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5 Habits of Sleep Pros:
At times, it can seem like everyone on Earth is getting plenty of sleep – but you. Some people have what it takes to
drink two cups of coffee and still go in their room for a nice little nap, while you struggle to nod off after 48 hours of
sleep deprivation – how do they do it?
Sleep pros know there are five habits they have that you might not. This is the competitive edge they use to get
plenty of rest each night. If your sleep deprivation isn’t due to a medical condition, try implementing these tactics
into your everyday routine to see if it helps you get your Zs.
Sleep Pro Habit #1: Stick to a Schedule! If you’re trying to go to bed at 8 PM one night and 2 AM the next, your
poor body can’t get on a steady cycle of sleep. It needs a routine so that it can differentiate between daytime tasks
and nighttime rest.
Sleep pros who get in bed at the same time each night and wake up on schedule each morning program their
bodies to relax, like a science! If you want to include naps in your schedule, make sure they’re at the same time
each day, too. Just be aware that naps can impede your nighttime sleep if they’re too long.
Sleep Pro Habit #2: Just Say “No” to Stimulants! You might recognize you have trouble sleeping, but don’t even
think that 24-ounce Coca Cola you had at 9 PM could be the cause.
Caffeine, as well as other stimulants like electronic gadgets (video games, Television, and the Internet) can all
contribute to your sleeplessness. Avoid products like alcohol, tobacco, chocolate, and sodas during the evening
hours – save them for the daytime when you’re telling your body it’s okay to be alert and awake.
Sleep Pro Habit #3: Move Your Body Toward Sleep! Exercise may be the medicine you need to engage in a deep
slumber tonight. Insomnia occurs less frequently in those who exercise on a regular basis for at least 20-30
minutes a day.
You don’t want to exercise near bedtime, but in the morning or afternoon instead. Studies have shown that many
sedentary individuals who suffered from insomnia found their sleep disorder disappeared once they began an
When you exercise, you’re relieving tension and increasing your body’s production of endorphins. You don’t have
to exercise vigorously – a moderate walk is enough to aid you in your quest for sleep.
Sleep Pro Habit #4: No Napping! Just as eating in between meals ruins your appetite, napping between deep
sleep can prevent many sleep disorder sufferers from being able to fall asleep and get a full night’s rest.
For some, a nap is just the medicine they need to re-energize for the day, but if you’re suffering from sleep
deprivation, a nap may cause more harm than good. Even though in the beginning you may feel extremely sleepy,
try to save your slumber for the middle of the night and not for a mid-day luxury.
Sleep Pro Habit #5: Don’t Go Back for Seconds! It’s a Thanksgiving ritual for many – stuff yourself so full you
have no choice but to waddle down the hall and flop into bed for a nap.
But eating too much – especially near bedtime – can wreak havoc on your sleep schedule. Being overly stuffed
with food can make sleeping uncomfortable, and if you’re one of the unlucky ones to suffer from indigestion, it can
be a painful experience, too. Instead, eat just enough to quell your hunger and go to bed satisfied, but not
Not every sleep pro solution will work for everyone. The key is to find what works for you. Make lifestyle changes,
keep records of your sleep quality, and seek out help from your doctor if signs and symptoms worsen.
5 Essentials for a Good Sleep Environment:
Anxiety, stress, jet lag, a medical condition - all could be causes of a sleep disorder or impairment. While treatment
of such problems will vary from person to person, a good sleep environment is never a bad idea.
By creating such an environment, it could prove the necessary first step on your road to a better night’s sleep (and
all the positive effects that come with it). Here are five essentials to keep in mind when creating your own “good
1. Keep the Bedroom a Place of Rest: These days, many of us have notebook computers, wireless Internet, and
other mobile devices that make it possible for us to transform any room into an office.
But if you suffer from a sleep disorder, make sure you keep your bedroom a bedroom - a place of rest away from
work and play. Don’t allow the bedroom to become an office, a playroom, or a TV room. Those who suffer from
sleep disorders need to eliminate all distractions in the form of noise, light, or activity.
2. Ideal Temperature: When creating a good sleep environment, you need to make sure you minimize any
discomfort. Being too cold or too hot can disrupt a comfortable sleep and once disrupted (for a person with a sleep
disorder) it may be difficult to get back into a deep slumber.
Keeping the room at a constant, ideal temperature will help you get and stay asleep. While it’s debatable as to what
the best temperature is, it can be agreed upon that anything about 75 degrees Fahrenheit is too warm and
anything below 54 degrees, too cold.
