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It’s no coincidence that the National Sleep Foundation schedules National Sleep Awareness Week to coincide with that time of year that we “spring forward” and supposedly “lose” an hour of sleep.
The week of March 7-13 is National Sleep Awareness Week in the US.
Sleep cycles can be affected since the time change occurs overnight.
While most people can handle the time change without difficulty, there are those who typically get a limited amount of sleep and will feel the impact more than others.
The key isn’t trying to go to bed an hour earlier on Saturday night … the key is making sure you get enough sleep all year long. That means consistent schedules for going to bed at a reasonable time and getting up at the same time every morning … even on weekends. Practicing good sleep hygiene can help us all to achieve needed amounts of restful sleep. Even though our society seems to place an emphasis on late-night activities, including work, we need to place the emphasis on our health. Sleep is every bit as important to one’s health as diet and exercise.
We’ve all heard the old saw that on Thanksgiving, it’s all the turkey that makes you sleepy. Apparently because turkey contains tryptophan, an amino acid. So does milk, so it’s not too surprising that people think warm milk helps you fall asleep.
Wrong on both counts. Unless, of course, you intend to eat several turkeys at one sitting … or drink gallons of warm milk. The fact is, neither contains enough tryptophan to make one fall asleep.
There are lots of myths out there about sleep. For instance, alcohol helps you sleep. While alcohol may help you to drop off to sleep a little more quickly than usual, it also then disrupts your sleep, not permitting you to get the proper refreshing, restorative sleep that your body needs.
Or, watching TV in bed helps you fall asleep. Wrong, again. The blue light emitted by most modern televisions actually tricks your brain into thinking it’s time to be up and awake. As a result, your body releases much less melatonin, the hormone that eases you into sleep, than it would otherwise.
Myths are just that … old stories that have been around so long that we just take them for granted. But when it comes to your sleep, or any aspect of your health, the best advice comes from your doctor.
You’re rushing about wildly, trying to get the shopping done, get to the relatives’ house, trying to jam extra hours into the day, maybe even partying late on week nights.
‘Tis the season … for dangerous drowsy driving.
The roads filling up with college students returning home (often after all-nighters studying for finals), families on the road to visit relatives and friends. Early morning shopping deals and days that begin and end in the dark all contribute to reduced sleep time and impaired wakefulness. Add sleep apnea to that mix, and there is strong likelihood that you will encounter or become one of the drowsy drivers on the road.
Driving simulation studies show that when drivers have been awake for 19 hours, they drive as poorly as when they have a blood alcohol level of 0.10, which is above the legal limit in most states. If you pull an “all nighter” and then drive, it’s equivalent to driving drunk. When sleep apnea is also present: people with untreated mild to moderate sleep apnea, alone, perform worse behind the wheel than people with blood alcohol level of 0.06.
The National Traffic Safety Administration says there are 100,000 crashes per year due to fatigue and sleepiness each year. And 1,550 deaths.
On average, it takes as little as two seconds of dozing at the wheel to cause you to inadvertently change lanes, swerve into oncoming traffic, or run off the road.
Most drivers do not realize that they are too sleepy and over-estimate their vigilance. The most common warning signs are:
- Trouble focusing
- Frequent yawning and rubbing of eyes
- Daydreaming and wandering thoughts instead of concentrating fully on the road
- Drifting in your lane
- Not remembering the last couple of miles
What to do if you notice ANY of these warning signs:
- Pull over … call the people you are driving to visit and take a nap in a motel
- If there is another person in the car with you, switch drivers
- Don’t be macho … recognize that your warning signs can be the precursor to an accident … often not only involving you and the people in your car, but pedestrians and people in other cards.
What to do if you suspect sleep apnea: take our free online sleep apnea risk assessment test at www.sleepwellandlive.com .
Don’t hesitate to contact your local sleep center and get evaluated. Lives may well hang in the balance.
People often ask us what we recommend to help them fall asleep. Here are some tips that will help you develop habits that can help you to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Ensure adequate exposure to natural light during the day.
- Exercise in the morning or late afternoon can promote good sleep.
- Stay away from large meals close to bedtime.
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol 4 hours before bedtime.
- Avoid using electronic devices (computers, cell phone texting, video games) 1 hour before bed.
- Keep a notepad and pencil by your bed to write down any thoughts that may wake you up at night.
- Turn your alarm clock around so it’s not facing you; do not look at the clock during the night as this can cause more stress and anxiety about your sleep.
- If you wake up during the night and can’t fall back asleep, get out of bed (do NOT use the computer). Go back to bed only when you feel sleepy again.
- Associate your bed with sleep. It’s not a good idea to use your bed to watch TV, listen to the radio or read.
- Make sure your sleep environment is pleasant and relaxing. The bed should be comfortable and the room should not be too hot or cold, or too bright.
- Establish set times for waking and sleeping.
Tips courtesy of CPAP2GO in West Allis, Waukesha and Franklin, Wis (Milwaukee area).
- Wash your CPAP mask daily (warm soapy water or Citrus II mask cleaner and wipes).
- Check your filter every other week — clean or replace if dirty.
- Do not over tighten your mask; it may cause leaks.
- If you are tightening your mask because of leaks or comfort, your seal may be broken or needs to be replaced.
- Replace your mask and accessories every 6 months.
- Follow up with your physician as instructed.
- Keep in contact with your CPAP provider to ensure your success.
- Use distilled water for your water chamber.
- If you have any dryness in your nose or throat, try increasing the humidity.
- Use your CPAP all night, every night … and while napping
Visit CPAP2GO on the web at www.cpap2go.net