Thursday, July 10, 2008

Common Symptoms of Sleepwalking

Sleepwalking is a well known but poorly understood sleep disorder. Although many people move their legs during their sleep, movements are often sporadic and erratic. Sleepwalking occurs when a person moves their legs in synchronization, which is a lot less prevalent.

During a sleepwalking episode, a person may appear to move around and perform normal actions that he would do while awake. Sleepwalking can affect people from all ages, and is usually harmless. In fact, most people do not even realise they are sleepwalkers unless someone informs them of their behavior. During an episode the sleepwalker is not conscious and thus will not remember anything about it.

Common symptoms of sleepwalking are eyes open but with a glazed and unresponsive look. If approached, sleepwalkers may not respond or speak unintelligibly.

The best solution is to ensure that the room is free from hazardous objects, that windows are latched and dangerous tools kept away. If you see someone sleepwalking, the best thing to do would be to gently lead the person back to their bed.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

About Narcolepsy - A Case Study

A Case Study on the Sleep Disorder Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that affects 3 million people worldwide. This sleep disorder is a neurological condition, characterized by excessive sleepiness in the daytime and chronic insomnia at night. One of the classic characteristics of narcolepsy is the effect of falling asleep at an apparently random time.

Narcolepsy generally manifests during late adolescence and early adulthood, occurring in about 1 in 2000 individuals. Usually, the first symptom to appear after having this disorder is excessive daytime sleepiness. Other symptoms may then appear alone or together some time later. Other common symptoms of narcolepsy are sleep paralysis (being conscious but not being able to move as if you were asleep), cataplexy (episodic loss of muscle function or muscular weakness), hypnogogic hallucinations (vivid hallucinations that occur while awake) and chronic insomnia (finding it hard to sleep at night), which may be caused by excess sleep in the day. Narcolepsy involves a disturbance of REM sleep, one of the five stages of sleep. Sufferers have disturbances to them, with REM sleep beginning at the start of sleep instead of NREM sleep.

Narcolepsy can be debilitating for sufferers and unsettling for onlookers. Frustration is natural for many people since little is known about this sleep disorder and much less on how to treat narcolepsy. Narcolepsy can affect a person's social and professional life and often account for embarrassing moments, and making it unsafe to operate on dangerous machinery. While the exact cause of narcolepsy has not yet been discovered, there is scientific evidence to show that certain people are genetically predisposed to getting this sleep disorder.

All hope is not lost. Narcolepsy can be treated to a certain extent with amphetamine like stimulant drugs such as methylphenidate and modafinil, which can help fight drowsiness in the daytime. Treatment is adjusted to the individual based on symptoms and therapeutic response, with best control usually only after many months. Total control over symptoms is rarely possible.

While there is no way to cure narcolepsy, one can learn to cope with the symptoms of this sleep disorder. Understanding and patient peers are important, and lifestyle changes are important. A person suffering from narcolepsy should not operate on dangerous machinery. With proper medical care, he can lead a productive life. Helpful tips are to take a few 15 minute naps in the day to combat sleepiness, taking short walks during the day and trying to maintain a routine sleep schedule. Joining a relevant support group can prove beneficial too.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Chronic Insomnia - A Sleep Disorder

Recent research has shown that chronic insomnia is on the rise, with approximately 60 million Americans suffering from some form of insomnia every year. Insomnia is just one of the many different types of sleep disorders that plague us while we try to sleep. Chronic insomnia is different from transient insomnia which only lasts a few days. Chronic insomnia can last for months or even years and may be caused by another sleep disorder or it may be a primary disorder in itself.

Insomnia can be caused by many reasons such as poor sleep hygiene or stress and anxiety. What is important is that insomnia can be prevented - you don't have to suffer unnecessarily and lose hours of rest because of this disorder. Insomnia is not the same as poor sleep quality, although the latter can be an important factor.

If untreated, this sleep disorder can be very debilitating and may result in poor concentration, frequent headaches, constant fatigue and irritability. It will reduce the quality of your life and may increase the risk of getting serious illnesses due to a weakened immune system. Our body needs sufficient sleep to repair itself and depriving it of sleep will disrupt it's normal restorative activity.

Fortunately, with the right course of action, chronic insomnia can be eliminated. You may want to take a look at our article that will teach you some steps to fall asleep quickly,which may help you in fighting chronic insomnia.

