What’s Keeping You Awake?

Being complex creatures living in a complex world, many factors can have an impact on our sleep. Here you will find some short tips to help you make some important lifestyle changes that will lead to better sleep:

Alcohol

Because it is a depressant, alcohol will make you feel drowsy, and you may fall asleep faster, but after the effects of the alcohol wear off 4-5 hours later you will be awake and alert. A sleep influenced by alcohol is not a full or restful one. Alcohol has also been identified as a contributing factor in sleep apnea and snoring.

What you can do:

  • Enjoy your glass of wine, beer or cocktail with dinner or earlier in the evening, well before bedtime.
  • If you regularly have difficulty staying asleep, take a look at your alcohol consumption overall. Persistent use of alcohol can disrupt the sleep-wake cycle, creating regular sleep problems.
  • Reduce your alcohol use and evaluate changes in the duration and quality of your sleep.

Anxiety/Depression

Sleep disturbance is a core symptom of both depression and anxiety, both of which are treatable and common mental illnesses. In addition, too much concern about not sleeping well actually produces insomnia. The concern produces a physiological reaction that elevates blood pressure, heart rate and brain waves, resulting in a state of hyperarousal.

What you can do:

  • Find ways to settle your mind and relax before bed.
  • If you think you may have depression or anxiety, seek professional help.

Business Travel

Business travel is sure to disrupt sleep in more ways than one. Travel schedules may require you to rise earlier than usual or be up later than your typical bedtime. Travel across time zones may disrupt your circadian rhythm, making staying awake and falling asleep more difficult.

What you can do:

Onboard aircraft                

  • Drink plenty of water – not tea, soda, coffee or alcohol. Your body will need the hydration of water.
  • Fall asleep as soon as you can.
  • Set your watch to the time of your destination.

To minimize jet lag:

  • When traveling east for longer than 6 hours, take a nap upon arrival, then sty up for the rest of the day until early evening.
  • When travelling west for longer than 6 hours, keep to your same sleep and wake routine. You might wake early, but adjustment will come soon.

At your hotel:

  • Ask the hotel staff whether they have designated quiet floors. If not, request a quiet room away from the elevator, vending machines and stairwells.
  • Ear plugs and eye covers; relaxing music; and bath amenities such as lavender aromatherapy, potpourri, soaps and oils can make a difference. Pack these items or request them form the front desk.
  • Set a number of wake-up alarms – beside clock, a wake-up call placed by hotel staff and maybe a cell phone alarm. Having multiple backups will cut down on any anxiety that the wake-up alarm will be missed.

Stick to your healthy eating and exercise plan throughout your trip!

Busy Schedules

Many people say they don’t get enough sleep because there is too much to do in a single day. Because there are only 24 hours in a day, seriously consider how you can use them to your greatest benefit. Too few hours available for sleep might mean you are overcommitting yourself, making poor time-management decisions or needing to rethink some priorities.

Take a cold and critical look at where all of the hours in your day are going. For example, your schedule might look something like this:

What you can do:

  • Modify your schedule.

To modify your schedule, first identify what you have to do every day:

  1. Sleep 7-9 hours
  2. Work
  3. Perform moderate aerobic activity for 30 minutes
  4. Take 1 hour of pre-bed low-stimulation relaxation time.

Now, make some adjustments to include what you absolutely have to do first. How many hours do you have left in the day? How can you use those hours to your greatest benefit?

  • What can you do to make the best use of your time? Can you use your time more efficiently?
  • Is your work schedule flexible? It might b worth talking with your manager about modifying start and end times to ease a commute or give you more time where you need it.
  • How can you delegate and share responsibility for housework and transporting family members to extracurricular events?
  • Is it really necessary to stay up to watch the newest episode of a certain TV show?

Caffeine

If by mid-afternoon you cannot go on without another cup of energy, it might be time to look at how much caffeine you are consuming. Having too much caffeine can leave you feeling tired all day and awake all night. The National Sleep Foundation suggests that adults consume no more than 240 mg of caffeine a day. Calculate how much caffeine you are consuming.

What you can do:

  • Identify where you can begin to cut back on caffeinated beverages or reduce the types of caffeinated beverages you choose.

