Answers to Common Sleep Questions

Premier Physician Network doctors answer frequently asked questions about sleep.

How many hours should the average person sleep per night?

Eight hours of sleep is a good baseline for most adults. Since sleep is a time for the body to recover and grow, children and adolescents need more sleep. The average teen needs nine or more hours of sleep each night. But that can be tricky for teens because their natural body rhythms at that age make them want to stay up late and sleep in late. They can’t help it. Sticking to a regular sleep schedule can help.

  • Signs you may need more sleep:
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Napping
  • Trouble focusing or remembering things
  • Feeling irritable or short-tempered
  • Needing caffeine or other stimulants to stay awake
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep at night (insomnia)

Signs of poor sleep in children:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Irritability
  • Concentration or memory problems
  • Learning problems or poor grades
  • Trouble waking up in the morning
  • Falling asleep in school
  • Sleeping longer on weekends
  • More injuries and accidents

See your doctor if you or your child has these signs:

  • Falling asleep during the day
  • Leg twitching or moving while trying to sleep or sleeping restlessly
  • Sleepwalking
  • Snoring loudly
  • Frequent insomnia

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What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is when partly or fully blocked airways cause you to stop breathing for a few seconds to a few minutes during sleep. It’s usually a partner who notices the symptoms, which include snoring or choking or gasping for breath during sleep. Another clue can be feeling tired or falling asleep during the day. Left untreated, sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure, heart enlargement, abnormal heart rhythms, poor memory or concentration, irritability and depression.

A sleep study can diagnose sleep apnea, but treatment depends on the cause and severity. For example, if you are overweight and have a mild case of sleep apnea, losing weight and sleeping on your side can be enough. In moderate to severe cases, a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) mask might be needed to force air into your nose and mouth so you don’t stop breathing. In rare cases, surgery might be needed.

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If left untreated, what are the effects of sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea – chronic snoring with paused breathing filled by choking or gasping – can cause people to be more than just tired come morning.

With the lack of sleep and fresh air, sleep apnea can strain your heart, lungs and other organs.

According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), if left untreated, sleep apnea can cause:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Cardiac arrhythmia
  • Stroke
  • Depression

If you think you might have sleep apnea, talk to your doctor for more information on the effects it can have on your health and steps you can take to treat it.

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What causes snoring and what can I do about it?

Dr. Long-Prentice discusses snoring. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Snoring is the noise that’s made when air causes the soft tissues in your neck to vibrate. Anything that narrows your breathing passages can cause snoring. Large tonsils or a deviated septum can cause it. So can nasal congestion, being overweight or drinking alcohol.

The answer to snoring depends on the cause:

  • If you’re congested, try nasal strips to help keep your nose open.
  • If you’re overweight, losing weight may help.
  • Avoid alcohol because it can relax or close your throat muscles.
  • Sleep on your side to help keep your tongue from relaxing into your airway.

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Why is sleep important for teenagers?

Dr. Barrow discusses why sleep is important for teenagers. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Sleep is important to teenagers because it serves as food for the brain, according to the National Sleep FoundationOff Site Icon (NSF).

Important body functions and brain activity occur during sleep, according to the NSF.

Teens need sleep to help with concentration during school work, according to the NSF. It’s also important for them to be able to concentrate as new drivers.

Lack of sleep can limit teens’ ability to problem solve, learn, listen, and focus. All these could have bad effects on grades and even worse effects behind the wheel, according to the NSF.

Talk to your doctor for more information about why sleep is important for teenagers.

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How much sleep should a teenager get?

Dr. Barrow discusses the amount of sleep a teenager should get. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

At different ages, people need different amounts of sleep, according to the National Sleep FoundationOff Site Icon (NSF).

It is recommended that teenagers – ages 14 through 17 – get between eight and 10 hours of sleep each night, according to the NSF. For some teens, it might also be appropriate to get as little as seven hours and at much as 11 hours of sleep.