If chronic insomnia still persists, you may want to consider visiting a sleep specialist, who can diagnose the problem and find the root cause, then recommend appropriate treatments. Do note that many sleeping pills will not help and instead aggravate the problem. Please consult your doctor before starting on any form of sleeping medication.

Monday, March 10, 2008

How to stop snoring

Stop snoring - It could be detrimental to your sleep and your health. Snoring is the sound made when the airflow through your air passage is partially obstructed. Snoring is a sleep disorder can be an indication of a dangerous condition known as sleep apnea, when a person momentarily stops breathing. This can lead to increased risks of heart failure and stroke. Additionally, snoring is disruptive to the sleep of the people around you and may result in them becoming irritated and displeased with you. Snoring will not go away on it's own, the frequency and intensity will only increase as a person gets older. Because of the lack of oxygen your body gets, you may feel more fatigued and tired even after getting many hours of sleep.

So, how can you stop snoring? There are a few tips that you can use to reduce the severity and chances of you snoring.

Tip 1 - Sleep on your side instead of in a supine (lying on your back) position, where your tongue and jaw may obstruct your air passage because of gravity.

Tip 2 - Lose some weight. Overweight people are more likely to snore in their sleep.

Tip 3 - Elevate your head on a thicker pillow as this reduces the severity of snoring.

Tip 4 - Avoid alcohol and dairy products before you sleep.

Tip 5 - Do not take a large meal before you go to bed.

In conclusion, this sleep disorder can be treated with a little effort. I hope these tips will help you stop snoring. If you have any queries, feel free to leave a comment.

Friday, March 7, 2008

More tips to get better sleep

Last time, we showed you five ways to get better sleep. They were mostly focused on your activities before bedtime. Today, we will look at how you can improve the quality of your sleep by improving sleeping conditions in your bedroom.

Ideally, when we sleep, we want to rest and restore our bodies. The bedroom should be focused around that. Naturally, a better sleeping environment will result in a higher quality of sleep.

Here are 5 more tips on how to get better sleep by improving sleeping conditions:

Tip 1 - Make sure your bedroom is spacious and well aerated. I can't stress this enough, a cramped and stuffy bedroom is just not a good sleeping environment. If you cannot help but have a small bedroom, then tidy it regularly and pack unneeded things away to free up as much space as possible.

Tip 2 - Maintain a constant temperature while you sleep. This may seem new to many of you but it works wonders. The body is very sensitive to temperature changes, and a few degrees could mean the difference between average and good sleep. I've found that the optimum temperature for sleeping is around 24 degrees Celsius, anything above 27 degrees Celsius is too warm for comfort while anything below 22 degrees Celsius may give you a chill. Remember that the body metabolism slows during sleep so just because you're okay now doesn't mean you won't catch a cold when you sleep.

Tip 3 - Make your bed. This may sound trivial, but it's a good habit to have. Just after you wake up, tidy your bed by dusting the sheets, then tightening them until taut. Fluff up your pillow and place it neatly. Not only does this give your room a nicer look, a smooth bed is nice to lie on. No one likes sleeping on crumpled and crinkled sheets with little folds all over. Dusting your bed will clear out any particles that may have accumulated which may cause allergies.

Tip 4 - Make sure your mattress is good. You may be tempted to save money on your bed but trust me, this is one thing that's not worth it. Good rest is more valuable than your money. Having good rest can make you more productive and let you make more money. Don't scrimp on this one. For some tips, check out this guide to choosing a mattress.

Tip 5 - Noise and light pollution. These are culprits that make sleeping a chore. It doesn't have to be this way. If your surrounding environment is very noisy even at night, ask your family/friends/neighbors to turn down the volume. If that is not possible, you might want to invest in a noise-proof door. Recording studios use these kind of padded doors which can absorb ambient noise from the outside and give you a quiet and peaceful rest. Similarly, get curtains to cover your windows so you won't have to face the glaring lights from some guy's midnight party.

