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Taking An Inventory of Your Sleep Habits

Posted Aug 24 2008 1:49pm
ANNOUNCER: We all need a good night's sleep to feel refreshed. Yet millions of Americans don't get that restful break.

BROOKE JUDD, MD: If you feel that you're not getting to sleep well, you're waking up a lot or you're sleeping during the night but you still feel tired and unrefreshed in the morning or during the day, then that might signal that you have a sleeping problem.

ANNOUNCER: And not getting quality sleep can have a host of side effects.

GARY ZAMMIT, PhD: Impairment in cognitive function, such as attention, concentration and memory. Impairments in mood, feeling low or feeling irritable. And impairments in one's ability to stay awake during the day or fatigue during the day.

ANNOUNCER: There's no universal cause for poor sleep. In fact many factors can come into play.

GARY ZAMMIT, PhD: Lifestyle can have a huge impact on sleep and sleep quality. For example, irregular bedtimes and rise times might give rise to sleep problems. Or engaging in behaviors that are not conducive to sleep just before bed, like paying bills, talking on the phone or getting into an argument. That's not going to be helpful when the lights go out and you expect to fall asleep.

BROOKE JUDD, MD: How much caffeine you use or how much alcohol you use can have significant effects on your sleep. People tend to think of alcohol as something that promotes sleep, and it may make you fall asleep quicker, but it actually gives you a very poor quality of sleep.

ANNOUNCER: Sometimes a medical condition may be at the core of the problem.

BROOKE JUDD, MD: Both the illness itself can directly cause problems if, for example, it's causing pain that's interrupting your sleep, or if it's causing you to have to wake up at night to urinate frequently or wake up at night to take medication. Also, a lot of medications that people use for underlying medical disorders can have significant effects on sleep.

ANNOUNCER: Sleep difficulties can be caused by psychological, as well as physical problems.

BROOKE JUDD, MD: The most common cause of insomnia is underlying depression and anxiety that may or may not be diagnosed yet.

ANNOUNCER: But sometimes poor sleep is caused by something as simple as where you sleep and what you sleep on.

GARY ZAMMIT, PhD: Non-conducive sleep environments include rooms that are too hot, too cold, too bright, too noisy or beds or bedding that are uncomfortable. And we want to make sure that the room is the right temperature, that it's quiet, that it's dark, and the right humidity.

ANNOUNCER: Changing bedtime behaviors can also help the problem sleeper.

GARY ZAMMIT, PhD: Most sleep specialists would recommend that we reserve the sleep environment for sleep and not engage in any other activities in that environment, so that the room becomes associated with a nice, restful, good quality night of sleep.

ANNOUNCER: While some simple changes can pave the way to good sleep, it's important to know when to seek the advice of an expert.

GARY ZAMMIT, PhD: Many people will try to address their sleep problems on their own at home. They may try to change their sleep environment. They may try to use certain substances that they purchase over-the-counter or from a health food store. If these attempts fail, then they really should be talking to their doctors.

ANNOUNCER: Creating a journal called a "sleep diary" can help the patient or a doctor identify the root causes for poor sleep.

BROOKE JUDD, MD: That's basically where we have patients specifically write down when they're going to sleep, when they're waking up, how many times they're awake in the night, when they're napping, if they've had a worse night than usual, worse day than usual. Its really primary use is for the doctor to see how the person is sleeping and see where we can make some changes.

ANNOUNCER: While once poor sleepers had to settle for restless nights, there are now a variety of options to help achieve a peaceful night.

GARY ZAMMIT, PhD: We know that there are a number of behavioral techniques that can contribute to better quality sleep and we now know that there are safe and effective medications that can be used by people in distress to resolve their problems.

ANNOUNCER: For a sample sleep diary, please visit

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