Stages of Sleep Tips

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How can I cope with a snoring bed partner?

Coping With a Snoring Partner

It's happening again. You are trying to go to sleep and your partner is snoring so loud you simply can't. Resist the urge to stuff a pillow over his or her head and take this advice instead.

There are some couples that choose to have separate bedrooms. This works for some people - they may go to their bedroom to watch TV together or have sex but then retreat to their respective bedrooms when it's time to go to sleep.

You could also try to train yourself or your bed partner to sleep on their side or stomach, which may help prevent snoring. You can prop pillows in a position so the snorer is on his or her side or stomach and can't flip onto their back (the position which shoring is most likely to occur).

You can nudge them to turn over, but if that doesn't work, it may be a sign that your partner has obstructive sleep apnea (a problem that should be evaluated by a sleep specialist).

If you've found that your partner snores on his or her back, but not on his or her stomach or side, the snoring is side dependant. You can help the snorer learn to sleep in a different position.

How are the stages of the sleep cycle different?

The Stages of Sleep

When we go to sleep at night, our bodies are very busy. We go through several stages of sleep before we wake up in the morning. The following are the stages of the sleep cycle in detail, courtesy of the American Academy of Family Physicians:

Stage one:
In this stage, your brain gives the signal to your muscles to relax. It also tells your heart to beat a little slower, and your body temperature drops a bit.

Stage two:
After a little while, you enter stage two, which is a light sleep. You can still be woken up easily during this stage. For example, if you hear a car horn outside you'll probably wake up.

Stage three:
When you're in this stage, you're in a deeper sleep, also called slow-wave sleep. Your brain sends a message to your blood pressure to get lower. Your body isn't sensitive to the temperature of the air around you, which means that you won't notice if it's a little hot or cold in your room. It's much harder to be awakened when you're in this stage, but some people may sleepwalk or talk in their sleep at this point.

Stage four:
This is the deepest sleep and is also considered slow-wave sleep. It's very hard to wake up from this stage of sleep, and if you do wake up, you're sure to be out of it and confused for at least a few minutes. Like they do in stage 3, some people may sleepwalk or talk in their sleep when going from stage four to a lighter stage of sleep.

Stage five - REM stage:
This stands for Rapid Eye Movement. Even though the muscles in the rest of your body are totally relaxed, your eyes move back and forth very quickly beneath your eyelids. The REM stage is when your heart beats faster and your breathing is less regular. This is also the stage when people dream.

While you're asleep, you repeat stages two, three, four, and REM about every 90 minutes until you wake up in the morning. For most, that's about four or five times a night.

How does my sleep change when I get older?

Older Adults Lack Stage IV Sleep

As we get older, our sleep pattern changes. The change is not in the hours of sleep we get, but in the kind of sleep we get.

The stages of the sleep cycle affected most is stage IV, the phase of deep and restorative sleep. This is deficient in seniors and the elderly. While the average adult experiences stage IV sleep about twice per night, this is decreased and even absent in older adults.

It is important to note, however, that while sleep patterns do change as we age, disturbed sleep and waking up tired every day are not part of normal aging. Troubled sleep may be a sign of emotional or physical disorders and something one should discuss with a doctor or sleep specialist.

Sleep pattern changes, frequently reported by older adults, include:

- Sleeping less
- Waking up more frequently
- Getting less deep sleep
- Experiencing more daytime tiredness, and
taking more naps during the day

Can lack of sleep contribute to my weight gain?

Sleep and Obesity

Recent studies have shown a link between lack of sleep and obesity. And with millions of Americans getting less than the 8 hours of recommended sleep per night, it seems obesity is even more of a threat than ever.

Here are the numbers:
In a 2005 National Sleep Foundation survey, it was reported that more than 70 percent of adults over the age of 18 get less than 8 hours of sleep on weekdays and 40 percent of those get less than 7 hours.

A 2003 poll found that, on average, American adults between the ages of 18 and 54 sleep just 6.7 hours a night during the week, and 7 hours a night on weekends. Among older adults - those between 55 and 84 - 13 percent sleep less than 6 hours a night during the week, while 11 percent have a similar sleep pattern on weekends.

So if you're trying to lose weight, don't discount the value of a good night's sleep! Breaking these bad sleep habits can help slim you down.

And here's the proof:
A study of more than 1,000 men and women indicated that those who reported sleeping less weighed more. The study found that there are hormonal secretions that are affected with sleep loss that apparently affect appetite and eating.

Universities all over the country are conducting studies on lack of sleep and increased appetite and are finding that there is a relationship between the two.

In a study at the University of Chicago, 12 men who slept just 4 hours a night had an appetite increase of 24 percent and also showed a decreased level of the hormone leptin, which delivers feelings of satiation to the brain. Levels of the hormone ghrelin, which sparks hunger, shot up 28 percent - prompting cravings for candy, cookies and cake.

What is a sleep debt?

What a "Sleep Debt" is and How to Calculate it

Many Americans have more than a financial debt in their lives - they have what experts call a "sleep debt."

When you have a sleep debt to repay it means you have consistently gotten less than what you need through the week and have accumulated a "debt." If you sleep only, say, six and a half hours, you still owe one and a half hours. If you do this for five nights in a row, you have lost an entire night's sleep. You will then need extra sleep over the next few days to replenish your sleep debt.

