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What's Keeping You Up?

Posted Aug 24 2008 1:49pm
PATRICIA MURPHY, PhD: Insomnia is the most common sleep problem in adults. Insomnia is reported by a third of all adults.

ANNOUNCER: And one reason for that could be our own busy lives. We all have so much to squeeze into a day. Which is why lots of us are squeezing it into our nights as well. Paying attention to what we do just before bedtime is one way to start sleeping better.

PATRICIA MURPHY, PhD: You don't want to make your bedroom your activity room. Don't balance your checkbook while you're sitting on your bed. You should read somewhere else then go to bed, that's where you sleep. You don't necessarily want to talk on the phone and have all your conversations while you're in your bedroom.

RICHARD ROSS, MD: It's important to try as best you can to keep the stimuli of the bedroom more sleep-related, rather than stimuli-related.

ANNOUNCER: Preparing for a good night's rest might mean putting yourself on a media curfew.

PATRICIA MURPHY, PhD: People staying up all night on the internet, in chat rooms and doing all their work at night, "I stayed up all night last night," "I was watching a concert from Australia" or "in a chat room all night." And not only does that impact on the normal routine of going to bed, it may induce psychological stress and anxiety as well.

ANNOUNCER: Even something as healthy as exercise might be keeping us up.

PATRICIA MURPHY, PhD: Exercising too close to bed actually raises your body temperature and causes hormones to be released that make sleep initiation difficult.

ANNOUNCER: Luckily it turns out that one form of exercise may actually promote sleep.

PATRICIA MURPHY, PhD: If you have sex, there's pretty good evidence that it's easier to get to sleep and that sleep is deep. It seems that sex is an arousing, stimulating thing, but maybe it causes a drop in body temperature right afterwards and it's easy to get to sleep.

ANNOUNCER: Activities before bedtime are just one part of the sleep picture. Making your bedroom sleep-friendly is another.

PATRICIA MURPHY, PhD: It is difficult to sleep in a light room, so if you can have heavier curtains or shades or blinds on your window. You want to keep the temperature comfortable, typically, a quieter room will prevent awakenings, prevent sleep fragmentation.

ANNOUNCER: The clue to your insomnia can even lie in what you're eating or drinking, and when.

RICHARD ROSS, MD: You definitely want to avoid anything with caffeine in it after five in the in the afternoon. You definitely want to avoid alcohol before going to sleep. Certainly alcohol has an immediate hypnotic effect. It makes people feel sleepy. But it's a terrible hypnotic drug, because it wears off within a few hours, and then a person is often awakened in the middle of the night, unable to go back to sleep.

PATRICIA MURPHY, PhD: Having to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night is a problem for a lot of people.

The way to avoid that probably is to avoid fluids before you go to bed, but even that doesn't work all the time. Another way to help yourself is to go to the bathroom right before you go to bed.

Foods you shouldn't have before you go to bed include spicy meals, things that you give you heartburn, things that are hard to digest.

ANNOUNCER: Sometimes poor sleep has less to do with you and more to do with other sleepers in the house.

RICHARD ROSS, MD: Oftentimes, people's sleep is disrupted by the bed partner, the partner with sleep apnea who snores very loudly or who kicks at night or may be awakening from frightening dreams.

ANNOUNCER: Even a loveable but demanding pet can interrupt a peaceful night.

PATRICIA MURPHY, PhD: A lot of people will sleep with their pets or have routines with their pets and their pets may not be sleeping well either and keeping them up. And the way to deal with that, I think, is to train your animals to be on your sleep schedule.

ANNOUNCER: But whatever the reason we're sleeping badly, experts suggest there are simple ways to make changes.

PATRICIA MURPHY, PhD: Turn off the TV half an hour before you go to bed. Maybe sit down and read a book, maybe read the newspaper, do something that's just relaxing for you and then go get ready for bed.

ANNOUNCER: Keeping a sleep diary can also help identify problems that need addressing.

PATRICIA MURPHY, PhD: You write down simple information like what time you went to bed last night, about how long you think it took you to get to sleep, what time you woke up in the morning, and any factors that might have influenced your sleep. Whether you had alcohol or caffeine, whether there was noise during the night or you had to wake up for some other reason. And then each morning, you can also look retrospectively at the day before and talk about factors that might have influenced your sleep.

ANNOUNCER: For short-term relief, a doctor may recommend a sleep aid.

PATRICIA MURPHY, PhD: There are the classic sleep aids, Valium and other drugs that actually last a long time in the body. They definitely help you sleep, but the problem with them is you're still sleepy in the morning.

RICHARD ROSS, MD: There are newer medications that act a little bit differently, and some of the excitement about these newer drugs has to do with the fact that they seem to have a shorter duration of action. So you can take something, and get help with sleep, but then not feel very tired, hungover or drugged the next day.

ANNOUNCER: Speak to your doctor to know what's right for you.

So maybe we can't change our busy lives, but it turns out there are ways we can change our restless nights.

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