Thursday, March 20, 2008
Sleep well
by Danielle Dellorto
Associate Medical Producer


How many hours of sleep did you get last night? The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 10 percent of Americans aren't getting the recommended seven to nine hours each night. And being sleep deprived can take a serious toll on your health.

Most of us are what experts describe as, "partially sleep deprived." A partially sleep deprived person gets about six hours' sleep a night but his or her body needs closer to eight hours. Over a two-week span, those lost hours add up and the body starts to mimic someone who's been up all night.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, when you don't get enough sleep, your memory is weaker, your reaction times are slower and you're more irritable than a well-rested colleague. And you can blame lack of sleep for those extra pounds as well. Sleepy people tend to overeat.

Experts tell us that most Americans think they function great on five or six hours a night. The truth is, we get adjusted to functioning on less sleep and literally forget what it feels like to be fully alert.

One common question we hear: How can I fall asleep quickly once I make it to bed?

The sleep experts we spoke to offer these tips:

- Unwind for 45 minutes before going to bed. Relax, listen to music and don't do any tasks (like folding the laundry or working on the computer). This will keep your mind from racing, which prevents you from falling asleep quickly.

- Don't just lie there! If you are wide awake after 15 minute, get up and go to another room. Clock watching or "thinking about sleeping" can leave you alert for hours.

What works for you? Let us know your tips for a great night sleep.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.
I have a problem sleeping. I take 3 calcium/ magnesium tablets every night before I go to sleep. It relaxes me. I'm 63 and need this supplement. If I don't take it or don't take it just before I lay down I don't go to sleep as quickly.
I usually get 6 hours of sleep a night. I have no problem falling asleep. I just never have enough time since I lose 2 hours a day just commuting to and from work. By the time I get home from the gym it's already 7:30. Throw in dinner, clean up and a shower and it'll be well past 9. Where's the rest of the time to even just relax?
In reference to Missy's comment, I also commute about an hour a day to work, although I take the train. I find this is an excellent option, not only to unwind and relax after work, but to enjoy an hour of reading, watching a movie (or partially at any rate) in the morning ... I also value the "my time" this provides:)
I am a part time masters student, full time sales, full time family person, and in a relationship, I don't have time for that much sleep. It really just doesn't work out.
As a girl suffering from bulimia, I can honestly prove that sleep increases appetite. My eating disorder is at its worst, and I begin to binge when I do not get enough sleep.
I've never had a problem sleeping as long as I've exercised a LOT during the day. My job provides me with a lot of activity, and when I'm not working, I go to the gym and exercise vigorously.
I'm a smoker and I dont drink alcohol. I tend to fall asleep around 11:00pm, but need to wake up at 6:30 to get ready for work. Typically I dont get up until 7:00am because I feel so darn awful every morning. I literally feel like everything hurts and it takes me a few hours to finally achieve a wakeful status. I dont exercise and my job requires me to sit in front of of PC for 8 hours a day. I dont get it. I am getting 7-8 hours of sleep...
I'm a 20 year old female, who is also an undergrad student, and I am lacking loads of sleep. I'm always tired, but I can't always fall asleep at night, like a normal person. I usually take long naps (5-6 hours) during the day, and I'm still tired when bedtime rolls around, but I can't sleep. My mind literally starts racing and I think about any and everything. There are some nights where I don't sleep at all. There are also occasions where I haven't slept at all the previous night, and couldn't take a nap during the day either! Also, on weekends (if I have nothing to do), I'll sleep Saturday as well as most of Sunday away, and I really don't think that's normal. There's a possibility that I may be suffering from fatigue as well.
I have trouble staying asleep. I wake up every few hours.

I exercise and love yoga. I will go into "Chavasna"(SP?)... where I just focus on my breath and relax my body down from my head to my toes. I never get past my hips before i'm asleep. But staying asleep is difficult.

