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Healthy Sleep Choices (Sleep Hygiene)

Posted on: September 6th, 2013 by raworkin No Comments

There is beauty all around us.  We can only appreciate it fully through a well-rested body and mind.  What we take in to our body–sights, sounds, foods–and then how we allow our body to rest and repair itself through sleep, are the keys to a healthy life.  The choices we make determine our success of that goal.vineyard landscape

In our 24/7 availability to access the world through electronic means, our choice to invade our sleep environment with light-producing devices is just one of those ‘bad’ habits we have adopted. It affects the regularity of a sleep time. It can ‘push’ our brains through that normal time of sleepiness, or keep it busy with ‘thoughts’ that we have trouble turning off.

We take into our bodies caffeine, nicotine or we exercise at the wrong times.

Alcohol we know relaxes us, and assume that is good for sleep—but, it has been shown to adversely affect our ability to maintain sleep. Alcohol can also initially relax the upper airway muscles to the point that temporary sleep-robbing obstructive problems or snoring are caused.

People have commented on the follow-up to our observing their sleep, that they ‘slept better’ in our controlled environment. We have questioned as to the cause and come up with the fact that, for some:

1) our rooms are kept cooler than theirs at home,

2) excess light is controlled,

3) the linens are clean every day,

4) pets are not allowed,

5) the bed is not shared with a partner, and

6) we try to minimize excess noise levels.

In those studies where a partner does sleep in the same room, we do see the interrupted sleep from the partner getting up in the night, or snoring, or has other noise-producing movement or ‘talking’.

So, to aid for better sleep, some conditions you can easily change in the home (temperature, light, changing linens, etc), whereas, others may be more challenging and involve tough decisions.

Pets, we love, and in return we are given companionship and affection—but, a pet does not understand the need for sleep, nor can they control their movements or snoring or their need to go ‘outside’. So–for those who do struggle with their sleep, they must weigh the benefits of that received love and affection versus the sleep that can be robbed from sleeping with pets.

Dealing with partners has its own set of choices. Snoring, leg movement, and other interruption-causing activities of your sleep-mate can make getting a good night’s sleep difficult. The hard choice of separate beds or separate bedrooms are decisions that have been taken by couples to help achieve adequate sleep.  The Smart way of addressing these choices is to discuss them openly and kindly.

The single most interrupting choice that I have observed over the years, is sleeping with the televisionold-36723_640No on. It is one of the things we do not insist on controlling(in the sleep lab), but we do identify the interruptions that TV causes. I don’t think most people realize how much the flashing lights and the sounds from the television affect the brains ability to get its rest. The brain monitors its environment for safety. The ears pick up and transmit sound (from the TV) which the brain has to analyze and respond if needed. The variable flashing of the light produced in the room, the eyes pick up; and again, the brain has to analyze that. Some say it helps lull them to sleep, initially—and use of a timer is sometimes used. Others cite that it is a safety measure, i.e., if a threat of, say, a potential home invader sees activity of a television being on, then the TV may act as a deterrent (someone is awake, so their element of surprise may be eliminated). For others, it is just one of those ‘bad’ habits that has been adopted as a requirement for their sleep.

So, the choices we make, voluntarily, can either be detrimental to our achieving good sleep or help us change our environment to make it ‘BETTER’, and help us initiate and maintain sleep.  Adopting these good ‘sleep hygiene’ practices may be an affordable and effective first step in helping those who struggle with sleep.

Stay tuned as we look at other causes that affect our sleep and helps that, if tried, may enable better rest.  After all, it is better experiencing our world–seeing it through rested eyes!

The Choices We Make (Sleep Hygiene)

Posted on: September 6th, 2013 by raworkin No Comments

A good cause of our difficulties in sleeping can be traced to the choices we make and the habits we keep—some of which are not obvious. Let me start by directing you to something called “sleep hygiene”. These first-step ‘tips’ address practices that have been shown to help promote better sleep and identify other practices that we think help—but actually, do not.


Tips for “Sleep Hygiene”

 1.  Set regular sleep times – the goal is to go to bed and get up at the same time every day(weekends and days off included); it helps train your body when to sleep

2.  Sleep when you are sleepy – goal is to go to sleep when you are tired; avoid staying in bed when you are awake

3.  Get up/Try Again – If you don’t achieve sleep after 20-30 minutes, get up, do something boring or relaxing, without too much stimulation and avoid bright lights; try again when you feel sleepy

4.  Avoid caffeine/nicotine – coffee, tea, sodas, chocolate and the nicotine in cigarettes can act as stimulants; avoid them 4 to 6 hours before bedtime

5.  Avoid alcohol – avoid consuming alcohol 4 to 6 hours before bedtime; the relaxing effect wears off and affects the maintenance of sleep

6.  Use the bed for sleep – use your bed for sleeping and sex so the body associates the bed for sleep. Avoid watching TV, reading, using electronic devices, paying bills, etc.