Try a median between 60–70 degrees (65) as a compromise, but the deciding factor should be you personally and
what you find to be “ideal.” If you keep kicking the covers off or shivering yourself awake, adjust the temperature
until it’s just right – and make note of what that number is for you.
3. Comfortable Bed: One symptom of a sleep disorder or impairment is tossing and turning during the night, and
one reason you may be restless is because your mattress is uncomfortable.
As with most anything in life, what’s “right” for you (and your back, your posture, your comfort) is specific to your
body. However, research has shown that supple mattresses may be more conducive to a good night’s rest versus a
Definitely avoid sleeping on a lumpy mattress if it can be helped. A new mattress may be in order if you’ve outgrown
your current one, either in size or comfort. If you have a spouse who prefers a different type of mattress, consider
getting the type of bed where each of you set the mattress to your perfect number.
4. Keep the Clock Out of Sight: If you can, try to keep your clock out of sight. Set your alarm and then put it
somewhere else or turn it away from you - out of your general view. For instance, instead of having the clock on the
nightstand, put it on the dresser in the far corner.
If a clock is visible, you may find yourself staring at it or waking up periodically to look at it. If you’re making an effort
to create a good sleep environment, it means that you’re aware of an impairment.
If you’re trying to break the cycle of sleeplessness, then it’s important that you don’t focus on time. Seeing how
early it is or how little time has passed, can only lead to frustration.
5. No Lights: Remember that a dark bedroom can help your body “know” it’s time for rest. Light triggers a lot in us
and is associated with our waking hours. To help the body adjust to a regular sleep cycle, make an effort to
distinguish between daytime and bedtime.
When it’s time to sleep, keep light sources to a minimum, including when you get up to go to the bathroom. As with
a TV, computer, or video game, you’ll want to avoid anything that can stimulate your brain or body out of rest. Even
if your eyes are closed, light in your bedroom can disrupt your sleep.
If these steps are taken, in addition to noise reduction and a few other considerations, such as making a separate
sleeping area for pets (that are used to sleeping with you) – then you should be on your way to eliminating some of
the factors that may have been contributing to your persistent sleep problems.
De-Stressing Before a Snooze:
If you’re suffering from a sleep disorder, such as insomnia, and would like to begin treating it, one way is to create a
relaxing routine that might help your body recognize it’s time to sleep.
For certain disorders, such as Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) or Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome (ASPS),
relaxation might not be the answer - but for some, de-stressing before a snooze could prove to be the right
Think about what relaxes you. Is it a warm bath? Reading in a chair? A cup of steaming hot herbal tea? There are
a number of self-help stress techniques to consider and finding the right one may take some time.
The investment will be well worth it, because it may mean better sleep that results in less fatigue, drowsiness, or any
of the other symptoms associated with sleep deprivation. Once you discover the right technique for you, try to
integrate it into your daily routine.
If it’s a cup of herbal tea, try to drink a cup about 30 minutes before you’re ready for bed. The tea should not only
relax you due to its herbal properties, but also because it’s now part of a routine.
If you can stick to a particular schedule, then your body will hopefully adjust to it so that when you take your nightly
cup of tea, your body’s internal clock will know that it’s just about time to power down for the day.
As for the many other de-stressing techniques that might help you, consider reading a favorite book, taking a warm
bath, or meditating. Meditation can help relax you, as well as provide you with focus for your slumber.
Meditation techniques come in various forms, but the underlining aspect of the method is that it helps you channel
your thoughts. Through meditation, you get an uninterrupted line of concentration that shuts out distractions that
could be hindering your sleep process.
Related to meditation is self-hypnosis, which can take the form of repeating words or suggestions in your mind, over
and again. This repetition may help lull you into slumber. Visualization, which is engaging in another type of mental
journey without outside distraction, is another way to try to relax yourself prior to sleep.
These de-stressing techniques can help you slow the body’s processes down, helping to create a bridge between
your waking and sleeping moments. Easing into sleep can only be helpful if it works on a consistent basis. Keeping
a sleep diary can help you stay on task.
When you begin your battle to defy a sleep disorder, just remember that you shouldn’t expect to fall asleep right
away. If you know ahead of time that it may take a little time to find the right solution, it will lessen the frustration you
feel in your quest for sleep.
Does Your Sleep Attack Without Warning?:
Chronic sleep disorders can be paralyzing, depending on their severity. Narcolepsy is one of the most damaging
sleep disorders because it strikes without warning, sending you into a sudden state of sleep. This sleep disorder
can begin younger than 10 years of age, on into your 30s. It’s rare for it to show up in your 40s or later.