Last night I tried drinking a cup of warm milk and finally got a full 4 hours sleep before I woke up. Yet, I have wild dreams... which means I'm not in my deep sleep, i'm in dream sleep and that's very restless.

Oh... I'm 33, work at home and exercise 4-6 times a week moderately (walk, run, yoga, pilates).

Could it be I just had a baby? While he sleeps through the night, i find i sleep lighter because I'm "aware" of him more.
The Smoker should see a sleep specialist. He could be suffering from obstructive sleep apnea and his habit is likely making it worse!
If you are having trouble sleeping, try getting a sleep machine. The ones that have different sounds like crickets, waterfalls, ocean waves, etc... I swear by this!! I used to have trouble sleeping like thinking too much as soon as I went to bed or even planning the following day. Now, I can't sleep without it. You have to get used to it at first. It might seem annoying but, stick with it, I promise it works. My partner was so dead against it when I met her, now she can't sleep without it either. I hope this helps.
as a full-time student with work overload, i actually need to find out info. on how to STAY awake rather than fall asleep. any suggestions?....but i do agree with the fact that although the "8 hours" rule is ideal, it's just not applicable or even realistic to some...
I plug my iPod in and have playlists of my favorite artists who induce sleep. The Weepies. Kelly Dalton. Mindy Smith. Girlyman. Crooked Still. Keri Noble. Lucy Kaplansky. (To name several). Nice Harmonies. No loud instruments. Rhythmic arrangements. Nothing droning. I seldom remember hearing the third or fourth song before I am sleeping. And I feel good when I wake up.
I don't agree with this advice given in the article: "If you are wide awake after 15 minute, get up and go to another room"

This may well be good advice for may people, but certainly not for me! My experience is that I need a lot of time to fall asleep, about one hour, if I sleep enough every day. I need about 8 hours of sleep, so that means that I need to get into bed about 9 hours before I need to get up.

When I go to bed, I'm not feeling very sleepy yet and I'll slowly get more sleepy. I have learned to accept that it takes an hour to fall asleep.

I know that I can function reasonably well with 7 hours of sleep. I'll then feel more sleepy during the day and then I need only half and hour or 15 minutes to fall asleep. So, sleeping one hour less could save me almost two hours.

However, I would not be able to exercise as well with less than 8 hours of sleep. This also works the other way around. If I don't exercise for a few days in a row, I won't be able to sleep for 8 hours.
If someone has problem sleeping, try 'Pranayama' - Yoga breathing exercise for 15 mins before bed. This works well for me when I think I cannot sleep.
I have sleep apnea and insomnia which makes it hard to fall asleep. "White noise" helps and mind numbing things on the internet like solitaire or word power games that I am just clicking and not paying attention make me sleepy. I sometimes take melatonin but I don't know how much it helps. No caffeine after 4pm and I get up after 15 minutes of lying awake.
I find I cannot get to sleep if my feet are cold. I love my little heating pad. I turn it off just as I'm drifting off!
To go quickly to sleep, close your eyes, deep breathe, and focus on listening to your breathing and try not to listen to anything else. It focused you inward, rests your mind, and puts you to sleep quickly.
FIRST, I HATED THE SLEEPING PILLS, THEN I BECAME A READER WHENEVER I COULDN'T SLEEP.
I started to eat cereal with a lot of milk because milk is good to calm the mind and cereal is good for cholesterol and digestive system if a banana is added. Our body parts work more when we are sleeping especially
the heart. cheers for now.
When my wife was pregnant with our first son, she complained that she could not follow the prescribed method to fall asleep for an afternoon nap in Dr. Bradley's book, HUSBAND COACHED CHILDBIRTH. I read it, follow it and for 38 years can fall asleep when I need to. I make myself as comfortable as I can, as I breathe in I slightly open my eye(s). Exhaling, I close my eye(s). I keep up the count have never made it to 50.Usually not even 10.
Video games, especially role-playing games, help me fall asleep. They take my mind off any work-related activity, which is usually what keeps me up.
I feel like i'm living proof that this is true, I work 12-14 hours a day and after that I come home to be a mom of two children and a house keeper. I go to bed between midnight and one a.m. and get up at 6:30 a.m. My memory is getting much worse over time and I feel bad all the time, I mean its been so long since I have felt good I'm not sure what it is anymore. And weight gain, i'm also living proof of those side effects also. Just not really sure in today's time how we find the time to relax and just get enough sleep.
I've got a few CDs that I've listed to so often that I (and my brain) know them by heart. If I've had trouble sleeping for a night or two I'll simply play one of those CDs the next night on very very low volume. Usually by the 2nd or 3rd track I've fallen asleep.
I found that if I can abstain from absolutely all caffeine, I soon start to be able to get a restful eight hours' sleep and I feel better during the day.
I've always been a "sleeper"; I need around 9 hours 15 minutes a night. I often fall prey to staying up at night, using my sleep time to get more done, but I need to remember that getting enough sleep means I'm more efficient and easier to get along with!