Children

Fatigue is the No. 1 complaint among new parent. They long for that magical age – 3 months? 5 months? 12 months? – when their baby will sleep through the night (or at least 5 or 6 hours!). And while most get their wish by the time 6 months of sleep deprivation have passed, many are surprised to learn that their children’s sleep issues continue to change and evolve as their children develop. But with the right information and strategies – and some perseverance – parents of children at every age and developmental level should be able to understand and cope with sleep challenges.

Food

Caffeine: Consuming caffeine can cause you to stay awake. Avoid it 4 to 6 hours before bedtime. Fifty percent of caffeine consumed at 7 p.m. remains in the body at 11 p.m. Coffee, tea, many soft drinks and chocolate are common sources of caffeine.

Heavy/spicy foods: These foods can cause heartburn for indigestion and interfere with sleep patterns.

Liquids: Consuming liquids within the 90-minute-period before sleep can cause frequent awaking to urinate.

What you can do:

For your last meal of the day, select foods rich in sleep-producing amino acid tryptophan, including:

  • Dairy products: cottage cheese, cheese, milk
  • Soy products: soy milk, tofu, soybean nuts
  • Pasta
  • Seafood
  • Meats
  • Poultry
  • Whole grains
  • Beans
  • Rice
  • Hummus
  • Lentils
  • Hazelnuts, peanuts
  • Eggs
  • Sesame seeds, sunflower seeds

Eating a moderate snack – made up of complex carbohydrates with a small amount of protein – an hour prior to bed can help bring on sleep. Some suggestions include:

  • Cereal with milk
  • Yogurt
  • Toast with jam
  • Peanut butter or nuts
  • Oatmeal and raisin cookies
  • Slice of apple pie
  • Scoop of ice cram

 

Grief/Loss
We all experience grief and loss at various in our lives. The shock and pain resulting from the death of a family member or a pet, loss of a job, and other losses can affect our sleep.

Sleep disturbance is a physical reaction to grief and loss. Although each person’s grief symptoms are totally unique – like a fingerprint – difficulty sleeping is considered a normal grief reaction as long as it does not last too long. Sleep problems related to grief should not be ignored.

What you can do:

  • If you are experiencing difficulty sleeping after a major loss, don’t be alarmed, but get help by going to grief support groups or grief counseling before it affects your health.
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much can be a sign of depression. Contain your EAP or behavioral health care provider if you are concerned about sleep too much or too little.

Lifestyle

A workday confined to an office doesn’t offer much opportunity for physical activity. Just like children, we also need to run around until we tire ourselves out. Moderate aerobic activity of 30 minutes a day improves sleep. There are additional benefits to your heart and waistline as well!

What you can do:

  • Run, walk or ride your bike for 30 minutes at least 5 days a week. This doesn’t mean you have to join a gym or make radical lifestyle changes – just do things a bit differently. Ride your bike in your neighborhood to get to the pharmacy or to pick up a loaf of bread. Make new friends or reconnect with old friends while walking at lunch or after dinner.
  • Look for opportunities to multitask – get active and check something off your “to do” list. For example, go up and down the stair with every load of laundry you do. The more times you are up and down the stairs, the greater the benefit!

Medications

Certain medications may be keeping you awake. Many over-the-counter products could be the culprit. Insomnia can be a side effect of some decongestants or cold medicines, diet pills, No-Doz or herbal medications. Some prescription medications can also cause or contribute to insomnia, especially some blood pressure medications, stimulants (often used to treat attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), such as Ritalin and Concerta), and some asthma medications. Other drugs that may cause insomnia in some patients include medications used to treat heart disease, opioids for chronic pain, and certain antidepressants. Provigil, which may be sued to treat conditions such as ADHD and multiple sclerosis, can cause insomnia.

What you can do:

  • Avoid taking cold medicines with ingredients such as pseudophedrine (Sudafed) and phenylephrine (cold tablets and nasal sprays) close to bedtime, or even taking them at all.
  • Talk to your doctor about your medications. Could these be causing your insomnia? She may lower the dose or advise you to take them earlier in the day.

Men’s Health Issues

Prostate health

As men grow older, frequent urges to urinate during the night can be an irritating sleep-wrecker. Mayo Clinic researchers confirm bladder function in men worsens with age, and then prostate gland may be responsible.