A narcoleptic person can’t stay awake for any long period of time – even if they’ve had plenty of sleep the night
before. It’s difficult to enjoy your personal life, let alone manage your professional responsibilities at work.
Narcolepsy sometimes gets misdiagnosed as everyday depression, fainting, or seizures. There’s no known cure,
but there are ways to manage this particular sleep disorder and lessen the symptoms you experience.
You’ll know if you have narcolepsy if you find you’re abnormally sleepy during the daytime, but not the usual
sleepyhead syndrome many people feel. A narcoleptic individual will feel an uncontrolled need to sleep, and they’ll
nod off without warning for anywhere from a couple of minutes to a half hour or more.
It can be humiliating to fall asleep when it’s not the right time or place, and many who suffer from narcolepsy enroll in
counseling to help them cope with the sleep disorder and how it affects their life with friends, family, and co-workers.
Another sign that will emerge will be cataplexy, when you lose control of your muscles. You might slur your speech
or hang your head, or even fall when your legs give out from beneath you. This symptom can occur daily – or only
once or twice a year.
Narcolepsy’s symptoms don’t end there, unfortunately. Some people are paralyzed right before or after their
sudden sleeping spells – they can’t move or talk – which is very frightening to you and anyone else watching it
Some people also hallucinate if they have narcolepsy because they fall into a fast REM sleep. They’re half awake
and half dreaming, which can be scary depending on what type of dream you’re having at that moment in time.
Lapse of memory can occur with narcolepsy, too. You might be carrying on with your tasks as usual, but
unknowingly you’ve had a sleep episode, so you forget what you just did. You wake up and see that you’ve
accomplished something (usually not as well as you would if you were fully awake) and you know it’s due to the
No one really knows what causes narcolepsy, but scientists believe it may be genetics coupled with uncommon brain
chemicals that respond to triggers in your environment. They think narcoleptics may have imbalances in the
chemicals that regulate sleep, such as a low level of hypocretin, which tells you when to wake up – and stay awake.
If you think you may have narcolepsy, then your doctor will conduct a series of tests to find out if it’s true. You’ll fill
out a standard sleep questionnaire and may enroll in an overnight sleep study where they place electrodes on your
scalp to monitor your sleep cycles.
It’s important not to ignore this sleep disorder because it can have potentially harmful consequences. Aside from
affecting your personal and professional relationships, narcoleptics run the risk of wrecking their cars while driving
or causing a fire in their home, such as when they fall asleep in the middle of cooking with hot oil and grease.
If you’re found to have narcolepsy, then you have several treatment options to consider. Everyday stimulants may
not be enough to keep you awake, so your doctor might prescribe something stronger, like Provigil.
Antidepressants are often prescribed because they suppress REM sleep and aid in the elimination of cataplexy,
paralysis, and hallucinations. Or, your doctor may have you start taking sodium oxybate, which does the same thing
antidepressants do, but also helps with nighttime sleep.
You also have to be very cautious about making lifestyle changes that can help you control this disorder. Make
sure you read labels on medications to see if they cause drowsiness. Simple things, such as making a schedule
that includes naps, exercising, and avoiding substances like nicotine and alcohol can curb the effects of
Don’t feel like narcolepsy has to control your life. Talk to others about what you’re going through and adhere to a
safe routine that ensures you won’t harm yourself (or others) if a sudden sleep attack should occur.
How to Eat to Sleep:
There are over-the-counter sleep aids, prescription medications, and techniques you can use to train yourself to
have better sleep habits. But one area you may not have considered is controlling your sleep success through your
We like to joke about having to nap after a Thanksgiving turkey dinner, but there’s some truth behind that kidding.
There really are foods that help you sleep – and some that keep you awake, so if you’re suffering from a sleep
disorder, you’ll want to consider your food choices carefully!
Certain foods create a calming effect on your brain, while others rev it up for more activity. Turkey is a sleep-aiding
food, because it contains tryptophan, an amino acid that your body uses to produce serotonin, which calms your
brain and helps you sleep.
It’s kind of like sewing a piece of clothing – you can make a shirt without a needle, thread, and fabric. Your body
needs tryptophan to help it create neurotransmitters like serotonin and melatonin, which result in a restful sleep.
When you combine tryptophan-laden foods with carbohydrates, it helps the body absorb it so that you sleep better.
Regular high-protein diets can keep you awake if they’re no paired with carbs because proteins contain tyrosine,
which wakes you up!
To leverage your food choices, try to pair proteins and carbs the way you want your body to work throughout the
day. Choose higher protein meals in the morning and afternoon, and eat more carbs in the evenings closer to
You can’t exclude the tryptophan because an all-carb meal will defeat the purpose, keeping you awake even more.
