A Good Night’s Sleep

 

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A Good Night’s Sleep

October 15, 2014

 

 

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?

Different 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?

Behavioral 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?

In 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?

There 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?

A 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?

There 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?

Both 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”.

 

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