour before bed your melatonin should be increasing, allowing you to become sleepy and fall to sleep easily. The time for bright light is in the morning to get energized.

Want a Better Social Life? Then Sleep Well

March 2, 2011

So, what has to happen to have a good social life? People need to think you are somewhat attractive, you need to be able to read others’ emotions, and you need to be a pretty good person.

All these aspects of a good social life are impacted negatively if you don’t sleep well. Research this last year has shown that when people are sleep deprived they:
A) are considered less attractive than when they are well rested
B) are less able to discern happy and angry emotions from anothers’ facial expression
C) are more likely to put their own interests above others when making moral or ethical decisions.

So, we already knew the many ways poor sleep or sleep deprivation impacts our physical health and performance. Now we’re starting to learn how our social abilities are impacted too.

My next thought is about the high number of children who are sleep deprived (80% of highschool students). Since this is a time when they are learning social skills, what is the long-term impact of being sleep deprived at this critical time?

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 vs. TV

June 8, 2010

In June 2009, Drs. Basner and Dinges published an article titled “Dubious Bargain: Trading Sleep for Leno and Letterman.” Is this something you can relate to- staying up late to watch your favorite show even when you know you’re tired?

The relationship between exercise and sleep
The U.S. Census Bureau has a continuous telephone survey of 105 million households. It is called the American Time Use Survey (ATUS). This paper looked at how people spent the 2 hours before bed, and the 2 hours after getting up. They grouped people into 3 categories: Long workers (>8 hours daily), short workers (<8 hours) and non workers.

An estimated 20-40% of adults sleep less than the recommended 7+ hours each night. Remember that measured sleep is usually less than reported sleep, so these estimates may be low. Short sleep duration is associated with increased illness and obesity. The researchers’ goal was to determine if there are discretionary activities that can be eliminated to increase sleep time.

Among the three groups, bedtime was the same, and the long workers got up earlier than the others. People watch TV for 55 minutes of the 2 hours before bed. Travel and work took up 27% (about 30 minutes) of the 2 hours after waking for the day.

The authors conclude that watching TV may be an important social cue of approaching bedtime. They also conclude that “giving up some TV viewing in the evening should be possible to reduce chronic sleep debt and promote adequate sleep in those who need it.”

A Mother’s Sleep Dilemma

May 8, 2010

Unfortunately, being a sleep expert doesn’t make one immune to sleep difficulties. Having been a life-long good sleeper, all my sleep difficulties began with motherhood.

Many mothers in my naturopathic sleep medicine practice tell me that they stay up late so they can have some time to take care of tasks, talk to their partner and relax. Then they get up early with their child, which leaves them burning the candle on both ends. Nationally, 62% of parents report that they get less sleep than they need. As we’ve talked about in other posts, insufficient sleep can negatively affect mood, physical health and ability to function in many ways.

This is something I’ve struggled with myself. So this week, in the spirit of Mother’s Day, I’ve tried a new routine in order to give myself the gift of being well-rested. Shortly after my young daughter goes to sleep, I also go to sleep. The payoff has been waking up 1-2 hours earlier, and having some time all to myself. At that time of day I’m mentally sharp and full of energy, a great trade-off for those evening hours when I was so tired.  The focused time is a wonderful way to start the day, whether it be spent on organizing the day, catching up email, yoga or meditation.

Though it seems like there just aren’t enough hours in the day for mothers, getting enough sleep makes the hours we do have so much better. Would this strategy work for you?

More information about Naturopathic Sleep Medicine can be found at

Falling Asleep at the Wheel

March 3, 2010

Several years ago I had a neighbor who worked odd hours. Sometimes she’d work in the day, sometimes leave for work at 4pm, and sometimes she’d be in her office for more than 24hrs. Our kitchen and dining room looked out onto her driveway and front door so we frequently saw her coming and going.

And thank goodness we could see her! Several times she pulled into her drive in the morning after being gone all night, and fell asleep right there in the car, with her head on the steering wheel and the engine running. We’d go and wake her when we noticed that the engine wasn’t turned off.

This is just one example of the dangers of drowsy driving. What would have happened if she’d fallen asleep on the road, or if nobody had been there to wake her up?

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

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

Sleep and Chronic Pain

October 28, 2009

How Chronic Pain and Sleep Interact

Do you know someone who suffers from chronic pain?  It may be back pain, headaches, pelvic pain, fibromyalgia . . . many types of pain sufferers also experience sleep disruption.  Unfortunately, people can get into a cycle in which pain disrupts their sleep, and insufficient sleep makes pain worse.  This may seem logical, but let’s look more specifically at pain and sleep interactions.

A few chronic pain conditions are known for sleep disruption.  One of them is fibromyalgia.  70% of fibromyalgia patients have sleep complaints, and one study found that 27 of 28 had sleep-disordered breathing.  When the breathing was treated with CPAP, patients had a 23-47% improvement in symptoms.  80% of cluster headache patients are found to have obstructive sleep apnea.  For those patients who experience insomnia due to pain, it’s been shown that Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment (CBT-I) will improve their sleep, and may slightly decrease pain.

How to Minimize the Effect of Chronic Pain on Sleep

When people are in pain and their sleep is disrupted, they may feel like they need to catch some ZZZs whenever they can, even during the day. 

  • As best you can, maintain the difference between daytime activity and nighttime rest.  Stay awake and engaged during the day, and be sure to get bright light, preferably outside.  During the night, keep lights out, and minimize your activity.  This will help consolidate your sleep in the night. 
  • If you need to rest or lay down because of pain do so somewhere other than your bed or bedroom.  Make yourself a comfortable spot in the living room, maybe an easy chair or day bed.  This maintains a strong association of your bed as someplace to sleep. 
  • Get tested for sleep disorders if necessary, especially as discussed above. 
  • If you are taking prescription pain medications, be aware that some of them can cause sleep disruption.  You may want to ask your prescribing doctor to review your medications, and switch them if appropriate.