7.  Try not to nap – if you have to nap, limit it to 20 minutes and before 3pm; sleep is accumulative

8.  Establish a routine – 15 minutes before bed, develop a ritual to signal your body it is time to sleep; relaxation techniques or breathing exercises or having a favorite, non-stimulating drink

9.  Warm bath/shower – warmth of a bath or shower and the cooling down of the body’s temperature has been shown to be associated with sleepiness

10.  Don’t watch the clock – try not to worry about what time it is or how much time you have slept; don’t let the light of the numbers on the clock interrupt the darkness

11.  Keep a sleep diary – when trying to determine the facts about your sleep, use a diary for a period of time, rather than relying on assumptions

12.  Regular exercises – first thing in the morning can help establish a regular wake time; avoid strenuous exercises within 4 hours of bedtime

13.  Eat healthy – a balanced diet helps promote good sleep; avoid a heavy  meal too close to bedtime; a light snack or that favorite drink may satisfy the empty stomach

14.  Make it comfortable – keep the room temperature cooler and add blankets or  layers for warmth; use curtains or a mask for light control; use earplugs to block out noise

15.  Keep a regular daily routine – even if you did not sleep well, keep to your normal planned day and don’t avoid activities because you feel tired


These tips for ‘sleep hygiene’ can be found many places, can be worded differently, but they all follow a similar theme.  It is a Smart place to start toward sleeping better.  Stay tuned!

Difficulty Sleeping

Posted on: September 3rd, 2013 by raworkin 6 Comments


   877106_67680462_good_sleep  Oh, sweet slumber.  Why Sleep? We really don’t understand the need for it; but, we do know the consequences

of not having enough of it. For some, initiating sleep is as easy as closing the eyes to shut out the world. For others, who have difficulty sleeping, they would give the world for it to come so easily.  I write this for those who have trouble getting to sleep, or staying asleep, or feel their sleep is not effective in some way.

      If you struggle with this, you must realize, that you are not alone. About a third of Americans complain of difficulty sleeping at least a few nights a week, a few times a month. Initiating sleep or maintaining sleep has many causes and explanations.  The term ‘insomnia’ is used for those who have this trouble.  The frustrations they feel, and thelate-riser-149016_640_difficulty_sleeping hours they seem to waste before restful sleep comes, are compounded by the knowledge of their next day’s activities.  Morning will come too soon, and they know they will have difficulty getting through the day after a restless night.  When seeking a solution, there are too-numerous-to-count suggestions on what to do for help.  It is hard to know what are good and reliable helps to use.  I want to give an insight as to what I have observed over the past 13 years watching people sleep in a controlled environment.  There are choices that people make that add to the difficulties the body and mind has to overcome for sleep.  They also turn to certain helps that, in reality, do not.  I want to summarize some of these misconceptions and suggest other helps that people have used successfully to attain a good nights sleep.

      Follow me as I discuss some of these difficulties and problems with good sleep, as well as some Smart steps you can take for improvement. After all, that is our common goal—to live (and rest) better.





How to cure snoring?

Posted on: September 3rd, 2013 by raworkin No Comments

579286_51266544RThe jokes about snoring amuses us, but just try sleeping in the same room with a person who snores heavily.  It is not for the (faint of heart)*.  If this is something you have to endure every night, it may be essential (in maintaining your sanity) to learn how to ‘cure snoring’ or at least how to drop the noise level down a few decibels.

First, what are some causes of snoring?  1. Snoring is caused by intermittent blockage of airflow through tissues in the upper respiratory tract(or in the vicinity).  2. Congestion of the nasal passages may cause this narrowing making it necessary to breathe through the mouth which helps to amplify the noise.  3. Allergies may enlarge nasal tissues which may narrow the passages to create an obstruction of the airflow through the nose.  4. Obesity may increase the chance of snoring because of the excess fat that is deposited in the upper airway passage which, in turn, narrows the passage.  5. Certain medications or sleeping pills may relax the muscles that support the upper airway that may lead to narrowing of the passages.  6.  Snoring may be self-induced–strictly by the positions in which we put our head and neck or as a result of the number and shape of the pillows we use.

