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Let’s Talk About Sleep!

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As part of National Sleep Awareness Week our resident Health Coach, Danielle Panepento, has put together this terrific piece educating us on all things sleep! Read on to learn about the basics of healthy sleep and strategies for addressing sleep struggles!  

There are five different stages of the sleep cycle. Scientists categorize the stages of sleep based on the characteristics of the brain and the body during sleep. Stage 1, 2, 3 and 4 are categorized as Non-REM sleep, and the fifth stage is REM sleep. 

Stage 1 of the sleep cycle is the lightest stage of sleep. This is the “twilight stage” where you are still aware of some things around you, but can easily be woken by noise or disturbances. 

During stage 2, you are actually fully asleep and not aware of your surroundings. During stage two the heart rate and breathing regulate, the body temperature goes down, and eye movement slows or stops completely.

In Stage 3, brain waves slow down with only a few bursts of activity. This is a deep sleep where muscles relax and breathing slows even more. This stage is difficult to awaken from and you may feel disoriented if a disturbance pulls you out of it. 

Stage 4 is an even deeper sleep where the brain waves further slow and sleepers are very difficult to wake. This is when tissues are repaired and hormones are released. 

Stage 5 is the final stage of sleep REM sleep and the cycle where we dream. The eyes move rapidly behind the lid and breathing becomes rapid and shallow. Blood pressure and heart rate also increase during REM sleep, and the arms and legs are paralyzed so that sleepers can’t act out their dreams. The purpose of this stage is thought to stimulate sections of the brain that are needed for memory and learning, and a way for the brain to store and sort information. REM sleep occurs approximately 90 minutes into the sleep cycle. 

It is recommended that school-age children 6-12 years of age get 9 to 11 hours of sleep each night. Teenagers 13-18 get 8-10 hours, and adults get 7-9 hours.  A good night’s sleep makes you feel better, but its importance goes way beyond boosting your mood. Adequate sleep can benefit your heart, weight, improve memory, curb inflammation, sharpen attention, lower stress, lower blood pressure, and strengthen the immune system. 

Insomnia, a disorder in which you have trouble falling or staying asleep, affects as many as 35% of adults. This condition can be short term (acute) or long term (chronic) and it may come and go. There are two types of insomnia, primary and secondary. Primary means your sleep problems aren’t linked to any health condition, but can be caused from stress, light, noise, temperature, and changes in your sleep cycle. Secondary insomnia is when you have trouble sleeping because of a certain health condition like sleep apnea, asthma, cancer, depression etc. 

Treating insomnia may involve several approaches. Patients may be offered sleep inducing medications, or given recommendations on over the counter medications or supplements. Patients may also be encouraged to explore something called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I). CBT-I is a short, structured, and evidence-based approach to combating insomnia, and focuses on exploring the connection between the way we think, the things we do, and how we sleep. During treatment, a provider will help to identify thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are contributing to the symptoms of insomnia. Treatments often take 6 – 8 sessions.  

At LBMD & Associates, we like to begin by supporting our patients in the many positive lifestyle changes known to alleviate symptoms for many people suffering with insomnia. Some of these changes include: 

  • Sticking to a sleep schedule by keeping bedtime and wake time consistent from day to day, including weekends. 
  • Staying Active. Regular activity helps promote a good night’s sleep. (Make sure to schedule a few hours before bed.) 
  • Checking your medications. If you take medication, check with your doctor regularly to make sure your medications do not cause insomnia. 
  • Avoiding or limiting naps. Naps can make it harder to sleep at night. If you can’t get by without one, try to limit to no more than 30 minutes. 
  • Avoiding or limiting caffeine and alcohol and avoiding nicotine, as all of these can make it harder to sleep. 
  • Avoiding beverages or large meals before bed. If you need something, a light snack is fine. 
  • Keeping your bedroom dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature. Hide all clocks, including your wristwatch and cell phone, so you don’t worry about the time.

If you’ve tried many of these strategies but that sound night of sleep continues to elude you, it’s probably time to seek out assistance from your provider. Prolonged insomnia can wreak havoc on so many other areas of  your life; if you’ve been struggling, now’s the time to ask for help!

In addition to many other areas of your health, LBMD & Associates providers offer consultations for members and non-members.  During these hour-long appointments, we dive deep into all the potential contributors to poor sleep, and work with you to develop a plan to restore healthy sleep patterns!  Don’t suffer through another night of poor sleep. Call today to schedule your consult at 616-345-5263.

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