These tips should help you get a better sleep. If you have any feedback or questions, once again I urge you to leave a comment.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Effects of Sleeping Late

Well this may seem a little hypocritical but recently i've been staying up late. Of course I can justify that I can, in fact, afford to sleep later because I don't need to get up early (for your information, i'm on a holiday break now). Consequently, I've been staying awake until 2am in the morning, then I sleep for around 8 hours and wake up at 10am. I do this intentionally, not because I cannot sleep but because I'm busy on the computer. (If you are having difficulty falling asleep, you might want to take a look at this article on how to fall asleep quickly)

Anyway, I noticed a few peculiar things that I'd like to share. For one, even though I was getting the same amount of sleep, I felt more tired than I normally did. I attribute this to the decreasing quality of sleep as the day progresses, mainly because the ambient noise and light levels are significantly higher in the morning. In fact, I noticed that towards the end of my sleep (8am onwards) I constantly slip in and out of light sleep. I would awaken groggily and feel extremely drowzy and fall asleep a few minutes later only to awaken again within the hour.

I think that this could be aggravated by the fact that the latter part of our sleep is deep sleep, where body regeneration takes place. Having this interrupted would definitely affect our energy levels.

In conclusion, sleeping late could result in a poorer quality of sleep, as I have experienced myself. Maybe it would be wiser to just tuck in and leave tomorrow's work and worries for tomorrow, instead of staying up and risking your well being.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Guide to choosing a mattress

Selecting an appropriate mattress can greatly aid in getting better sleep. In today's article, I'll show you how to pick a mattress that best suits your needs.

There are many factors to consider when buying a mattress, such as type, distribution of pressure, skin microclimate, hygiene, size, firmness, edge support, long-term stability and price.

Type - There are spring mattresses, foam mattresses and air mattresses.

Spring Mattresses
In general, Spring Mattresses can be divided into two sub categories, continuous coils and individual coils. The guage of the coils determine it's thickness, which affects firmness and support. In general, thicker coils mean a firmer support. The number of coils also matter, with more expensive mattresses typically having more coils.

A firm bed is good as it provides proper support for the back while sleeping.

Foam Mattresses
A good thing about foam mattresses is that they change shape when under pressure, allowing the mattress to fit to the body's shape and distribute the body's weight evenly. This can help prevent bed sores. They are also made from materials designed to prevent allergies.

Air Mattresses
Air Mattresses are inflatable mattresses ideal for bringing outdoors. Their light weight makes them easy to clean and very portable as they can be deflated. Air mattresses come in a wide range of prices with some even more expensive than good spring mattresses.

Try to pick a mattress that best suits your needs. It's okay to spend more than what you would normally spend as this is a very important investment. You are going to spend a third of your day sleeping on this bed so make sure you pick a good one. Generally, you get what you pay for. You might want to test out your mattresses before buying them. Pick one that offers good support, does not make loud creaks and feels comfortable.

I hope this has helped you. Feel free to leave a comment. Have a good rest!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Stages of Sleep

Every person has about 6 to 8 hours of sleep daily. Yet not all sleep is the same. Today we'll be take a look at the different stages of sleep and how they affect the quality of our sleep.

Stage 1 - We usually enter this stage when we just go to bed. In this stage, you are drifting in and out of consciousness. Breathing is slightly slowed and muscles start to relax. Stage 1 sleep consists mostly of theta waves and brief periods of alpha waves, similar to those present while awake. Stage 1 usually only last a few minutes before either waking up or going to Stage 2.

Stage 2 - By stage 2 we are usually fully unconscious. This stage lasts around 20 minutes. The brain starts to produce bursts of rapid, rhythmic brain wave activity called sleep spindles. Body temperature decreases and heart rate slows.

Stage 3 - Slow delta waves start to appear. Stage 3 is the beginning of deep sleep. People who are awakened from deep sleep usually feel disoriented. Much growth and healing occurs in this stage.

Stage 4 - Delta waves dominate this stage. This stage is the longest of all stages and the deepest stage of sleep. Sleepwalking, snoring and sleep apnea usually occurs at the end of this stage of sleep.

REM Sleep - Most dreaming takes place at this stage. When we enter REM sleep, our heartbeat quickens and eye movement occurs. Brain activity increases and muscles are paralyzed to prevent us from acting out our dreams.

Note that sleep does not progress through these stages in order. Sleep starts at stage 1 and progresses into stages 2, 3, and 4. After stage 4 sleep, stage 3 and then stage 2 sleep are repeated before REM sleep begins. When REM sleep is over, the body usually resumes stage 2 sleep and progresses deeper again, in a cycle. REM sleep will gradually increase in length as the cycle repeats.