If you can sneak some calcium into your evening meal, you’ll reap even greater rewards, since calcium helps the
brain use the tryptophan.
Foods that are high in tryptophan include beans, chicken, dairy, eggs, hazelnuts, hummus, lentils, meat, peanuts,
rice, soy, seafood, sesame and sunflower seeds, and whole grains. So a perfect evening snack might be whole
grain cereal with milk or even oatmeal cookies with milk.
Full meals could include veggies with meat or chicken, chili and beans, or pasta with cheese. Just remember that
when you over-indulge on a meal, it may cause you to not sleep as well – since your digestive system will be working
When you eat tryptophan, the sleep-inducing effects won’t take place immediately. It takes about 45 minutes to an
hour for you to begin feeling drowsy, so eat early in the evening.
Aside from tryptophan, there are other foods you should be aware of in regards to how it affects your slumber, like
caffeine for instance. Caffeine can be found in many products – even your over-the-counter cold medicine! It
stimulates your nervous system, keeping you awake – even when you don’t want to be.
Keep a food journal to see how your nighttime meals affect your slumber. If you discover that certain foods keep
you up at night, try to move those to the early menu of your day and reserve the evening for foods that are “sleep-
How to Get Back to Sleep Once You Wake Up:
Having a sleep disorder that’s ongoing can be very frustrating. You’re sick of being irritable, tired of feeling sleepy
all day, and too exhausted to think straight and find a solution on your own.
Your anxiety about not sleeping will build over time. As one night turns into one month, you begin to panic, and
when you wake up in the middle of the night, your anxiety contributes to you not being able to get back to sleep.
First, think about why you’re not sleeping soundly through the night. Try to remedy any exterior distractions, such
as the alarm clock light that glows in your face, the noise you hear outside from the traffic, or a pet that routinely
crawls in and out of your bed, waking you up every couple of hours.
Sometimes it’s a habit that you need to change. You may think you’re doing yourself a favor going to bed at 7 PM,
but because it’s so early, it might actually be causing you to wake up too early.
Whatever the cause – the solution you seek when you’re awoken during the middle of the night is to get back to
sleep. But how - when your frustration is at an all-time high? Make sure you don’t add anything stimulating to the
Flipping on the TV or turning on the light to read a book is only waking you up further. You want to do something
relaxing, but don’t lay in bed fuming over the fact that your sleep partner’s snoring woke you up again.
Instead, try visualization or self-hypnosis to calm your nerves and help you fall back asleep. You can release
tension to start the visualization process by tensing and releasing different parts of your body, such as your fists,
your toes, your shoulders, and more.
Then begin a series of deep breathing exercises. Breathe in deep through your nose and exhale through your
mouth. Some people like to focus solely on their breathing to fall back asleep, while others prefer to visual a tranquil
scene, like a brook running through a lush forest.
Others like to visualize themselves in the scene, such as a warm day at the beach, listening to the waves roll in and
out. If this helps you, try to concentrate on all of your senses during the visualization process.
If you’re unfamiliar with self-hypnosis or visualization, you can invest in some downloads or CDs that provide
instructions and guidance in the process as well as ideas and sounds to set the scene for you.
Identify Your Sleep Impairment:
One of the challenges of treating a sleep impairment is first recognizing that you have one. Many of us shrug off the
symptoms, refusing to treat them as anything serious. In some cases, we may tell ourselves “get more sleep,” but
this is easier said than done.
To be successful, you need to make a concerted effort to fix the mounting problem: a lack of sleep. If not, then the
only thing that will pass is time. Here’s a quick primer of common sleep disorders to give you a head start on
identifying your sleep deprivation issues:
Insomnia: A common sleep disorder that’s defined by sleepless nights. You may have difficulty getting to sleep
and/or staying asleep and as a result, you often wake up feeling tired. Fatigue is a warning sign, which can lead to
irritability, drowsiness, and daytime sleepiness.
Sleep Apnea: Though there are three types of sleep apnea, the most common is “obstructive sleep apnea,” which
occurs when enough air isn’t able to get through your mouth/nose and into the lungs.
As a result, your breathing will grow shallow and in some cases, cease completely – at least for a few seconds. This
tells your body to re-trigger the breathing process, so you may snort, cough, or snore.
You’ll resume sleeping, but it’s been interrupted, so the quality isn’t there and you’ll begin seeing signs of sleep
deprivation. Not everyone who snores suffers from sleep apnea.