I unwind by making my bedtime ritual my "me" time. I take my time washing my face and brushing my teeth. There's no deadline or time constraint; I allow myself to goof around in the mirror and take as long as I want. Then I do ~30 minutes of Yoga; I'm less stiff in the morning and sleep better. I finish with a Sudoku puzzle or light reading until I feel sleepy. I turn off the lamp and think of the things I'm thankful for until I fall asleep. I know what works for me; the big problem is making myself take the time to do it.

Also, I'm glad to see this topic discussed. So many friends and co-workers don't believe me when I say they need more sleep.
"How I get to sleep?" GET to sleep??! I can't STAY awake! I'm asleep about 10 seconds after I hit the pillow. I'm nodding off in the car on my commute, at my desk, etc. I've drunk enough coffee during the day so I can stay awake on the drive home but that's it. And I hate coffee.

I get @ 6 1/2 hours sleep each night, commute about 2 hours a day with no other alternative but to drive myself. I get up about 3:45-4:am so I have to be asleep no later than 9:00pm. Earlier would be so much better - I agree. But by time I get home at 5:30-6:00 or 6:30 (depending on traffic) I have no more than 2 or 2 1/2hours to feed animals, shower, set out clothes for the next day, throw out the paper I don't have time to read, try to do a few chores, and perhaps have @ 10 minutes to myself to read in bed - if I don't fall asleep first with the book still upright in my hand. I do a few volunteer hours one night a week and most of the day on Saturdays. (And it's so gratifying that I don't know how I could stop this activity.) So that leaves me Sundays or my lunch hours to get groceries, pick up the dry cleaning, do my own chores, etc. And I don't even have children! I have no idea how single Moms do it. I don't really expect any answers here, it's just 9:03 on a Monday morning, I'm tired and grumpy and have no idea how I'm going to make it until Friday. Just venting - and thanks to all for letting me.
I find when I lay down to go to sleep it helps me to concentrate on every part of my body, starting with my toes all the way up to the top of my head, and tell each part to relax. I'm always surprised by how unaware I am of how tensed up I can be.
If I do not go to sleep immediately, I do breathing meditation. Either counting or "breathing in, breathing out." I find that suddenly my mind is blank, full of colors and boom. I am gone.
I get into my sleep position - right side, knee up, and 99 times out of 100 I'm asleep in seconds. If I don't go to sleep immediately, I let the TV put me to sleep or run a pleasant scenario with me as the focus and after a minute or two I always go to sleep. Of course that might work because I have a boring life!
First, tell yourself that sleep is your number one priority, and all other worries can wait until morning. Then start by focusing on and relaxing every muscle in your body from your head to your toes. Relax them one at a time. When your body is completely free of tension, start on your mind. Focus on your breath and ignore any spurious thoughts. If some random annoyance comes to mind, don't get frustrated. Just acknowledge it, tell yourself it's unimportant and let it float away. "Project" your consciousness through your mind's eye, as if you were watching a movie on the back of your eyelids of flying through space. Usually, the last thing I can remember of a difficult night is deciding to fall asleep in this way!
I understand that it is important to get the full eight hours of sleep in order to be fully refreshed. Yet as someone who still suffers from nightmares every night (I'm almost 20...it's ridiculous), even when I do get eight hours, I wake up shaken and worn out (when I do get eight hours is extremely rare--thank you, pre-med). When I wake up, I feel as if I had been fighting the whole night and furthermore, that I had lost! Oh, I also have an uncanny ability to remember even the most minute details about my dreams. So I have the nightmare, wake up tired, think about my nightmare throughout the day, and become even more tired from thinking about it (you can assume that I go to bed at that point because I'm tired, but thenI have another nightmare). It's a vicious cycle. This will be a silly question, but does anyone have any suggestions for preventing these constantly occurring nightmares?
I suffer from ankylosing spondilytis, a joint inflammation disease. Sometimes I have trouble even lying down for too long to allow me to ease to sleep. However I find that stretching relaxes the muscles and eases some tension from different parts of the body. Simple stretches like hamstring, shoulder, calves, waist and the obliques should suffice.

