June 29, 2013 — Summer means more hours of daylight and for many, it contributes to trouble falling asleep. More than 40 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders, resulting in $18 billion in cost to employers due to sleep loss issues."The inability to get a good night's sleep can be a complex issue, and is not as simple to cure as telling people to count sheep," says John Wilson, MD, neurologist at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, part of Loyola University Health System. Wilson regularly works with the sleep lab to diagnose patients with chronic sleep issues.
Omar Hussain, DO, pulmonologist at Gottlieb who is board certified in sleep medicine says, "Many societal trends such as working from home or swing shift workers have economic-based lifestyles that prevent regular sleep patterns." Obesity, which was recently declared a disease by the American Medical Association, also has a direct link to poor sleep, says Ashley Barrient, RD, who counsels patients at the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care. One-third of all Americans are overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Here are some healthful tips from Loyola medical experts Wilson, Hussain and Barrient on how to get a better night's sleep.
Relax. "At least one hour before bedtime, start quieting down and relaxing. Don't exercise or engage in vigorous acitvities," says Wilson.
Turn off the handheld devices. "The need to text and email is a real problem for many when it comes to sleep," says Hussain. "Turn the electronic device off and put it in another room. That way, if you wake up in the middle of the night, you don't automatically reach for the phone but instead turn over and fall back asleep."
Read a magazine. "Lighter content and shorter articles are ideal," says Wilson. "Many like entertainment and celebrity-focused magazines as quick bedtime reads."
Darken the room. "Close the curtains or blinds; darkness is conducive to sleep," says Wilson
Diminish noise. "Use a sound machine to create white noise or experiment with soothing noises such as rain or the lap of waves," says Hussain.
Create a comfortable environment. "A consistent room temperature, bedding and mattress and even sleepwear should all be appropriate to the season and comfortable," says Hussain.
Go to the bathroom. "Waking up to use the bathroom is a complaint of many," says Wilson. "Do not eat or drink several hours before bed to avoid sleep interruptions from toileting."
Check medications. "Some people who take medications before bed may do better to take them in the morning when they wake up or vice versa," says Wilson. "Talk to your physician about changing your pill dosing schedule."
Write it down. "Jot down worries, future errands or simply what is on your mind before bed," said Barrient. "This helps to allay anxieties, organize thoughts and prepare for sleep."
Have a regular routine. "Try and go to bed at the same time every night to buiid routine and consistency," says Wilson.
Limit animals. "Pets may be comforting and companionable, but if they move in the night and make noise, they disturb sleep," says Wilson.
Partner with your partner. "Talk to those you live with and share your strategies," says Hussain. "You need to get the cooperation of those in the entire household to be successful."
Reserve the bedroom. "Train the body and mind to associate the bedroom with relaxation and sleep, not watching TV, playing games or exercising," says Wilson.
Stick with the new routine. "You may not change sleeping patterns overnight so give it a few weeks to acclimate your mind and body and establish the new habits," says Barrient.
Don't do this: Eat two hours or less before bed."If you bave to have something, try a small cup of hot chamomile or other decaffeinated tea," says Barrient.
Have an alcoholic drink. "Alcohol does induce sleep but it is not restorative sleep," says Wilson.
Watch TV or play electronic games before bed. "And don't turn them on if you awaken in the middle of the night," advises Hussain.
Many people with sleeping disorders undergo sleep studies and are diagnosed with chronic sleep apnea. Medical devices such as a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine pumps oxygen into the passages by way of a mask to keep the airway open. "Often it is the partner of the person with sleeping troubles who cannot stand the snoring or the irritability and issues an ultimatum for the person to get help," says Wilson. "When one person has a chronic sleep disorder, the whole family suffers."