To calculate your sleep debt, here is a simple test:
Starting on a Sunday, do not drink alcohol or caffeine; do not smoke; go to sleep about the same time every night; and get an uninterrupted seven to eight hours of sleep for the next six nights. Then, on Saturday morning, sleep in. See how long your body will let you sleep. If you sleep longer than you did during the week -- then you have a sleep debt. So you should consider getting more sleep each night to replenish that sleep debt.

How much sleep do I need per night?

How Much Sleep Do People Need?

Although many factors influence how much sleep you really need, the common recommendation is eight hours a night.

Yet, peoples' sleep needs vary. There are people who need as little as five and a half hours of sleep a night and there are people who need as much as nine and a half hours per night.

How much sleep you require depends on several factors including:

- Your inherited genetic need
- Your sleep hygiene (those daily activities you control, from drinking coffee or alcohol to smoking and exercise)
- The quality of your sleep
- Your 24-hour daily cycle known as the circadian rhythm

What is a nocturnal panic attack?

Nocturnal Panic Attacks

Another issue that is standing in the way of Americans going to sleep at night is nocturnal panic (NP), which is waking up in a state of panic. This is a common event for those who suffer with panic disorder, with 44 to 71 percent of that population reporting at least one such attack. NP is a non-REM event that is distinct from sleep terrors, sleep apnea, nightmares or dream-induced arousal.

Panic attacks that awaken people from sleep (nocturnal panic attacks) can actually be a sign of a sleep disorder. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), sleep-related gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), sleep-related laryngospasms, and sleep-related seizures can cause people to wake from sleep with symptoms of a panic attack. Experts say those with NP may be fearful of sleep and sleeplike states.

Tests such as overnight sleep studies, manometry, pH monitoring, or electroencephalography can help physicians determine if patients complaining of nocturnal panic attacks have possible sleep disorders.

What type of pain might keep me from sleeping?

Pain During Sleep

When people can't go to sleep because of pain issues, these are the usual reasons why:

- Back pain
- Headaches
- Facial pain, usually in and around the ears and jaw (called temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ)
- Muscoloskeletal pain, which includes arthritis and fibromyalgia
- In women, abdominal pain and premenstrual cramping
- Pain from cancer, the disease itself and its treatment

Some tips for people with chronic pain, courtesy of the National Sleep Foundation:

- Stop caffeine consumption.
- Limit alcohol intake, with no alcohol in the evening.
- Avoid vigorous exercise. However, light exercise in the afternoon can be helpful.
- Take a brief nap in the afternoon, no more that 10 to 20 minutes.
- Use of pain killers and/or sleeping pills are effective, but should be used under the supervision of a physician.
- Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep abdominal breathing.

When to seek help:
It is time to seek professional help when pain causes sleep problems two to three times a night, and you are unable to go to sleep again. There are a variety of treatments available to ease the sleep problems of chronic pain sufferers, including medication and physical therapy. Doctors may also recommend seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist.

What is REM-Behaviour Disorder?

Definition of REM-Behaviour Disorder (RBD)

REM-Behaviour Disorder (RBD) is characterized by physically acting out dreams while asleep. Although usually idiopathic and tending to affect older males, it has been associated with a variety of primary neurological diseases, most notably narcolepsy and Parkinson's's disease. The impressive oneiric (dream) behavior displayed by RBD patients is frequently misdiagnosed as seizures or psychiatric disorders. Treatment with clonazepam is very effective.

What is GERD and how can I fight it?

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) Prevents Sleep

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), or heartburn, is extremely common. Surveys say 44 percent of Americans experience heartburn once a month and 5 percent report getting it several days a week. Furthermore, 65 percent report getting heartburn both day and night and say it worsens at night and keeps them from sleeping.

Of heartburn sufferers, a large majority experiences it at night. No wonder it interferes with our ability to go to sleep. Research shows the acid contact with the esophagus at night can prevent or delay the onset of sleep. And if the sufferer does get to sleep, chances are it will wake him back up before morning.

GERD can be treated with both simple lifestyle changes and medication.

Lifestyle changes include avoiding certain foods, such as tomato products, grapefruit, and high fat foods in general. Maintaining a regular meal schedule - eating meals at the same time each day - helps as well. Sleeping with the head of the bed slightly elevated can help too.

There are also a variety of over-the-counter medications, such as antacids, that people can try to fight GERD.

What causes REM-Behaviour Disorder?

Causes of REM-Behaviour Disorder

During REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, the brain experiences vivid dreams involving motion and issues corresponding commands to run, kick, jump, punch, etc.. Normally, neurons in the brain disconnect much of our muscular apparatus so that we are effectively paralysed and these commands are countermanded before muscles can translate them into action. However, with REM-Behaviour Disorder, this does not occur.

Does exercise help one sleep?

The Exercise-Sleep Connection

Studies show that exercise can have both a positive and negative effect on one's sleep, depending upon who exercises and how soon you exercise to the time you go to sleep.

The down side: people who are not physically fit and exercise within 6 hours of going to bed are likely to fragment their sleep, possibly because of aches and pains. Because of this, experts recommend exercising early in the day for patients who aren't physically fit.

For patients who are physically fit, the timing of the exercise generally doesn't make any difference. Interestingly, for physically fit patients, not exercising at all can lead to insomnia - but researchers aren't yet sure why.

The up side: those with severe sleep apnea, or depression who go out and exercise tend to feel better and accomplish more in the daytime. Walking and weight lifting help - especially for the elderly.

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Guru Spotlight
Christina Chan