Since much restoration takes place in deep sleep, it is important for us to sleep in large blocks rather than to spread out our sleeping. Ensuring uninterrupted sleep is therefore crucial to getting better sleep. Try to minimize disturbances to your sleep to get a better night's sleep. Sleep disorders such as snoring and sleep apnea may affect your quality of sleep, so try to get them treated.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

How to take a power nap

If you've been having insufficient sleep for a few days, you might be starting to feel its debilitating effects. When you desperately need to re-energize yourself, taking a power nap might be a good idea.

A power nap is a short nap that spans from 20 to 30 minutes. It can be used in addition to normal sleep to improve alertness, or to recover from the lack of sleep. As the nap is short, one does not feel the usual lethargy caused by sleep inertia after waking up. A power nap is an efficient way to get some rest and can even be used in a busy workplace during a lunch break.

Power naps give you many of the benefits of normal sleep while only taking a fraction of the time needed.

How to take a power nap:
  1. An hour before you nap, do not take caffeine and avoid heavy meals.
  2. Find a good, warm, quiet spot where you won't be disturbed for half an hour.
  3. Get a chair or something comfortable for you to rest on.
  4. Set your alarm to go off in 20 to 30 minutes.
  5. If you have eyeshades, use them as darkness can help you fall asleep faster.
  6. Shut your eyes and try to relax. Hopefully you'll be able to fall asleep.
If the environment is too noisy, consider earplugs or use music to drown out the noise.

In conclusion, a power nap can be useful in helping you get more sleep and rejuvenate your body if conditions permit.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Falling asleep quickly

It's 2AM in the morning and you want to fall asleep but just can't seem to. You toss and turn on your bed but the harder you try, the more awake you seem to become. You've tried everything you can think of and still can't get that rest you so desperately need.

Sounds familiar? Everyone has, at some point in their lives, experienced insomnia. Maybe it's the night before a test, an important business meeting or a job interview. And we all know how frustrating it can be - feeling exhausted and irritated the following day.

Here are some ways to help you fall asleep quickly.

  • Medication - I would normally not recommend this as it is not a natural way to fall asleep and thus not good for the body in the long term. Taking sleeping pills can be habit-forming, you build up tolerance quickly and stronger ones leave you sleepy the next morning. However, I have to admit that sleeping pills are one surefire way for you to fall asleep. If all else has failed, then you can use this as a last resort. An exception to this would be Melatonin, which is actually produced by the body naturally as well and is a safe sleep aid you may want to try.
  • Aromatherapy - I have yet to try this but I've heard that it can produce some good results. Lavender and jasmine essential oils can induce relaxation and a state of restfulness which can aid in falling asleep.
  • Music - Listening to soft music can help you to relax and fall asleep. I find classical music to be very relaxing. Don't use headphones as they are unsafe while sleeping, instead, turn on the radio or cd player and tune in to soft, relaxing music.
  • Visualization - Picture in your mind a beautiful scenery or landscape. Perhaps a cool, lush waterfall from the amazon rainforests. Or a spectacular breathtaking view of the rockies. Whatever it is, try to make it as vibrant as you can. This can be exhausting mentally and you should soon fall asleep. Contrary to the popular belief, counting sheep doesn't really seem to help much.
Of course, your greatest enemy is frustration. The more worked up you get, the harder it is to fall asleep.

So if you still can't fall asleep, get up from your bed, go to the kitchen and make a glass of warm milk, then get a book and start reading for about 15 minutes. When you begin to feel more relaxed again, you can try to go to sleep again.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Five steps to a better sleep

Today, I will reveal five steps that you can take to get better sleep. After reading the article "Five Reasons to Get Better Sleep" you should be convinced on the benefits of getting better sleep. Even if you aren't convinced, I encourage you to just try them out for a week or two. You'll be surprised at the results - less chronic pain, aches are gone, feeling more alert....

Ready? Here's five tips on how to get better sleep.

1. Beds are for sleeping. Just because it's comfortable or convenient to carry out your daytime activities on your bed doesn't mean you should. This includes eating, watching TV or doing your work. Not only do such activities bring unwanted pencil shavings and bread crumbs, they also cause you to associate the bed with these activities, something that can be very distracting when you want to sleep. In fact, if you're reading this article with your laptop on your bed now, consider moving to the desk before you continue.