It is important therefore to know the exact cause of snoring before seeking the ‘cure’.  Stay tuned as we try to present some Smart ways people have tried to find

        The CURE . . .


* faint of heart — Fig. people who are squeamish; someone who is sickened or disturbed by unpleasantness or challenge.  e.g. – The pathway around the top of the volcano, near the crater, is not for the faint of heart.

What If It’s Something . . . Physical? (Part 1)

Posted on: September 1st, 2013 by raworkin No Comments

So, what if I make good sleep choices, but I still struggle? I do the things that make my sleeping environment ‘ideal’ for sleep. My sleep hygiene is better, but is there more that I can try? What if I need a little outside ‘help’?949776_73049958R

It can take time to change old habits and make our sleep environment a ‘Better’ place to induce sleep. Time, to allow our body to respond to its natural ‘cues’ for sleepiness, may need to be coupled with other aids to help us get over the ‘hump’, so to speak.

Then, there are certain ‘physical’ problems that may contribute to our struggle.  Let’s look at some of these physical contributors.  First, let’s see how we methodically explain our world during ‘sleep’.

Darkness, a cooling of the body temperature, minimizing the visual and audible traits of the day, and nestling our heads on our favorite pillow in a reclined position are all ‘cues’ to our body–’hey’, it is time to sleep. Coupled with the fatigue of our muscles and the need for the brain to ‘shut off’ its monumental task of making sense of it all, sleep is that time when rest and repair occurs.

To be able to do work, gather food, and defend ourselves—our muscles need time to recover and repair the wear of the day. The brain, or ‘boss of it all’, has to make the decisions of what, when and how we eat, work, play and keep out of harm’s way. To be able to do that in a sensible manner, the brain needs its time to reshuffle or file away all of that stuff to stay healthy. The ‘boss’ needs to be able to make to make good decisions, remember what is good and bad, and respond quickly to the threats the body faces each day.

Sleep helps both the muscles and the brain to do their jobs more efficiently. Sleep has been studied and has been found to follow a certain ‘pattern’ or go through ‘stages’. To study these ‘stages’, monitoring brain waves and muscle tension in the body has shown what a ‘normal’ pattern looks like. Basically our sleep is described as follows:

1) Stage Wake – we are aware of our surroundings (our eyes can be open, or closed)

2) Stage 1 – very light sleep (we are easily awakened)

3) Stage 2 – a deeper sleep (a stage we spend most of our time)

4) Stage 3 – our deepest sleep (important time where muscles get their rest)

5) Stage REM – stands for ‘Rapid Eye Movement’ (time the brain ‘needs’)


A ‘normal’ pattern of our going through these different sleep stages generally looks like this:

A. We go through a ‘set’, including every stage, (Wake, 1, 2, 3, and REM) every 90 minutes

B. We have four or five ‘sets’ each night (I will describe four)

C. During the first ‘set’, we go from Wake, to 1, to 2, to 3(most of the

cumulative time for Stage 3 comes during this first set), to REM(a

very short period of time)

D. The second ‘set’ – Wake, to 1, to 2, to 3(shorter amount of time), to

REM(longer period of time)

E. The third ‘set’ – Wake, to 1, to 2, to 3(if any), to REM(even longer)

F. The fourth ‘set’ – Wake, to 1, to 2, to 3(probably none), to REM(the

longest period of time for Stage REM)


Basically, our pattern of sleep is Smartly designed to enable our muscles to get their required rest during the first three hours of sleep. For our survival, we must have rested muscles to work, gather food and protect ourselves. So, if our sleep is interrupted, and we do not get a full night’s sleep—at least the muscles get most of what they need—early in the night. The brain is delayed in getting what it needs, but at least (our body) is more capable of functioning adequately, in the case our sleep time is inadequate. For healthy decision-making, memory, and overall mind sharpness, though, the later ‘sets’ of sleep are important for the brain.

If you struggle with initiating or maintaining sleep, and you are not able to get an adequate amount of sleep, then how you feel may be explained by this normal pattern of sleep. Fatigue, muscle aches or pain, lack of energy—all can because of an inadequate amount of important Stage 3 sleep, early in the night.

Brain fogginess, memory problems or, difficulty with decisions can be due to getting less than adequate ‘brain’ or REM time.

(Stay tuned for Part 2!)

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