The NSF does not recommend anything outside these sleep ranges because it starts into unhealthy levels of too little or too much sleep.

For more information about how much sleep teenagers should get, talk with your doctor.

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What are the health consequences to teens who do not get enough sleep?

Dr. Barrow discusses the health consequences of teenagers not getting enough sleep. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Not getting enough sleep can cause teens more issues than just feeling a little groggy.

According to the National Sleep FoundationOff Site Icon (NSF), sleep-deprived teens can suffer from the following problems:

  • Bad attitude/interactions with friends and family
  • Being moody
  • Dangerous driving
  • Difficulty doing well on school work
  • Lack of concentration
  • Listening issues
  • Poor sports performance
  • Skin problems, including acne
  • Trouble problem solving

For more information about the consequences of teens not getting enough sleep, talk with your doctor.

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How can someone tell the difference between snoring and sleep apnea?

Snoring is a major sign of sleep apnea. The difference is, with sleep apnea, the snoring is accompanied by pauses that are followed by choking or gasping, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Many times, people don’t know they are snoring or gasping in the midst of snoring, but rather, a family member points it out to them.

Not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. If you think you might have sleep apnea, talk with your doctor. A sleep study might need to be done to determine if you have sleep apnea and how severe it is.

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How does drinking coffee affect sleep?

You may know that caffeine stimulates your brain. But did you know its effects can last long after your energy boost wears off? That’s because it takes your body three to seven hours to metabolize a half serving of caffeine. So if you rely on coffee, tea or soda to get through the afternoon, you could pay the price at night. You may have trouble falling or staying asleep. And, once you do sleep, the caffeine can disrupt your sleep patterns, keeping you from getting the restful, restorative deep REM sleep.

Find more tips for a better night’s sleep.

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Can people sleep too much? If so, what are the negative effects of too much sleep?

It is possible to get too much sleep. In fact, if you sleep more than seven or eight hours a night and still feel tired the next day, it could be a sign of an underlying health problem. You should see your doctor to make sure you don’t have anemia (too few red blood cells) or a thyroid problem. These often make people feel very tired.

Some studies have linked sleeping too much with higher risks of diabetes, obesity, headaches, depression, back pain and heart disease. So if you’re worried about sleeping too much, you shouldn’t ignore it. And, if you think a sleep disorder could be to blame for your drowsiness, keep a sleep journal and go over it with your doctor. Jot down what time you went to bed, about what time you fell asleep and woke up, how well you think you slept, how you felt when you woke up and how you felt through the day.

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What are some of the sleep issues that keep someone from getting adequate sleep?

For most people who are not getting enough sleep, it’s not a choice, but rather other factors that cause sleep issues. Knowing these issues can help you work toward a better night’s sleep.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), sleep issues that can keep you from getting enough sleep include:

  • Stimulants – Drinking that extra cup of coffee after dinner might have been just enough caffeine to keep you from sleeping well. Certain pain relievers and decongestants, nicotine, soda and tea, and even chocolate all can be culprits preventing you from falling asleep.
  • Pain – Conditions including arthritis, congestive heart failure and sickle cell anemia can be painful and uncomfortable, making it difficult to fall asleep.
  • Breathing problems – Having chronic asthma or bronchitis can not only keep you awake, but also can increase the number times you wake up during the night. Snoring and sleep apnea – when you stop breathing for periods of time during sleep – can also destroy your best efforts to get a good night’s sleep.
  • Menstrual cycle hormones – Women experience lower levels of progesterone during part of their menstrual cycle, which can cause them to have trouble sleeping.
  • Lifestyle choices – Eating large meals, exercising, watching TV or using other electronics with bright screens right before trying to sleep are all activities that can keep you from falling asleep easily and sleeping through the night.

Though some of these issues cannot be changed – such as menstrual cycle hormones for women – others can be easily modified. Cutting down on caffeine, talking with your doctor about pain and medications you take for pain, planning your exercise at a different time of day and unplugging from electronics earlier are all good ways to help improve you sleep, according to the NIH.