2. Don't leave work hanging when you go to sleep. I'm not saying that you finish all your work before you go to bed - that would be difficult at best and impossible for some. Instead, you should have peace in your mind before sleeping. What I mean is that you should stop your work, write down all the things that you have left to do or want to take note of on a piece of paper or a notebook. For instance, if you're waiting for a reply email from your colleague, just write it down so you won't forget it and then don't bother about it until you wake up the next morning. Or if you're halfway arranging the bookshelf, write down the place where you stopped and continue the next day. Worried about something? Write it down to get it off your mind. In this way your mind will be worry-free when you go to bed ensuring a good night's sleep.

3. Maintain a daily routine before you sleep. A good way to get better sleep is to follow a set of rituals before you go to bed. As much as possible, aim to sleep around the same time every day. Consider your ideal amount of sleep, the time you have to wake up, and then plan your bedtime. Try to follow through as much and as often as possible to keep your body clock in sync. About 20 minutes before you sleep, stop your work and start winding down. If you like you could do a little quiet reading of your favorite book or drink some warm milk before you sleep. Try to avoid caffeinated beverages as they tend to keep you alert and make it harder to fall asleep. Warm milk is good as it calms the body.

4. Make your bedroom comfortable. Doing so will improve the quality of sleep. This is a very important factor that tends to be overlooked. The place where you sleep is very important as you will be spending quite a few hours there. Make sure that the room is properly ventilated and not too warm or cold. A good temperature to keep your room at is around 25 degrees Celsius. Again, make sure your bed is free of clutter and the bedsheets are well laid. Change your bedsheets and pillowcases regularly. Doing so will provide a more comfortable and hygienic sleeping environment.

5. Don't stimulate your mind before sleeping. Plan your activities of the day such that you do less stimulating activities before you sleep. This doesn't mean that you just idle your evening away, rather, do activities like folding the clothes or playing the piano. DON'T watch horror movies before you go to bed. Avoid watching action films or playing action games before you sleep, as your mind will be too active to fall asleep.

I hope that with these five tips on how to get better sleep, you will be able to get better sleep and wake up feeling more refreshed. Thank you for stopping by. In the next few articles, I will discuss more on other sleep related topics that can help you improve your quality of sleep.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Five reasons to get better sleep

In our first article, I will explain to you why you might want to get better sleep. We'll be focusing on the ways and means to achieve that in our next article but for now, lets just find out why we should improve the quality of our sleep.

Why should we get better sleep, you may ask. Why not spend those hours making money by working or pursuing our hobbies? After all, if we feel fine in the day, isn't that being more efficient with our time? Well getting adequate and quality sleep is very important to our well being in many ways.

1. Sleep restores our bodies.
There is much evidence that proper sleep restores and rejuvenates our body. Often we feel rested after a night of quality sleep. There is scientific evidence that sleep can affect the rate that wounds heal. Sleep deprivation can hinder the healing of injuries.

2. Sleep can improve memory.
Getting better sleep may be beneficial to memory. Studies have shown that working memory is affected by the lack of sleep. Working memory is important as it supports high-level mental functions such as reasoning and decision making. In one study, subjects which were well rested performed 38% better than subjects with insufficient sleep in a series of cognitive tests.

3. Sleep strengthens our immune system.
Proper sleep has also been shown to help our immune system fight infections. Sleeping enough increases the amount of white blood cells in our body and can help in warding off illnesses.

4. Much growth occurs during sleep.
Sleep, especially slow-wave sleep, affects growth hormone levels in adult men. In a study of 149 healthy males aged 16 to 83 in the year 2000, it was found that those who had a high percentage of slow-wave sleep also secreted high levels of growth hormones, unlike those with a low percentage of slow-wave sleep.

5. Sleep improves our mood and concentration.
If you're feeling grumpy or uptight, maybe it's time for you to get a night of quality sleep! When one is well rested, his senses will be heightened and his mind clear and refreshed. Getting better sleep will allow you to think clearly and concentrate better on the tasks at hand. It also makes you feel better!

Convinced? Getting better sleep is certainly better for you! In our next article you will learn how to get better sleep. Stay tuned to this blog!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Find out how to get better sleep today

Hello and welcome to Get Better Sleep, a blog dedicated to help the exhausted get a good night's rest! Here you will find tips and tricks you can employ to get more sleep. We will show you ways and means to fall asleep quickly and improve the quality of your time in bed. Ward of fatigue and be refreshed and alert throughout the day! If you have any questions or suggestions feel free to leave a comment on this blog! Get a better night's sleep today!