A good night’s sleep remains elusive for many. World Sleep Day, celebrated March 16, aims to promote healthy sleep habits in hopes that more people can get a good night sleep.
Sleep problems constitute a global epidemic affecting up to 45 percent of the world’s population. Conditions including insomnia, restless legs syndrome, sleep deprivation and sleep-related respiratory disturbances, such as obstructive sleep apnea, result in loss of quality sleep that can lead to numerous health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Furthermore, insufficient sleep may lead to poor alertness, lack of attention, reduced concentration, decreased work and academic productivity, and even motor vehicle accidents.
Helping to direct World Sleep Day activities is World Sleep Day 2012 Co-Chair Antonio Culebras MD, a professor of neurology at Upstate Medical University and a consultant for the Sleep Center at Upstate University Hospital at Community General. (Hear his radio interview.)
“Improved diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders could decrease fatal or serious traffic accidents by approximately one third,” said Culebras. “Through global awareness, the World Sleep Day committee hopes people will address sleep issues and seek treatment for their own safety and well being.”
Culebras said many sleep disorders can be treated, but only if they are properly diagnosed. Sleep centers, such as the one at Upstate Community General, provide several tests for patients to help doctors pinpoint sleep disorders. Tests are done in private rooms, during both day and night. During the testing period, laboratory technicians monitor brain waves, breathing, heart activity, muscle activity and other functions in order to uncover the source of sleep problems. The results of these tests are reviewed and interpreted by sleep experts. A report is sent to the ordering physician with recommendations for treatment and follow-up. Treatment may include lifestyle changes, breathing air devices and medications.
Culebras cites the 10 Commandments of Sleep Hygiene as common sense recommendations to get a good night sleep that are seldom followed.
Ten Commandments of Sleep Hygiene
1. Fix a bedtime and an awakening time.
2. If you are in the habit of taking siestas do not exceed 45 minutes of daytime sleep.
3. Avoid excessive alcohol ingestion four hours before bedtime and do not smoke.
4. Avoid caffeine six hours before bedtime. This includes coffee, tea and many sodas, as well as chocolate.
5. Avoid heavy, spicy, or sugary foods four hours before bedtime. A light snack before bed is acceptable.
6. Exercise regularly, but not right before bed.
7. Use comfortable bedding.
8. Find a comfortable temperature setting for sleeping and keep the room well ventilated.
9. Block out all distracting noise and eliminate as much light as possible.
10. Don’t use the bed as an office, workroom or recreation room.
Violation of these commandments causes poor quality of nocturnal sleep, short duration of sleep, fragmentation of sleep and serious sleep deprivation. These infringements may lead to poor alertness, lack of attention, reduced concentration, decreased work and academic productivity, and even motor vehicle accidents. Physical health problems come next.
Listen to Culebras’ interview on Health Link on Air radio.
Learn more about Dr. Culebras.