For more information about sleep issues, talk with your physician.

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What are the side effects of sleep deprivation?

Sleep deficiency can cause problems with a person’s mental health, physical health, quality of life and safety, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The main side effect of sleep deprivation is excessive daytime sleepiness, which can lead to safety hazards because it causes drowsy driving and workplace injuries, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).

Some side effects of lack of sleep, according to the AASM, include:

  • Irritability
  • Lack of motivation
  • Lack of concentration
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Lack of coordination
  • Increased errors
  • Forgetfulness
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Lack of energy

For more information about the side effects that can be caused by sleep deprivation, talk to your physician.

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What can someone who is sleep deprived do to get back on a path toward a restful night’s sleep?

With busy schedules and the demands of family, work, community and more, people frequently put sleep on the back burner – causing sleep deprivation.

According to the National Institutes of Health, there are some steps you can take to help improve your sleep habits and get back on track, including:

  • Set a sleep schedule, and try to go to bed and wake up at the same time on both weekdays and weekends. Try to stick within an hour of your schedule.
  • Wind down by creating an hour of quiet time before bedtime. Avoid exercise, watching TV and computer use.
  • Avoid heavy or large meals and drinking alcohol for a few hours before bedtime.
  • Nicotine and caffeine are stimulants that can interfere with sleep, so avoid them for at least a few hours before bedtime.
  • Spend time outside every day possible.
  • Add some physical activity to your daily routine.
  • Keep your bedroom quiet, cool and dark.

Talk with your physician for more information about how you can develop good sleep habits to fight sleep deficiency.

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What is narcolepsy?

Dr. Long-Prentice discusses narcolepsy. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Narcolepsy is a rare but serious sleeping disorder that causes people to fall asleep during the day. These “sleep attacks” can happen just about anytime and anywhere, and usually last about 10 or 15 minutes. They can happen several times a day. The person is genuinely sleeping during that time and wakes up feeling refreshed.

Less than one percent of the population has narcolepsy. The cause is not known, but it might be genetic. Although the symptoms can be scary, narcolepsy can be treated with medicine, lifestyle changes and a regular sleep and nap schedule.

Symptoms of narcolepsy:

  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Sudden loss of muscle control (head nods or body goes limp, called cataplexy)
  • Hallucinations upon sleeping or waking
  • Not being able to talk or move when falling asleep or waking (sleep paralysis)

If you have sleep attacks or other signs above, see your doctor. He or she may suggest you get a sleep study to find out if you have narcolepsy or another sleep disorder.

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What is REM sleep and how is it helpful?

REM or rapid eye movement is a deep sleep, where your body gets some of the most restful sleep. This is the stage where you dream, have more brain activity and move around less. Although your brain is active, it’s very relaxing and restorative sleep.

It takes time to reach the REM stage, so if your sleep is often interrupted during the night, you could be missing out on some important REM sleep. Throughout the night, you cycle through several sleep stages. Stages one and two are light sleep, stages three and four are deeper, REM is deepest. During the night, you move back and forth between the sleep stages and each time you reach REM it lasts a little longer.

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What causes insomnia?

Insomnia is when you have trouble falling or staying asleep. It can happen to everyone once in a while, but if you often have trouble sleeping or waking too early, or if it goes on for weeks, you should talk to your doctor.

Many things can cause you to sleep poorly: pain, depression, medication or sleep disorders. But the most common cause of insomnia is poor sleep habits (called sleep hygiene). Lifestyle factors like drinking too much caffeine or alcohol, keeping an erratic sleep schedule, reading or watching TV in bed can all cost you important rest.  

