February 13, 2012

Sleep - The solutions.

I have always marveled at how resilient we are when we are sleep deprived. After finishing my pediatric residency where I averaged 90+ hours of work a week (with a max of 114 hours on pediatric surgery rotations), I left the states with my wife to backpack Europe. One week into our travels, I recall telling her that I had forgotten what it felt like to be rested and peaceful. Here we were sitting in the mountains of Switzerland and I had this overwhelming feeling of restfulness. How strange it was.

Nothing about chronic sleep deprivation is healthy. So what are the solutions to last weeks common problems?

1) Make your bedroom a sanctuary for sleep. Get dark shades and a comfortable bed.

1.5) Remove all video devices and unnecessary lights, i.e. bright alarm clocks, TV, computers, etc...

2) If you need to be up at 5 am, then get to bed by 9pm. Teenagers need more sleep and should catch up on the weekend if they are struggling to get to sleep early enough during the week. Young children are best served by a routine sleep time and wake time. Their resilience for a lack of sleep is very low.

3) Reduce your consumption of caffeine or alcohol if you are having sleep difficulties.

4) Treat medical conditions. For example, if you are always congested and have sleep apnea look into food triggers and allergies. I find that dairy is notorious for causing nasal congestion and its removal is curative for some. If you are overweight and have sleep apnea, try a gluten free and sugar reduced diet for a month and see how you feel. Consult your physician for appropriate preventative measures that can be taken to alleviate a medically induced sleep issue.

5) Exercise or do physical work everyday. Our bodies love to sleep after a hard day.

6) Eat light meals at night.

7) Be careful of prescription drugs - here are some that affect sleep. Anti histamines like benadryl, certirizine; heart medicines like beta blockers and diuretics can cause insomnia and cramps; SSRI medicines like prozac and zoloft can cause daytime drowsiness. See link.

8) Practice breathwork, progressive muscular relaxation and meditation routinely.

9) If you are a light sleeper, try white noise devices.

10) 1 Hour before bed try reading to candlelight or dim light to help your body recognize that it is nighttime.

11) Avoid naps!

12) Have a positive outlook about sleep. Think about the fact that you will sleep this night. Do affirmations of the greatness of your sleep.

13) Consider consulting a hypnotherapist to work on stresses and negative beliefs.

And most important of all - have a personal routine that tells your body it is time to sleep.

My take home point today: I love sleep!

Think Sleep 2,

Dr. Magryta