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS): If you suffer from RLS, you’re literally unable to rest your legs, just as the name
implies. For a number of reasons - including a burning, crawling, or tingling sensation – you may feel the need to
attend to your legs. By moving them, the sensation is addressed, but the result is a restless sleep.
Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD): Similar to RLS, if you have PLMD, then you move often during sleep.
However, unlike RLS, the movement is involuntary. The limbs move periodically in twitches or jerks.
This usually takes place in the legs, but for some, the arms are also affected. These movements – though you may
be unaware of them – lead to a restless sleep. Upon waking up, the deprivation is apparent through the moodiness,
fatigue, or drowsiness that you feel.
Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS): If you’re suffering from DSPS, it seems as if your circadian rhythm (an
internal 24-hour cycle) is off by half a day, and you’re unable to sleep during nighttime hours. As a result, you need
to sleep during the day, which can seriously interfere with your lifestyle - from work to quality time spent with the
Narcolepsy: A dangerous disorder defined by excessive sleepiness during the daytime, as well as periods when the
body’s muscles are weakened into a state of cataplexy. You’re at risk when you’re doing everyday tasks, like driving
a car from Point A to Point B, since a narcoleptic attack could occur at any time.
In addition to these sleep impairments, there are also others - such as snoring, seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.),
night terrors, and sleepwalking. All of them can lead to sleep deprivation and each is sure to have a physical,
mental, or emotional impact on your life.
It’s important that if a sleep disorder is present, that you identify and address it quickly. You may have to try different
methods to find a solution that works best for you.
Medicating Your Sleep Woes:
When sleep deprivation continues for a long period of time – even days in a row – you may be willing to try anything
just to give you the ability to catch a few Zs. Before you get desperate, make sure you understand how each option
The first thing many consumers do when a few nights of sleeplessness cause daytime drowsiness is head for the
pharmacy for some over-the-counter solutions. Sleep aids can often help initially, but they don’t get to the root of the
A sleep aid shouldn’t be used as your cure. It might help you function initially, but you want to find out why you’re
having sleep issues. Having to rely on a pill to get some sleep isn’t the best option for your health.
Some people get dependent on the pills and can’t sleep without them. Others see too many side effects from the use
of sleep aids, or they wind up with complications due to how it interacts with their prescription medicines.
Over the counter sleep aids usually work using an antihistamine, which is what doctors use to treat allergies. They
make you feel sleepy and help you stay asleep. Some people report feeling sleepy the next day, so it could
interfere with your sleep cycles.
Side effects can include constipation, dizziness, memory loss, blurred vision, and dry mouth. As you grow dependent
on them, your need for a higher dosage increases. A doctor might prescribe something stronger, such as a non-
These help you feel sleepy by revving up the natural chemical process of your brain. If you want a sleep aid for long-
term use, they’re safer than using over-the-counter, short-term remedies, but they can also lead to an addiction.
It’s rare these days, but your doctor might prescribe a tranquilizer if your sleep disorder is severe enough. These
slow your nervous system down to make you sleepy. It’s a short-term solution that can leave you feeling groggy the
You might be put on antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications that act as sedatives if your doctor feels it’s the right
choice for you. These are common, but don’t have the same potentially addictive features as the other prescription
If you want to forego the medical options and choose something more natural, then you might consider an herbal
treatment for your sleep disorder. Certain herbs have a reputation for aiding in sleep, such as chamomile, which can
be consumed in a tea form.
Valerian root, melatonin, and SAMe are other herbal alternatives you can try. Make sure you take the proper doses,
because sometimes even too much of a good thing can sometimes result in unwanted side effects.
Still Can’t Sleep?:
Sometimes you try your hardest to address our sleep issues on your own. You go to bed on time every night,
eliminate caffeine, try hypnosis, and even get a prescription – but sleep isn’t in your repertoire.
If this happens, you need the help of professionals who can help you get to the root of the problem and diagnose
your sleep disorder so that you can find a solution that will work for you.
A sleep study may or may not be covered in part (or fully) by your insurance provider – because some consider it
elective participation, even if your lack of sleep is causing medical issues. Check with your insurance company to see
what kind of coverage they offer for sleep disorder studies.
Most sleep studies are performed at a sleep study center, but some companies will come to your home and set up
monitors in-house so that you stay in a sleep setting that’s normal for you. You’ll be hooked up to some wires so they
can monitor your sleep and you’ll relax and hopefully fall asleep so they can capture the data they need.
They’ll be conducting a PSG (Polysomnogram) where they record the physiological data while you sleep. This
includes an EEG (electroencephalogram), EOG (electrooculography), EMG (electromyography), EKG
(electrocardiogram), as well as your respiratory patterns, limb movements, and other variables.