What you can do:

  • Limit the amount you drink in the hour before bedtime.
  • If you are urinating multiple times at night, see your doctor to improve your sleep and ward off more serious bladder and prostate problems.

Nicotine

Nicotine affects the brain in the same way that sunlight encourages wakefulness. Smoking an hour or less before bedtime makes it more difficult for your body to relax and enter into sleep.

What you can do:

  • If you are ready to quit smoking, contact your health provider for information, tools and resources that are available to support you.
  • If you are not ready to quit, avid nicotine in the hour before your bedtime.

Pets

What about the barking dog or cat that jumps onto your bed – have they ever disrupted your zzzs? A study conducted by Mayo Clinic surveyed 300 patients. Fifty-three percent of the pet owners considered their sleep to be disrupted in some way due to their pets! Most of us recognize that the sleep environment can greatly affect how (and whether) we sleep, but are you doing everything you can to make your bedroom a sleep haven? Well-rested pet owners will have more energy and love to give to their pets!

What you can do:

  • Provide your dog with a bed in your bedroom, instead of sharing your bed.
  • Limit your pet’s water intake in the few hours before bedtime (so your pet doesn’t wake you up to go outside).
  • Special considerations for cat lovers: Because cats are nocturnal, they prefer to be up at night. Keep your cat up during the day, play with your cat in the evening before bedtime, and don’t feed your cat first thing in the morning.

Shift Work

If you work nights or shift work, making sleep a priority is the key to getting healthy sleep. Try to minimize exposure to the sun on the way home from the night shift by wearing wrap-around sunglasses. This avoids activation of your internal daytime clock. Stay on a consistent sleep schedule and go to bed as soon as you can after work.

To stay happy and safe in your shift work, be aware of changes in your energy level. Work carefully and take breaks when feeling tired or less alert. Be patient with yourself and your family, especially when staring a new shift. Keep the lines of communication open, put plans in place to help everyone adjust, and maintain healthy habits so that working non-traditional hours can work for you.

What you can do:

  • Keep a consistent routine on a particular shift. When you change shifts, adjust your routine to accommodate new work hours.
  • Balance shift work and family time. Be sure to eat at least 1 meal per day with your family and make special plans for alone time with your significant other.

Sleep disorders

While there are more than 100 types of sleep disorder, the most common are:

Insomnia: Insomnia is characterized by difficulty falling asleep, awakening frequently during the night, lying awake in the middle of the night or awakening too early in the morning despite not feeling refreshed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sleep apnea can be a more serious disorder, even life-threatening. In sleep apnea, breathing stops or gets very shallow while sleeping, causing frequent awakenings, often with symptoms of choking or gasping for air. There is some evidence linking sleep apnea with obesity.

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a sensory disorder that causes an almost irresistible urge to move the legs. Symptoms most often occur when relaxed or lying down and are not necessarily confined to sleep time.

Narcolepsy is a disorder that causes a person to have difficulty staying awake. Narcolepsy can cuase a person to fall asleep suddenly during the day. These “sleep attacks” occur even after getting enough sleep at night.

What you can do:

  • To help determine whether you have a sleep disorder, first pay attention to your sleep habits and daily routine. Whether you are planning to try self-help techniques or to visit a doctor, a record of your sleep habits will prove valuable. Keep a sleep diary. A daily sleep diary should record all sleep-related information including:
  • Time you went to bed and work up (total sleep hours)
  • Quality of your sleep – times that you were awake during the night and what you did (for example, stayed in bed with eyes closed or got up, had a glass of milk, and meditated)
  • Types and amount of food, liquids, caffeine or alcohol you consumed before bed, and times of consumption
  • Feelings and moods before bed – happiness, sadness, stress or anxiety
  • Drugs or medications taken, amounts taken, and times of consumption
  • You can address most common sleep problems through lifestyle changes and improve sleep habits, but it is important to see your doctor or a sleep specialist for a diagnosis if your sleep does not improve.

Sleep environment

Temperature

Temperature plays an important role in sleep. Our bodies need to be warm enough to fall asleep, and the room temperature needs to be cool enough to keep us asleep.

