As an Immunologist, I am frequently asked by patients what they can
do to improve their immune function. My answer invariably focuses on
lifestyle issues. An important part of that is adequate sleep. In
fact, a recent study shows that better sleep significantly improves your
chances of fighting off a cold.
How much sleep is enough?
people need different amounts of sleep. These needs vary not only from
person to person but also by age and life circumstances. What is
important is that you awake from sleep feeling restored and that you do
not have excessive sleepiness during the day.
What can I do to get a better night sleep without taking drugs?
habits that help with good sleep are referred to as “Sleep Hygiene”.
Some of these habits include going to bed at the same time every night.
Have a routine to “wind down” as you are getting ready for bed. Do not
watch TV or have music playing while you are trying to sleep. Use the
bed only for sleep (sex is the only exception). Avoid caffeine, nicotine
and alcohol for several hours before bedtime.
Should I take a sleeping pill?
situations where there is a short term sleep problem, you and your
doctor may choose to use a sleeping pill. If you plan to take an
“herbal supplement” for sleep, be sure to talk to your doctor about any
safety issues about it. Talk to your doctor about which sleep aid is
appropriate and discuss whether there are any concerns about
habit-forming potential or “rebound” insomnia.
Are there any medical problems that affect sleep?
are several medical conditions that may affect your sleep. Depression
is a common cause of sleep disturbance. Uncontrolled heart or lung
disease may also make it difficult for you to sleep properly. In these
instances, treatment of the underlying condition will correct the sleep
problem. Additionally, there are many conditions that are labeled as
true “sleep disorders”. These include sleep apnea, restless leg
syndrome, and narcolepsy, to name a few.
What should I do to find out if I have a sleep disorder?
sleep study is often used to diagnose a sleep disorder. In this study,
you are brought to a sleep lab and monitored during your sleep cycle to
determine the exact nature of your sleep disorder. You may be asked to
come back to repeat the sleep study after you have begun treatment.
What can be done about these sleep disorders?
are many treatments for sleep disorders. These can include weight
management, medications or special oxygen delivery systems.
Are there any doctors who specialize in sleep disorders?
Neurologists and Pulmonologists can receive special training and/or
Board Certification in Sleep Medicine. These are the doctors that are
considered to be “Sleep Specialists”.