I pop an NSAID if my back irritates too much. I don't really have much of a choice on severe occasions.
I'm 25 and have had sleeping problems for as long as I can remember. Several years ago, I had severe insomnia, to the point where I could no longer make it to class. I have tried a few things: using a fan to sleep, keeping the room cool, not watching too much tv right before bedtime, dimming the lights before bedtime, exercising during the day, drinking either milk or yogurt before bedtime. Although I still have sleep problems ocassionaly, these have helped me alot.
I suffer from allergies and my sinuses give me grief. For others, I recommend using a Neti pot. It looks like a little flower watering can. Got to a community pharmacy or health food store and they can give you more info. I still struggle with sleep, but it does help. I also wear a sleep mask so the room is completely dark. Also no tv in the bedroom, b/c it is not relaxing and you end up staying up way past the time you were worried about not falling asleep. Our society makes it difficult because we work so much and when I come home, I want to enjoy my evening, even if it means losing a few hours of sleep. But then I feel like crap in the morning....guess we all have to make that choice.
i have A.D.D and my mind is always racing, i cant ever seem to stop to get a good night sleep --- i lay there for hours and the only thing that seems to make me get to sleep when i am tired is Meletonin-- i was told to take this by my doctor if i cant get to sleep, when i wake up i always have back pains as well but i would like to know is there any thing i can do about this?
Sleeping is one of the most pleasant tasks we all do....and I for one sometimes have trouble falling off to sleep...so to remedy this I will put a heating pad just at the small of my back and for some reason doing this tends to relax my mind and body and also I drink Chamomille tea which has a calming effect on the mind...However I also believe the best sleep is when you are just sitting there and suddenly you doze off, and when you wake you dont even know what time it is..but you feel great and well rested.


Kraig Rasool
Ft Washington Md
Thanks for this post. So many people experience problems when it comes to falling asleep and staying asleep. I drink Chamomile tea, do deep breathing and listen to relaxing music. Exercise is important, but this must never be just before bedtime. Also don't expect to sleep well just after a very heavy meal!
I've had a hard time falling asleep since childhood. I need it to be very quiet - so I'm usually the last in the house to fall asleep, and I need it to be very dark - so I have thick blinds.

But what to do when the mind just won't stop thinking? That's the tough question. And strangely enough, something that is not recommended is what's been working for me this past year: watching TV. More specifically, putting an episode of a TV show on my computer (the screen will turn itself off automatically a few minutes after the show ends, so I'm not stuck with the light on).

Having something to semi-watch makes my brain calm itself and think less. Otherwise sometimes my brain is hopelessly concerned with programming algorithms, social situations, deadlines...
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