What you can do:

  • Take a warm bath and put on a pair of the softest socks you own before climbing into bed.
  • Set your bedroom temperature around 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius), which is the ideal room temperature for sleep.

Turn out the lights

The flashing glow of those neon signs in films has been replaced by the LCD glow of the computer screen, the white scramble of network sign-off or the red haze of the alarm clock punctuated by flashing dots. All of this stimulation keeps our minds active and eyes open.

What you can do:

  • Power down the computer, turn off the television and turn your alarm clock around. There is nothing there to see until morning.
  • Turn out all the lights and block all light coming into your bedroom – even if that means hanging black-out shades.

Nurture your relationship – with your bed

If you have difficulty sleeping, you may begin to view your bed as anything but a place of rest. Commit to giving your bed 7 to 9 hours of your time each night.

What you can do:

  • Set a bedtime and stick to it. Read a book, meditate or count sheep s you become sleepy. If you spend more than 30 minutes in bed without falling asleep, get up and try again in 30 minutes. Keep to your bedtime ritual, though. Ultimately your body will expect to sleep when it hits the bed.
  • Set a wake-up time and stick to it. If you wake in the middle of the night, don’t look at the clock (it’s turned around anyway). Remind yourself it is still time to sleep. Keep to your wake-up ritual. Ultimately your body will anticipate when it is time to wake up.

Turn down the noise

Barking dogs, sirens, noisy neighbors or a snoring partner are just a few of the sounds that can inhibit a good night’s sleep. The intensity, regularity, intrusiveness and familiarity of noises all have an effect on sleep.

What you can do:

  • Insert earplugs
  • Listen to soft, soothing music
  • Run a fan or air conditioner
  • Turn on a white noise machine
  • Decorate your room with rugs, carpet or heavy curtains to absorb sounds
  • Install double-pane windows in your bedroom

Stress

There is no way to avoid stress. Life is – and will always be – stressful. What you can do is manage sress by minimizing its unhealthy effects.

In order to set the stage for your best sleep, you need to be able to minimize the stressful events or increase what restores you.

What you can do:

  • Look at the totals. If your restoring total is higher than your stress total, congratulations! You are managing your stress and working well to maintain balance!
  • If your stress total is higher than your restoring total, it’s time to take action. Take a closer look at the stressors you identified. Is there a pattern or a theme? Take a look at what you are not doing to restore yourself. Begin to pull from the list of what you are not doing and try some of these strategies.

Women’s Health

Women have unique biological conditions that can affect the quality and quantity of their sleep over their life span.

Premenstrual syndrome. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a group of symptoms linked to changing hormones during the menstrual cycle. Some women may be affected more than others. If you have PMS symptoms, they typically occur in the week or 2 weeks before your period (menstruation or monthly bleeding). The symptoms usually go away after your period starts. Stress and emotional problems do not seem to cause PMS, but they may make it worse. Trouble sleeping is one common symptom.

What you can do:

  • Take a multivitamin every day that includes 400 micrograms so folic acid. A calcium supplement with vitamin D can help keep bones strong and may help ease some PMS symptoms.
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat healthy foods, including fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Avoid salt, sugary foods, caffeine and alcohol, especially when you are having PMS symptom
  • Find healthy ways to cope with stress. Talk to your friends, exercise or write in a journal
  • Don’t smoke

Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen, aspirin or naproxen may help ease cramps, headaches, backaches and breast tenderness. In more severe cases of PMS, prescription medicines may be used to ease symptoms.

Pregnancy. Aches, pains, anxiety, baby’s movements, and increase in the body’s metabolism and bathroom runs keep many pregnant women awake at night.

What you can do:

  • Avoid eating large meals 3 hours before going to bed
  • Do mild exercise, such as walking
  • Avoid taking long naps during the day
  • Sleep on your left side, and use pillow between your legs and under your belly to help you get comfortable
  • Talk with your partner, friends, doctor or midwife to relieve stress.

Menopause. Menopause is a normal change in a woman’s life when her period stops. During menopause, a woman’s body slowly makes less of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. If you are near menopause, you may have symptoms form the hormone changes in your body. You might start having trouble getting a good night’s sleep. Maybe you can’t fall asleep easily, or you wake too early. Night sweats might wake you up. You might have trouble falling back to sleep if you wake during the night.