When you go, you’ll be asked to bring two-piece pajamas so they can easily hook up the electrodes. You won’t be
able to wear any hair products such as conditioner, hairspray, or gel.
They’ll probably ask you to not drink caffeine after noon and bring your usual medications with you. Most sleep study
centers allow you t bring entertainment materials like books or magazines as well as your favorite pillow.
If you’re having the sleep study done on a weeknight and have to go straight to work the next day, make sure you ask
whether or not the center has showers for you to get ready. Some don’t, but you’ll be out early enough to have time
to go home and get ready for your workday.
After your night’s sleep, the sleep study will have a professional analyze the data and forward your results to your
doctor. They’ll take note of your brain waves, heart rhythms, eye and leg movement, and oxygen levels.
The doctors will be looking at what makes you sleepy, how long it takes you to fall into a deep sleep, and what causes
you to awaken during the night. Armed with this information, you and your physician can make a decision about the
course of treatment that best suits your situation.
The Danger of Sleep Deprivation:
Not getting enough sleep can have a definite impact on your life. Whether it’s from insomnia, sleep apnea, Restless
Leg Syndrome (RLS), or another sleep disorder, the danger of sleep deprivation is undeniable, manifesting in both
minor and major ways and creating problems for your work, school, and day-to-day activities.
Your body requires a certain amount of sleep in order to function properly and if it doesn’t get enough, it will naturally
try to find ways to reconcile the problem. For many, a solution isn’t always easy to find.
Many people don’t even recognize they have a problem to begin with, failing to note the subtle symptoms and then,
not taking the time to investigate the possible causes. If your body doesn’t get a sufficient amount of sleep, the
effects can begin with fatigue and overall drowsiness.
You may feel tired during the day, which could ultimately impact your physical and mental health. For older people,
sleep deprivation typically means that restorative sleep is lacking so their bodies aren’t recharging properly for the
next day. This pattern accumulates until it becomes a true medical condition that requires attention.
Another physical effect that a lack of sleep can result in is weight change - in particular, weight gain. One of the
benefits of quality sleep is that your hormone levels are regulated.
But if you suffer from sleep deprivation, then your hormone levels grow to be imbalanced and as a result, some of
your psychological processes – such as appetite – also change. You may feel hungry when you’re not - or in some
cases, not full when you are.
Chronic sleeplessness can also lead to depression, irritability, and impatience. Unfortunately, emotional frustration is
one symptom that people may feel they don’t need to address.
Some may even fail to see how their mood swings and emotional outbursts or breakdowns are linked to sleep,
choosing to assign the blame elsewhere and focusing attention away from the real cause: a lack of sleep.
The dangers of sleep deprivation to one’s physical and emotional well-being range from slurred speech and anger to
a slow breakdown of the body’s immune system, making you susceptible to injury, the common cold, and more.
Have you ever driven your car while drowsy? The inherent danger is obvious. And while it may be a dramatic
example, it’s also one that’s all too common - a powerful illustration of how important it is to get enough sleep.
Proper sleep is a vital component to being healthy and it needs to be treated with the same concern and care that
your other healthcare issues receive. The consequences of ignoring your sleep deprivation could be harmful to
yourself or another person, depending on the circumstances.
Using White Noise to Mask Sleep Interruptions:
If you have difficulty getting to sleep and are easily disturbed, you may want to consider using white noise to help mask
noise that seeps into your resting place. This type of sleep therapy is known to help people who are awakened by
peripheral noise, such as traffic from the street or a noisy neighbor.
White noise can help mask these other noises so that you can sleep through them, ideally enabling you to achieve a
more restful slumber and the benefits that come with it. White noise is also useful for those who have trouble sleeping
when it’s “too quite.”
What is white noise? It’s not simply soft ocean waves or the soothing sounds of the autumn wind blowing through the
trees. Technically, it includes all sound frequencies within the range of human hearing combined.
It’s similar to the color white being produced from a combination of all other colors, which may be why they call it white
noise. The “noise” is random, meaning it doesn’t have rhyme or reason unless it’s manipulated.
It doesn’t follow a pattern like normal sound does. Rather, it’s mixed up and in constant transformation, creating the
“swooshing” effect that our ears absorb. According to experts, the reason why white noise is so soothing is because
the masking effect produced covers all other sounds – from high to low pitches.
If your sleep is being disturbed by a dog barking outside, white noise theoretically can help muffle, mask, or cancel-out
that sound. On a whole, white noise sounds relatively high-pitched to us (though at a “hum”).