Tips for a good night’s sleep:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends.
  • Get some sunlight and exercise each day (but don’t exercise within two hours
    of bedtime).
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine and other stimulants, including nicotine.
  • Avoid eating heavy meals at night, especially near bedtime.
  • Wind down with a relaxing bedtime routine. Take a warm bath, meditate, do yoga or breathe deeply.
  • Make sure your room is dark and comfortable.
  • Help your body associate bed with sleeping by not reading or watching TV in bed.
  • Ask your doctor about any prescription or over-the-counter drugs you’re taking. Many medications for colds, allergies, depression and anxiety can disrupt your sleep.
  • If these tips don’t help, your doctor may want to run a blood test to see if you could have a thyroid problem, anemia (low red blood cell count) or another health problem.

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How does insomnia affect a person’s health?

Dr. Lauricella discusses how insomnia affects a person’s health. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Insomnia is having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Though events throughout people’s lives can cause temporary insomnia, chronic insomnia – which lasts at least three nights per week for more than a month – can lead to other health problems.

Living with insomnia can be frustrating if you are lying awake watching the clock, hoping to fall asleep, but it also can be bad for your health. Getting little sleep because of the condition can cause you to be drowsy, according to the NIH, which can lead to a lack of focus, causing a higher risk of falling and of car crashes.

A University of Wisconsin Health Services department published information about a study that showed other health problems that could be caused by insomnia. These health problems include that people with insomnia:

  • Are five times more likely to experience anxiety and depression
  • Have a two times higher risk of congestive heart failure and diabetes
  • Are seven times more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs

Talk with your doctor for more information about how insomnia can affect your health.

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What are some key things people should do to get a good night’s sleep?

How you spend your day can affect how you’ll spend your night — sleeping well or watching the hours tick by. You can control many of the habits that will help you sleep well at night, starting when the sun comes up.

Tips for a good night’s sleep:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends.
  • Get some sunlight and exercise each day (but don’t exercise within two hours
    of bedtime).
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine and other stimulants, including nicotine.
  • Avoid eating heavy meals at night, especially near bedtime.
  • Wind down with a relaxing bedtime routine. Take a warm bath, meditate, do yoga or breathe deeply.
  • Make sure your room is dark and comfortable.
  • Help your body associate bed with sleeping by not reading or watching TV in bed.
  • Ask your doctor about any prescription or over-the-counter drugs you’re taking. Many medications for colds, allergies, depression and anxiety can disrupt your sleep.
  • If these tips don’t help, your doctor may want to run a blood test to see if you could have a thyroid problem, anemia (low red blood cell count) or another health problem.

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What role does environment play in a person’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep?

Dr. Amin discusses how environment affects falling asleep and staying asleep. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Having the right sleep environment can be crucial to getting a good night sleep.

Your sleep environment affects your senses, and your senses need to be able to rest and relax for you to truly sleep well, according to the National Sleep Foundation Off Site Icon (NSF).

Light, noise and temperature are among the factors in your sleep environment – usually a bedroom – that affect your quality and quantity of sleep, according to the Harvard Medical SchoolOff Site Icon (HSM).

Not only getting to sleep, but staying asleep is important to allow your body to go through the needed sleep cycles to be well-rested, according to the HSM. Getting rid of the environmental distractions and stress that can keep you from sleeping well will help you to develop a positive sleep pattern.

For more information about how your environment can affect your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep, talk with your doctor.

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What are some environmental changes a person can make to help them fall asleep?

Dr. Amin discusses what environmental changes can help someone fall asleep. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Making some small changes to your sleep environment can help you fall asleep and stay asleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation Off Site Icon (NSF).

The following are among environmental factors the NSF states that you can change to positively affect your sleep:

  • Change your sheets often for a fresh feel and smell
  • Commit to having a comfortable mattress and replacing it about every eight years
  • Find a temperature that makes sleep comfortable for you – experts recommend a cool 65 as the best temperature for sleep
  • If you listen to TV noise or white noise to fall asleep, make sure to keep the volume low
  • Keep your bedroom dark because lightness signals that your body needs to be alert and darkness makes it more likely to welcome sleep
  • Minimize electronics that give off light in your bedroom
  • Outdoor noise pollution should be kept to a minimum by using a white noise machine, fan or even ear plugs

Overall, creating a peaceful, comfortable sleeping environment is the best thing you can do for a good night’s sleep.