What you can do:

  • Avoid alcohol or caffeine and spicy or acidic foods, which can trigger hot flashes in some women
  • If night sweats wake you, try sleeping in a cool room or with a fan on
  • Dress in layers that you can take off if you get too warm
  • Use sheets and clothing that let your skin “breathe”
  • Talk to your doctor about treatment for symptoms that are keeping you awake

Work

Are you working smarter – or longer? Advances in technology and the rise of the global market have been both a help and a hindrance. Are you working 24/7 in the office and at home? When you short-change yourself on sleep, you will short-change your employer, too. Accidents, cognitive impairments and poor decision making are all linked to insufficient sleep. Is that how you want your work to be judged?

What you can do:

  • Accept the idea that you can’t do it all. It is your responsibility to make your best effort to manage your time well and work smart. When you have too much to do it is your responsibility to talk with your manager. Are co-workers, associates or interns available to share the workload? Create a plan and suggest it to your manger.
  • If you need to work outside of your scheduled work time, do so with limits. Step back to assess how you spend your time and consider how you can set parameters. Unwind, relax and be involved with your family, friends and leisure activities.

Worry

We all worry at times. But some people are worry experts, locked into daily, uncontrollable worry. While the themes may vary with age and from person to person, the common thread is the same: chronic and exaggerated worry over situations and topics that can’t be turned off at will. These thoughts can interfere with daily life functions such as sleep.

What you can do:

  • If you are chronically worried or fearful, you may have an anxiety disorder. Ask yourself some questions: Which situations cause anxious feelings? How long have you had these feelings? Is the worry reasonable?
  • Contact your behavioral health provider once diagnosed, anxiety disorder is highly treatable. Treatment methods include medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Over-processed

From the drive–thru to prepackaged dinners to school lunches to even infant formula, processed foods are everywhere. And while it’s clear a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains supports health, more research is concluding that processed foods do the opposite.

Experts warn against the dangers of MSG (monosodium glutamate), a primary ingredient in processed foods. Visceral fat, which scientists say forms in response to high doses of glutamate in the system, is thought to be a cause of hypertension, obesity, insomnia, and diabetes. And a recent study found that a diet high in processed foods causes depression and inflammation, a risk factor for heart disease. What can you do?

  • To minimize your exposure, cut down on eating out. There are currently no regulations on MSG labeling, so restaurants don’t have to fess up. You can remove this unknown variable by dining in.
  • Stay as close to the original state as possible. An organic apple from a local farmer maintains its raw integrity, while individual packs of applesauce are farther from their purest form; a store-bought apple pie is even farther. Keep your plate full of mostly natural earth-grown foods.
  • Opt for frozen produce over canned — which usually has added salt or syrup. Sub–zero crops are picked at their ripest and flash-frozen to retain nutrients, without additives.

Sleeping Pill Dangers

Sleep researchers say as many as 50 percent of American adults report chronic sleep problems. New research looks at prescription sleeping pills, and the findings may surprise you.

Another night, another battle with “The Sandman.” A new University of California study finds you could pay a big price if you fight insomnia with prescription sleeping pills.

University of California sleep researcher Dr. Daniel Kripke says, “People who take sleeping pills regularly have about the same risk as people who smoke one or two packs of cigarettes a day.”

Using data from the study of one million people, Dr. Kripke says prescription sleeping pills are dangerous. “People who take sleeping pills do WORSE the next day. They have poor judgement and slow reaction times,” he says.

Kripke reports chronic users of prescription sleeping pills are also three times more likely to die a premature death than non-users. Other sleep specialists disagree, saying Kripke’s findings are unusual, and more studies are necessary to confirm the results.

So what should you do? Experts say stick to a regular bedtime. Get out of bed if you just can’t sleep, and check with your doctor for underlying problems that cause sleep disturbances. Even chronic insomniacs can tame sleeplessness.

Until more studies are done, Dr. Kripke says he doesn’t know for sure if any prescription sleeping pill is safe. If you absolutely must take them, don’t do it for more than four weeks in a row. There’s even some evidence that sleeping pills may not work as well even after just two weeks. It’s a short-term solution, at best.