The reason why it doesn’t keep us awake is because the noise essentially overloads our auditory systems and for
most of us, provides a distraction from competing sounds. It prevents us from zeroing in on any one sound, so we
simply become “numb” to them all.
While we may think of white noise as being tranquil sounds from nature, it’s actually closer to the sound a fan makes.
Pure white noise can be “tuned” to more closely resemble these soothing, familiar sounds.
An ocean wave gently rolling onto shore or a light rain against the windowpane are sounds now easily found on white-
noise CDs that are sold in stores, which also holds the advantage of volume control and repetition. Set your CD on
repeat and let the white noise help you sleep through the night.
Other forms of white noise include a ceiling or box fan, static from a radio or a furnace or air conditioner with a low
hum. There are also actual white-noise or sound-conditioning machines, which serve a specific purpose of helping
you find the sleep you crave.
Some white noise CDs contain a number of different “scenes” to choose from. All are composed to create an oasis of
relaxation and ultimately promote sleep. Find the one that best lulls you to sleep and end those days of feeling tired,
drowsy, and irritable.
When Good Limbs Go Bad:
You’re lying there in bed and all of a sudden, you can’t suppress the urge to move your legs. It makes it hard to fall
asleep. Or maybe you lucked out and fell asleep early in the evening, but awaken because your arms or legs began
The disruption in quality sleep can be frustrating if you have Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) or Periodic Limb
Movement Disorder (PLMB). Although RLS is something you control, the urge to move your limbs is so great you can’t
even begin to think of sleeping.
Here are some facts about both disorders along with some helpful information on how to treat it if you suspect one of
these may be the root cause of your sleep deprivation:
Restless Leg Syndrome is a sleep disorder where your legs are so uncomfortable that you want to move them to make
them feel better. Moving the legs makes the feeling go away, but it returns once you try to relax and fall asleep again.
You’ll know if you have Restless Leg Syndrome if you notice a sudden urge to move your legs because they feel
jittery, like they’re burning, or as if something’s crawling on them. It will occur when you’re sitting or lying down. If you
move your legs and it feels better, it’s assign you might have RLS.
Some people can simply stretch out or change positions in bed, while others have to get up and walk around. There’s
no known cause for RLS, but the disorder often runs in families. Scientists are honing in on the chemical dopamine,
since it’s what manages your muscle movements.
Controlling RLS may be as simple as controlling your stress, which appears to worsen the symptoms. A doctor can
diagnose RLS through a series of questions, but there’s no simple test to confirm it.
To treat it, you’ll want to make sure you have your doctor check to see if you’re suffering from an iron deficiency,
because many RLS sufferers have found that their symptoms disappeared after their iron levels were brought back to
Your doctor may prescribe medications similar to what Parkinson’s or epilepsy patients receive. Or, he may
recommend a simple muscle relaxant. Lifestyle changes will also be in order, such as cutting back on stimulants like
You can help curb the tendency to move your legs by using hot and cold packs, pain relievers, or a warm bath.
Meditation, Yoga, a relaxing environment, and exercise also contribute to the elimination of RLS symptoms.
Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (or Syndrome) is when your legs and/or arms move involuntarily while you’re
asleep. This can sometimes wake you up, and if you have a sleeping partner such as a spouse, it can disrupt their
sleep as well. Sometimes people with RLS also suffer from PLMD.
PLMD occurs sporadically and can strike any age group, although it’s more common in older adults. There are two
kinds of Periodic Limb Movement Disorders primary and secondary.
Primary PLMD is when there’s no known cause, while secondary PLMD is the result of another medical issue, such as
diabetes, sleep apnea, anemia, and narcolepsy. Someone who suffers from PLMD may not know they’re doing it,
since it occurs during sleep.
It’s usually pointed out by a sleeping partner or sleep study expert, who notes that the sufferer jerks their knees and
legs, or thrashes around while sleeping for a couple of seconds. Although the person may sleep through it, their deep
sleep is disrupted, resulting in daytime drowsiness.
There’s no cure for PLMD, but many medications work to suppress involuntary muscle movements. If you have
secondary PLMD, then your symptoms may disappear for good once the underlying medical condition improves.
If you’re dealing with primary PLMD, then you may see symptoms return periodically even after they’re under control.
You might be able to get relief without medicating yourself by trying simple relaxation techniques and optimizing your
sleep environment. A combination of therapies could help banish the restlessness in your limbs for good!
When Snoring Intrudes on Your Slumber:
Snoring can wreak havoc on your sleep schedule – whether you’re the one with the snoring issue, or the person lying
next to you is causing the noise. It can become a serious medical condition if the snoring is something more – sleep
apnea, where the person’s snoring halts their breathing and causes them to gasp for their next breath.
