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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.



The Sleep Wellness Institute today opens its second sleep center location … in Mequon, WI.  With the addition of the second location, Sleep Wellness now offers 14 sleep study rooms and physician directed care that is provided by six highly regarded sleep medicine physicians.

The physicians are:  Don Harden, MD, Medical Director; JoAnna Galezowska, MD; Marc Rasansky, MD; Gary Leo, DO; Michael Connor, DO; and Dima Adl, MD.

One convenient telephone number may be used to access services at both the Mequon and West Allis locations?:  414-336-3000. And information on The Sleep Wellness Institute is available online at

The Mequon sleep lab is the former Columbia St. Mary’s sleep disorders center located at 11725 N. Port Washington Road.  We and Columbia St. Mary’s have formed a partnership to provide convenient, high quality sleep disorders services to patients throughout southeastern Wisconsin, as well as clear, concise, and prompt reports to referring physicians.

Have you been told that you might have sleep apnea and are wondering whether or not it’s worth the time and expense to find out?  Here are some important reasons why you should:

  1. Left untreated, sleep apnea can cause death.  38,000 Americans die every year of complications due to sleep apnea.
  2. Sleep apnea can cause or exacerbate cardiovascular disease.
  3. Sleep apnea can cause or exacerbate diabetes.
  4. Sleep apnea can cause or exacerbate high blood pressure.
  5. Sleep apnea can cause stroke.
  6. Sleep apnea can cause or exacerbate asthma.
  7. Sleep apnea can cause or exacerbate depression.
  8. Sleep apnea’s loud snoring and choking/gasping for air at night can damage and even ruin relationships.
  9. Sleep apnea can make you so exhausted that you can’t perform at work.
  10. Sleep apnea can cause extremely dangerous drowsy driving.
  11. And if that’s not enough, sleep apnea can cause or exacerbate erectile dysfunction.

Add to all of that the fact that sleep apnea sufferers experience frequent morning headaches and frequently nocturnal urination, and you’ve got a whole host of reasons to consider sleep apnea as something you don’t want to let go untreated.

And here’s another reason:  most cases of sleep apnea can be treated rather easily and effectively!

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 .

Don’t hesitate to contact your local sleep center and get evaluated.   Lives may well hang in the balance.

The Reggie White Sleep Disorders Research and Education Foundation has developed a free iPhone application that enables users to determine if they are at risk for obstructive sleep apnea.

The “app,” called Sleep Well, combines three screening tools used by sleep specialists to determine an individual’s risk of having or developing the sleep disorder that affects 18 million Americans. It provides immediate feedback once users provide answers to questions regarding their sleep habits, snoring, fatigue, and health factors. iPhone users may find and obtain the app at

The app also includes a feature that will list nearby sleep disorders centers for users.  According to Foundation Executive Director Steve Gardner, sleep disorders centers can be added to the app’s directory upon making a one-time $100 donation to the non-profit organization.  Co-founded shortly after the former Packers Hall of Famer died prematurely at age 43 by his wife, Sara, and the Sleep Wellness Institute, Wisconsin’s oldest and largest independent  sleep disorders center, the foundation’s goal is to spread the word about the dangers of sleep apnea to people of all socio-economic groups and help provide treatment to those who otherwise would be unable to access the healthcare services needed to treat obstructive sleep apnea, the disease that contributed to White’s death.

A recent visitor to our blog came here after doing an internet search for “you can’t die from sleep apnea.”


38,000 Americans die from complications of sleep apnea every year.  For those who think you can’t, I have two words:  Reggie White.

I also recently saw someone on Twitter who said “Sleep is for the weak.”


If you don’t get sufficient sleep, your body builds a “sleep debt” and can actually enter a pre-diabetic state.  So if you’re one of those who think sleep is for the weak, please enjoy your shortened, sleep-deprived life.

Steve Gardner

The Sleep Wellness Institute, Wisconsin’s largest independent sleep disorders laboratory, now offers a free, online service that allows web users to determine if they are at risk for obstructive sleep apnea.

The screening service is a combination of the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, Berlin sleep apnea questionnaire, and a body mass (BMI) calculator.  The Epworth helps determine a person’s daytime sleepiness level, while the Berlin is focused on behaviors that are typical of sleep apnea.  The BMI calculator is based on height and weight … a BMI of 30 or greater is considered one of the risk factors for sleep apnea.

The interactive screening tool can be found on the Sleep Wellness Institute’s website on the home page.

Sleep apnea is a common, yet serious sleep disorder that can lead to or exacerbate other health problems such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and more.  It affects approximately 18 million Americans and is typified by snoring, pauses in breathing during sleep, and daytime exhaustion.

Steve Gardner

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.