Does it take you more than 30 minutes to fall asleep at night? Do you wake up during the night and have a hard time going back to sleep? Do you feel groggy in the morning and nod off during the day? If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, you are probably not getting enough sleep. However, you’re definitely not alone. In 1997, the National Sleep Foundation reported that 56 million Americans suffer from nighttime pain and sleep problems. And according to the Mayo Clinic, we spend about $300 million annually on sleep aids that at best don’t really work, and at worst can contribute to the problem.
There are three general types of sleep disturbances: trouble falling asleep, staying asleep and getting back to sleep. For most with spondylitis, pain and stiffness are the main culprits. Other barriers include antidepressants, anti-hypertensives, caffeine, alcohol and nicotine. On the upside, there are many things that you can do, and they include simply resting. Studies have shown that rest itself provides about 70 percent of the benefits of sleep.
If lack of sleep seriously interferes with how you function during the day, consider enlisting the help of your doctor. Before the consultation, try keeping a diary of your sleep habits for about ten days. Record your sleep patterns and anything that you might be doing to disrupt restful sleep. Perhaps a change in the dosage of your medication is needed. Or perhaps the time of day when you take your medication should be changed. An interesting twist to when medication should be taken has emerged with the study of Chronotherapy. This treatment considers a person’s biological rhythms in determining the timing and sometimes the amount of medication to optimize a drug’s desired effects and minimize the undesired ones.
Practice Good Sleep Hygiene
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. This will help synchronize your biological sleep/wake clock.
- Relax before bedtime. If you use relaxation techniques, this is the time.
- Avoid alcohol and smoking two hours before bedtime.
- Avoid caffeinated beverages six hours before bedtime.
- Exercise regularly in the late afternoon, but not too close to bedtime.
- Sleep in a dark, cool, quiet, well-ventilated room.
Lesser known methods that many people claim induce sleep include laying with your head facing north, toe wiggling, stomach rubbing, deep breathing, visualizing something peaceful and even imagining it’s time to get up.
Note: If it can’t hurt, it may be worth a try, and it just might work for you!
Snoozing off? Study says wake up!
Several years ago, researchers in England attempted to assess whether people with spondylitis could actually benefit by being awakened during the night to stretch or get up and move around. Subjects who were awakened appeared to be more awake and more flexible in the morning compared to the evening. If you decide that this is worth a try, avoid unsteadiness by taking a moment to get your bearings before striding off into the night. Better still, turn on a light.
Once Upon A Mattress
Maintaining good nighttime posture is critically important, and in most cases a firm mattress is the way to go. If your mattress sags or is lumpy, perhaps you need a new one. There is a wide choice of sleeping accommodations on the market. Some people find relief using “waffle foam” pads. Others swear by a waterbed. Mary and her husband in California say their investment in an adjustable sleep system was well worth the extra cost. Selecting the right bed to fit your personal needs is important and not easy. All make claims to provide the buyer with more comfortable sleep, so shop carefully and consider this: If you spend $950 on a sleeping set and use it for ten years, that’s $95 per year; $7.92 per month; three cents per hour – certainly pause for thought.
Michael in New York says when things get tough, he gets out of bed and sits in his recliner, where he finds that if he leans all the way back and aligns his body, the spasms will soon pass and sleep will quickly follow. If all else fails, Dr. James Maas at Cornell suggests in his book, The Power of Sleep, that we would all benefit from a daily siesta. Sounds terrific. I wonder what Corporate America would think about supplanting the traditional coffee break with a power nap? Ah yes, dream on.
On the Horizon
Sleep researchers are working away behind the scenes. Scripps biochemists have identified a brain chemical called oleamide linked to sleep that they are trying to find ways to manipulate, hoping to create a new class of sleep inducing drugs. And Symtonic, a New York based company, has invented a little spoon-shaped device called LEET that is purported to send low level radio waves to the brain via the roof of the mouth. It appears to stimulate the pineal gland which produces the sleep-related hormone melatonin. All of which brings to mind the well-advertised and much touted Melatonin that is currently available as a dietary supplement and is used by some as a sleeping aid. Is it snake-oil hype or a genuine breakthrough?
Experts advise caution because melatonin’s claims remain still largely unproven. As of 1997, over-the-counter preparations of melatonin, as non-drugs, are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Although preliminary studies suggest its potential usefulness in treating conditions such as jet-lag and sleep disorders in neurologically impaired children, the vote is still out. In the meantime, if you use or are considering using melatonin, be aware of reported side-effects associated with its use: nausea, nightmares, depression, lower sex drive for men, and an increased risk of breast cancer.