If you’re sleeping next to a snorer, then you may not be in full control of the solutions you consider. Many couples find
the sleep deprived spouse routinely moves into another room, wears earplugs, or spends all night tapping the snorer
on the shoulder to interrupt the snoring and allow them enough time to get to sleep.
It can be torturous to sleep next to someone who snores, because it’s like having someone constantly stand there
waking you up throughout the night. You might get very irritable and feel guilt for getting mad at someone who can’t
control their noise level during the night.
The person doing the snoring (which may or may not be you) needs to find a solution that will quiet the snoring and
allow them – and the ones they love - to have a peaceful night’s sleep.
Snoring is so common that about one-third of adults seek solutions for this issue every year. It may happen nightly, or
only on occasion, such as when you’ve had alcohol before bed.
It’s caused when the air flows into your throat past the soft tissue, resulting in a loud vibration. People who are
overweight may suffer from snoring more often than those who are not. Shedding pounds is often enough to shut
down the snoring cycle for good.
Some people have resorted to sewing tennis balls in the backs of their pajamas to forcibly keep them on their side,
since snoring is more prominent when the person is lying on their back.
Nasal strips and oral appliances can sometimes work. These keep your nasal passages or airways in your throat open
to allow your breathing to continue without interruption. If sleep apnea is an issue, where your snoring fits suddenly
stop with your breathing until you gasp for air, then you might want to consider undergoing a sleep study so you can be
fitted for a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine. This mask pumps air into your airways, keeping
them open to prevent snoring and interruption of breathing.
As a last resort, you might consider getting surgery to address your snoring issues. All three surgeries aim to do the
same thing – remove tissue obstructions to help you breath better during slumber, but each one uses a different
Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) is the common surgery done under general anesthesia where the doctor trims your
airways of tissue that could be obstructing your breathing.
Uvulopalatoplasty, or laser surgery, is another option where a laser beam is used to remove your uvula. It removes
excess tissue just like traditional surgery, allowing air to flow without the loud, disruptive vibrations snoring usually
Somnoplasty, which is also known as radio frequency tissue ablation, is when a surgeon uses low intensity radio signals
to take out part of your soft palate – enough to end snoring and allow air to flow freely.
Talk to your doctor if non-surgical remedies aren’t working and see what type of options he or she can offer to help you
(and your loved ones) find some peace and quiet during the night.
Will a Sleep Diary Give You Answers?:
Whether you’re part of an official sleep study or you just want answers for yourself, one tool that will help you find the
sleep that’s eluding you is a sleep diary. One of the most frustrating issues of having a sleep disorder is the not
knowing why it’s happening to you.
A sleep diary can help you pinpoint the reasons you’re not getting enough rest at night. There is no exact right or
wrong sleep pattern, but having a diary that chronicles your clumber will help you see when (and why) your sleep
schedule is making you feel deprived.
When you’re suffering from sleep disorders, your mind may not function as clearly as it does when you are getting
enough sleep. A diary will help you remember the details of why you woke up, or what caused you to have trouble
You’ll need to record certain elements about your sleep, not just whether or not you got any. You’ll want to jot down
your pre-slumber routine - were you watching Prison Break or cleaning house right before bed or did you have a fat-
laden, high-caffeine meal 20 minutes before you got into bed?
Your diary can reveal habits you haven’t picked up on. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. A simple piece of paper
with grids can be all you need to create a record of your sleep. You don’t even need to be exact with timelines – if you
know you went to bed around 10 PM, write it down – don’t worry if it was 9:55 PM or 10:12 PM.
Keep track of the times you wake up and what made you wake up. Did you get out of bed when you woke up? What
did you do? When were you able to go back to sleep? All of these answers help the sleep study clinic (or you) hone in
on what you’re doing right or wrong.
Try to keep a record of when you went to bed and woke up, how often (and for how long) you woke up during the night,
what medications you were on, what you ate, any naps you took during the day, and when you felt drowsy versus when
you were alert and awake.
Note to yourself whether you felt refreshed or fatigued when you woke up the next morning. Keep track of what you
consumed during the day – caffeine, medications, food, etc. At different times of the day, try to note how you feel –
energetic or exhausted?
Go over your sleep diary and see what changes you can make in your lifestyle habits to help alleviate your sleep
disorder. If you don’t see anything apparent to your knowledge, then take the sleep diary to a doctor and have him or
her read through it to see if a professionally-trained medical professional can find the issues you need to address.