For more information about factors that affect your sleep environment, talk with your doctor.

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Is it bad to exercise right before going to bed?

Exercising for at least 20 to 30 minutes each day is part of a healthy routine, and daily exercise often helps people sleep well, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

But, working out too close to bedtime can interfere with your sleep, according to the NIH.

It’s best to try to plan your exercise routine at be at least two to three – but preferably five to six – hours before going to bed, according to the NIH.

Talk to your physician for more information about how exercising too close to bedtime can interfere with sleep.

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How can exercise and good sleep work together to create better health?

Dr. Lauricella discusses how exercise and good sleep together promote good health. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Looking at the bigger picture rather than one piece at a time is the best way to care for your overall health. Good sleep is just one piece of the puzzle of your overall health. Along with exercise and good nutrition, good sleep is important for a healthy lifestyle, according to The National Sleep Foundation (NSF).

Exercising right before trying to sleep can hurt your efforts at getting a good sleep because your body won’t cool down enough for comfortable sleep, according to the NSF. However, exercising at least three hours before bedtime – in the late afternoon, for example – gives your body time to cool down. Working out at the right time can make you more alert during waking hours, speed up your metabolism and energize you for your next day.

Along the same lines, not getting enough sleep can defeat your best efforts at exercising for weight loss. Studies how shown that people who are not getting a good night’s sleep have a higher risk of obesity because they have a lower level of the hormone leptin, which causes a bigger appetite, according to the NSF.

For more information about how exercise and good sleep are both important to your health, talk with your doctor.

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How can sleep affect someone’s desire or ability to exercise?

Dr. Lauricella discusses how sleep can affect your desire and ability to exercise. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

When you get a good night’s sleep and wake up feeling well-rested, you are more likely to feel ready to face the day and to tackle tasks at hand, which should include exercise and eating a nutritious diet.

Losing sleep at night causes daytime sleepiness, which lowers energy levels and can make it hard to commit to an exercise routine, according to The National Sleep Foundation (NSF).

Even if you do find the energy to choose to exercise, it can be difficult be able to exercise at your greatest potential, according to the National Institutes of Health. And, if you do exercise at your regular pace, a workout that would normally leave you feeling refreshed and alert can instead leave you feeling burned out.

Talk to your doctor for more information about how sleep can affect your desire and ability to exercise.

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Is it bad to eat just before going to bed?

Eating just before going to bed can be disruptive to your sleep. It’s best to finish eating or drinking at least two to three hours before bedtime, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF).

Eating too close to bedtime can make you uncomfortable, especially if you eat spicy foods or other foods that can cause heartburn, according to the NSF.

It is also a good idea to limit how much you drink before bedtime to avoid waking up throughout the night to go to the bathroom, according to the NSF.

If you do drink something close to bedtime, avoid caffeine because it can cause you to stay awake and disrupt the quality of your sleep, according to the NSF.

Talk to your physician for more information about the effects eating right before going to bed can have on your sleep.

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How does napping affect a good night’s rest?

While naps can help improve alertness in the short-term, they also can disrupt sleep if taken too late.

Taking a nap too late in the day can affect your nighttime sleep patterns and make it hard to fall asleep at your normal bedtime, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF).

The National Institutes of Health recommends not taking a nap later than 3:00 pm to make sure that the nap does not interfere with your regular sleep at night.

A short nap – 20 or 30 minutes – can help rejuvenate you during the day without causing you trouble sleeping at night, according to the NSF.

For more information about how napping can affect a good night’s rest, talk with your physician.

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What is shift work sleep disorder?

Shift work sleep disorder is a chronic condition that is caused by a person’s work schedule, according to the National Sleep FoundationOff Site Icon (NSF).

The condition causes a misalignment of sleep patterns, according to the NSF, which makes it difficult to sleep when you need to, when you want to, or when you are expected to.

