By Richard L. Peatman, Pharm.D., Meadow Vista Pharmacy
Sleep, marvelous sleep. It’s one of those things you might take for granted—that is, until it eludes you. How much sleep is needed varies greatly by age and from individual to individual. Newborns can sleep away three-fourths of the day. Toddlers and preschoolers need 11 to 14 hours of sleep each day. This need gradually declines until adulthood, when most people require around 7 to 8 hours. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 70 million Americans experience insomnia. Unfortunately, a lack of sleep can cause more than just a tired feeling; it can have serious effects on your health. In the past decade, studies have shown that insufficient sleep can put you at risk for diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and immune dysfunction.
You might find your sleep interrupted by night sweats during menopause or a bed partner’s snoring. Still others have conditions such as sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome. A serious breathing disorder, apnea is marked by loud snoring and periods when breathing briefly stops. Restless legs syndrome is a neurological disorder that causes uncomfortable sensations in the legs. Seek medical treatment for problems like these.
You can do many things to improve your sleep. For starters, keep regular bed and wake times, even on the weekend. And use your bedroom only for sleep. To prepare your body for sleep, avoid stimulating activities and substances during the evening hours. This includes alcohol, heavy eating—especially spicy or high-sugar foods—fluids, nicotine, or caffeine. Be sure to exercise, but do it at least a few hours before you go to sleep. Make the time right before bed really relaxing—with calming activities and soft lighting. Wearing earplugs or an eye mask or using a fan or heavy curtains may also create an environment more conducive to sleep. If you use night-lights, make sure they’re not too bright. No matter the cause, it can’t hurt to discuss your sleep problems with your health care provider. Before your visit, make a log of when you nap or sleep. Also include exercise and what you drink or eat, especially in the evening hours. Prescription, OTC or herbal medication may interfere with sleep so make sure to list what you are taking and what OTC medications you have tried for sleep, such as valerian, melatonin or Sominex®. Sleep medications may be an option if your insomnia is interfering with your daily activities. Your health care provider has a wide range of treatment options available to help with insomnia.
What’s new for insomnia sufferers? There are devices on the market that now allow you to track your sleep at night including REM, deep sleep and total sleep time. Software makes recommendations on how to improve your sleep and a charting function allows you track how well you are doing. One such device is Zeo Sleep Manager®. Check it out at www.myzeo.com.