Common sleep disorders

What are the most common sleep disorders and does it differ with age groups?

It’s different with age groups with the disorder somewhat in the mind of the beholder. For example, a teenager’s mother would say the kid sleeps too late and never gets out of bed. The kid is actually fine. And all college kids are sleep deprived but that’s not a serious disorder. There are two general types, you would call them disorders. One, is people who can’t sleep well, insomnia, which usually is not a serious disease and usually is a reflection of some underlying stress in someone’s life or depression. A huge number of the population, intermittently has a little bit of insomnia. A Gallup Poll in 1991 found that thirty six percent of adult males have some type of insomnia. And, nine percent have chronic sleep difficulty. So, thirty six percent have some difficulties intermittently.

What qualifies it as insomnia and not just a little trouble sleeping?

If it takes you more than thirty minutes to fall asleep. That’s one definition of it. But that’s a common problem. Everybody complains about that periodically and what’s the best thing to do if somebody has it is just to reassure them that it’s normal and don’t worry if you don’t sleep for a few days. You will usually get over this.

What are the recommendations to do, to not go to sleep and keep lying there or what do you do?

The general recommendation is to not stay in bed awake for more than ten or fifteen minutes. If you can’t sleep, get out of bed, go into the other room, turn a light on and read or do something. Don’t do your taxes or anything like that but do something kind of mindless for fifteen or thirty minutes and then go back to bed. And that works for most people. Every once in a while people are going to have a restless night and not sleep well and they’ll be all right.

When does it become dangerous, can insomnia cause accidents or accidents at work? Or, is it sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is the real serious problem. Some studies found that it’s dangerous for driving. Sleep apnea is a condition in which the throat collapses during sleep and people can’t breathe until they wake up. And studies have shown that nine percent of men and four percent of women stop breathing over fifteen times an hour during sleep. That’s astonishing. And if it happens enough they can have accidents at work. People who have a lot of this, have a higher rate of automobile accidents than normal.

What are some of the treatments for sleep apnea?

Three quarters of the people who have sleep apnea are overweight. If they lose weight it will get better and disappear. Now most people cannot lose enough weight to make it disappear but they should try. The best and most uniformly effective treatment is called nasal CPAP, continuous positive airway pressure. And that’s a mask that goes over the nose, is attached to a hose which is attached to a little box that has a fan in it that blows air into their nose. It works, works for everybody. That’s the good news, the bad news is people have to sleep with it all night. Most people do surprisingly well with it although studies have shown that the average duration of use is only about four point seven hours per night. And it’s enough to get them through the worst part of the night.

Are there any sleep disorders that are so serious or get to the point of needing medications?

One disease is narcolepsy and that’s a condition in which the boundary between wakefulness and REM sleep is blurred. And most people think of REM sleep, that’s when you do most of your dreaming. And people with narcolepsy for one thing they don’t sleep very well at night and they may when they are awake have this REM sleep intrude upon their wakefulness when they are laughing or angry. For some reason or another they start going into a partial REM sleep, when you are in REM sleep your muscles become limp and so they fall to the ground and their face droops and all. There’s medication that can prevent that.

Narcolepsy is a disease that we don’t really understand. They can’t find anything wrong with the brain and it’s probably an imbalance in neurotransmitters or something is not quite working right up there.

The least understood problem in sleep is what is sleep for. We can spend six to eight hours a night and we still don’t know what causes it, we still don’t know why. We know in animals if they don’t sleep they die. Nobody has ever done that with humans. But you feel bad and you don’t function well but we don’t know how that happens. We don’t know what the chemistry is, we just don’t understand it.

People do differ but there have been studies that if you take somebody who gets five hours, six hours sleep a night and you make him sleep eight hours a night when you do a test the next day they are not as sleepy. So there is some data that suggests that people do better with eight hours of sleep rather than with six. But there are people who function quite well and will only get six hours of sleep at night.

What about restless leg syndrome?