Shift work sleep disorder can be caused by night shifts, rotating shifts, or early morning shifts, all of which can lead to chronic sleep deprivation if the condition is not managed, according to the NSF.

For more information about shift work sleep disorder, talk with your doctor.

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What are the symptoms of shift work sleep disorder?

Shift work sleep disorder causes a variety of symptoms. People with the condition, according to the National Sleep FoundationOff Site Icon (NSF), can suffer from:

  • depression
  • difficulty with personal relationships
  • excessive sleepiness during times you need to be alert, awake, and productive
  • insomnia, including trouble falling asleep or waking after too little sleep
  • irritability
  • lack of concentration
  • low energy
  • unrefreshing sleep

Though most people who do shift work experience at least some of these symptoms, shift work sleep disorder is an ongoing issue, in which the symptoms start to cause problems with your work and family life, according to the NSF.

Talk to your doctor for more information about symptoms of shift work sleep disorder.

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Are shift workers at an increased risk for other health issues?

Working outside a typical 8:00 am to 5:00 pm workday can have a negative effect on your health.

Shift work has been tied to increased risk of a variety of chronic diseases and sicknesses, according to the National Sleep FoundationOff Site Icon (NSF).

Working night shift for a long period of time can, according to the NSF, put you at increased risk for:

  • cancers
  • depression
  • gastrointestinal problems
  • heart disease
  • metabolic problems
  • obesity
  • social difficulties
  • ulcers

Shift work for many people can also mean a lack of sleep, little exposure to sunlight, and poor eating habits, according to the NSF. These factors can contribute to cause the health issues above.

Talk to your doctor for more information about health issues shift workers can experience.

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What role does sleep play in preventive healthcare?

Dr. Lauricella discusses the role sleep plays in preventive healthcare. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Many doctors are now adding discussions about good sleep hygiene into their conversations during patients’ medical visits. Alongside healthy weight and good eating habits, having a good sleep routine is a preventive measure you can take to work toward good overall health.

When checking in with you, your physician might ask about your bedtime and waking time, as well as how well-rested you feel when you wake up, according to the Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine (HMS).

Having good sleep hygiene is imperative to a healthy lifestyle. Studies have shown that lack of sleep can lead to hypertension, weight gain, risk of depression and more, according to The National Sleep Foundation (NSF).

Making some small lifestyle adjustments often will get you back on track with good sleep habits and prevent sleep disorders and other health issues. According to NSF, some ways to improve sleep include:

  • Avoid napping
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol close to bedtime
  • Create a bedtime routine of quiet, non-electronic activities before bedtime
  • Don’t eat close to the time you usually go to sleep
  • Exercise, but at least three hours before bedtime
  • Get exposed to natural light during the day
  • Review your sleep environment

For more information about the role of sleep in preventive healthcare, talk with your doctor.

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How does alcohol interfere with a good night’s sleep?

Though you might fall asleep faster if you have been drinking alcohol, having a drink does not give you a better night’s sleep.

Alcohol negatively affects your sleep cycles by creating an imbalance during your Rapid Eye Movement (REM) phases, making you sleep more lightly, according to Washington State University’s Alcohol & Drug Counseling, Assessment & Prevention Services (ADCAPS).

Having alcohol in your system disturbs your later sleep stages during the night, according to ADCAPS. These stages should be deeper and restorative to your body and mind. Without those stages, you can be left groggy and unrested in the morning.

To learn more about how drinking alcohol can keep you from getting a good night’s sleep, talk with your physician

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What is sleepwalking?

Sleepwalking is a disorder that causes you to get up and walk around or do other kinds of activities while you are still sleeping, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

During the course of a night, you experience various stages of sleep, including light sleep and deep sleep, according to the NIH. Sleepwalking usually happens during deep sleep in the early part of the night.

In kids, the reasons for sleepwalking are unknown, though it typically is thought to be caused by anxiety, lack of sleep and fatigue, according to the NIH. It most often occurs in children ages 5 to 12.

When adults sleepwalk, the NIH states it is often caused by:

  • Alcohol
  • Medical conditions, such as partial complex seizures
  • Medications
  • Mental disorders
  • Sedatives

Sleepwalking can run in families, according to the NIH.

Talk to your physician for more information about sleepwalking.

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What is sleep talking?

Sleep talking is a common disorder that can happen at any stage of sleeping. The person sleep talking usually doesn’t know about the problem, but their loud, frequent talking can bother the person they share a bed with, according to the American Academy of Sleep MedicineOff Site Icon (AASM).

Sleep talking is fairly common in children with about half of young children sleep talking and only about 5 percent of adults who sleep talk, according to the ASSM.

For more information about sleep talking, talk with your doctor.

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What are night terrors?

Night terrors are a kind of scary dream common in children, according to the American Academy of Family PhysiciansOff Site Icon (AAFP). These dreams happen during deep sleep, usually between about 1 a.m. and 3 a.m.

When children have night terrors, they typically wake up screaming, according to the AAFP. Other signs could include sweating, heavy and fast breathing, and the child’s pupils – the black in the middle of the eyes – sometimes look larger than normal.

The child can still be asleep, having the night terror even if his or her eyes are open. It might be difficult to wake the child, and he or she might be confused or not answer when asked about what’s wrong, according to the AAFP.

Night terrors can last as long as 10 to 20 minutes, and children with night terrors usually don’t remember that they happened, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Talk to your doctor for more information about night terrors.

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What is restless legs syndrome?

Dr. Amin discusses restless legs syndrome. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a disorder that causes the strong – often strange and unpleasant – feeling of needing to move your legs, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH). RLS can make the urge to move your legs feel overwhelming.

People with RLS, according to the NIH, have described the feeling as:

  • Aching
  • Burning
  • Crawling
  • Creeping
  • Electric shocks
  • Itching
  • Pulling
  • Tingling

The unpleasant feeling will only go away for people once they move their legs around, which is a problem because it happens when people are resting and inactive, such as in the evening and at night, according to the NIH. RLS can make it difficult for people to fall asleep, which can lead to depression, mood swings and other health problems.

The disorder is twice as common in women as it is in men, and it can begin at any age, according to the NIH.

Talk to your doctor for more information about RLS.

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What are the symptoms of restless legs syndrome?

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder that causes the overwhelming, often unpleasant, feeling of needing to move your legs, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

People with RLS, according to the NIH, have described the feeling as:

  • Aching
  • Burning
  • Crawling
  • Creeping
  • Electric shocks
  • Itching
  • Pulling
  • Tingling

These symptoms of RLS are worse at night when the body is trying to relax, according to the NIH. Oftentimes, people have a symptoms-free time in the morning that lets them get at least some sleep during that time.

Aside from nighttime, long trips in the car or an airplane, long stretches of sitting in a movie theater or a meeting, and needing to wear a cast, all are situations that seem to trigger RLS symptoms, according to the NIH.

Symptoms can vary from day to day, and they can vary from person to person in severity and frequency, according to the NIH.

For more information about RLS symptoms, talk with your doctor.

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How is restless legs syndrome connected to the brain?

Research suggests that the main cause of restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a misuse or lack of iron in the brain, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

The brain uses the iron to control some brain activities and to make dopamine, which works in the part of the brain that controls movement, according to the NIH.

There are a variety of conditions that can affect the amount of iron in the brain and how it’s used, according to the NIH, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Iron deficiency
  • Kidney failure
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Pregnancy
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Having any of these conditions can increase your risk of also having RLS.

Talk to your doctor for more information about RLS and its connection with the brain.

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Thanks to Premier Physician Network doctors for answering these common questions about sleep:

Additional Resources

This website provides general medical information that should be used for informative and educational purposes only. Information found here should not be used as a substitute for the personal, professional medical advice of your physician. Do not begin any course of treatment without consulting a physician.

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