Restless legs is what happens during the day when you feel you have to keep your legs moving. And people who have that frequently have what’s called periodic limb movements during sleep. And it’s similar to what we all experience sometimes when we go to sleep, you’ll jerk and wake yourself up. Well some people do this all night long. Some people wake themselves up, some people jerk all night long and they don’t wake themselves up. And this is another disorder that is not completely understood. We have no idea-one of the interesting things about these jerks, these periodic limb movements is that they’re rhythmical. They occur generally every twenty to eighty seconds or so and it’s kind of like a clock. And we don’t know where the impulse generator for this is. We don’t know whether it’s in the brain or whether it’s in the spinal cord. There’s one doctor who thinks there’s something in the muscle that starts it and then the circuit goes up and around. And we just don’t know what causes it. That can be caused by certain drugs, by withdrawal from certain drugs and that is also a disease if it’s not caused by drugs, it can be treated by a drug.

What is yawning. Most vertebrate animals experience yawning and then it says it’s most common when we’re sleepy and bored. Scientists have not identified a function of yawning but at least in a human it does seem to be contagious since observers are likely to yawn when they spot someone else. They say in this sense yawning is a type of social behavior that is largely involuntary.

The most important thing about sleep disorders is that they are common, that they can interfere with people’s lives. They can cause automobile accidents, they can cause accidents on the job or they don’t even have to do that.

What are the three or five symptoms to look for if you think you have sleep apnea?

Loud snoring, gasping for breath, if somebody else is in bed with you they should look to see if you stop breathing, excessive daytime sleepiness, and presence of high blood pressure is suggestive. And also obesity, people who are overweight are more likely to have it than people who are not overweight. So those are the key things.

Experimental Drug for Insomnia

A new study shows an investigational compound called ramelteon can significantly reduce the time it takes older adults with insomnia to fall asleep. About 60 million Americans suffer from insomnia, and about half of older adults experience insomnia symptoms regularly. Researchers from the Sleep Disorders and Research Center in Detroit randomized 829 seniors between ages 64 and 93 in a five-week study. Participants either received four milligrams of ramelteon, eight milligrams of the drug, or a placebo. Participants completed questionnaires every day about how they slept.

Analysis showed those who received ramelteon estimated falling asleep much more quickly than those on placebo. Additionally, patients did not have rebound insomnia, nor did they exhibit withdrawal symptoms after going off the drug. Researchers say, “Improving sleep in older adults is a very important health issue. Far too often, older adults and their physicians accept the myth that poor sleep is a fact of life — that it comes with aging.” They conclude, “We are extremely pleased with the results of this study. We think the data are particularly exciting and may add to the potential for ramelteon to provide another option for older adults living with insomnia.”

What are antioxidants and what do they do?

That’s a very good question. They are both natural substances and synthetic substances that help treat free radicals in the body. Free radicals are a natural byproduct of some cellular metabolism. They’re useful for the immune system for killing foreign cells and bacteria; but if the situation gets out of control, they can be harmful to the body. A free radical is a substance that has lost an electron and is therefore an unstable ion. What it wants to do is become stable again. So it attacks a cell that’s close to it and takes an electron from that cell. Then a game of hot potato starts. A cascade of events occur leading to death within a cell. This causes premature aging and can lead to cancer. Antioxidants are substances that protect plants, for instance, in the environment. For example, they protect plants against smog, environmental pollution and ultraviolet radiation. These same properties that protect plants can be used to protect humans. With consumption of nutrients found within plants — such as vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene — these natural substances called antioxidants donate electrons and therefore neutralize the harmful effects of free radical damage.

If it works, why aren’t more people taking green tea? Are there any negative effects associated with it?
Green tea has caffeine in it, and caffeine doesn’t agree with certain people. For instance, it can lead to insomnia. It can lead to fibrocystic breast disease in women. It can lead to frequent urination. It can lead to elevated cholesterol and a host of other health problems. It can become addictive. Nevertheless, you will be pleased to know that green tea has one fifth the amount of caffeine that a typical cup of coffee has and one third the amount of caffeine that black tea has. Furthermore, there are extracts available which are virtually caffeine-free. As for why more people don’t take green tea, I don’t think they know about it. The Chinese have known about it for over 4,000 years, but it’s just now becoming available in extract form. People who may not want to drink the six to nine cups of tea that are needed to get maximum benefit can now take it in an extract form — in a capsule form.