Category Archives for Insomnia

What You Should Know About the 5 Stages of Sleep

Each night when you go to sleep, your body and mind go through a lot of changes. This is why it seems like you are in a lighter or deeper sleep, or sometimes you dream and other types you don’t. Each of these changes will occur during a different stage of sleep. Here are the stages of sleep and what you can do to improve them.


Stage One Light Stage Sleep

The first stage of sleep is naturally the lightest sleep, which is often what people experience when they take a brief nap in the daytime. Even at night, you go through stage one first, but it can last just a few minutes. During the light stage of sleep, your eye movements will start to slow down, and while you are slightly unconscious, you are also a little alert.

If you have ever drifted off while in bed or lying on the couch, but are instantly alerted to what’s going on a minute or two later, you were caught in the first stage of sleep. Some people have jerky body movements as well, especially when going between stage one and two of sleep.


Stage Two Preparing for Deep Sleep

When you get through stage one, you start preparing for a deep sleep. This is stage two when your eye movement has stopped and your brain waves start to slow down. Your body temperature will also likely drop in order to prepare for a deeper sleep.

Stage two is still a lighter sleep since you are not yet in a deep sleep yet. Your heart rate slows down, and there is an increase in brain wave activity. If you are trying to take a short nap, you wouldn’t want to get past stage two, or it would be hard to wake back up without an alarm.


Stage Three Beginning of Deep Sleep

The start of a deep sleep occurs in the third stage of sleeping. Your brain produces waves called slower delta waves, which is when you might start having night terrors or other effects of sleep if you have a parasomnia. Do you struggle with sleepwalking or talking in your sleep?

If so, it will probably occur in stage three or four, but rarely during REM sleep (the final stage). When you reach stage three of sleep, it is harder to awake you. You won’t be as responsive to sounds and other distractions, only waking to a loud noise or other sudden alerts. You might not even hear your alarm clock right away.


Stage Four Continuing Deep Sleep

The final stage of sleep before you reach REM sleep is stage four, where you continue with your deep sleep. Your brain is still producing those delta waves, though it is more continuous and long-lasting than in stage three. If you are woken up while in stage four of sleep, you tend to be very sleepy and a bit disoriented.


REM Sleep Rapid Eye Movement

Finally, you reach the fifth stage, which is REM sleep. This stands for rapid eye movement, which is the deepest form of sleep. It typically occurs between 1 and 2 hours after you have fallen asleep and gone through the other 4 stages of sleep.

When you have a REM sleep cycle (Which there are several each night), you might have dreams, and if someone were to look at your eyelids, they would see your eyes moving back and forth. Your heart rate increase and your breathing are sometimes faster. REM sleep is important for everyone.

It helps you process information from the previous day for long-term storage, and it helps your body to fully rest. If you never dream, you might not be getting REM sleep and should get help with improving your sleep throughout the night.

Natural Sleeping Aids vs. Over-the-Counter Remedies

If you are having trouble sleeping, and just switching up your habits isn’t enough to help, you might need to turn to sleep aids. There are three main categories of sleeping aids prescription, over-the-counter, and natural.

We are going to discuss all three of them, but focus mainly on OTC and natural options for improving your sleep.


Prescription and OTC Sleep Aids

The first types of sleep aids are either available at your local drug store over-the-counter, or by prescription from your doctor. There are some pros and cons for every sleep aid, whether it is natural or not. It is good to understand what each medication can do for you in order to make a decision on which might help you the best.


Prescription Sleep Aids

First, we have the sleep aids available by prescription. Benzodiazepines are a type of prescription medication that helps to slow the activity in your brain. These are often given to people for anxiety and other mental health disorders, but they can also help rest your brain to help you sleep better. These include medications like lorazepam, diazepam, triazolam, and temazepam.

There are also non-benzo prescription sleep aids like eszopiclone and zolpidem, or names you might recognize more easily Lunesta and Ambien. These are good when your insomnia is from a short-term situation, like an increase in your anxiety or following a traumatic event. They are not intended for long-term use.

Your doctor might also recommend antidepressants, which can help with the serotonin levels in your brain to encourage better rest at night. The most common antidepressants prescribed for insomnia are amitriptyline and trazodone.


Over-the-Counter Sleep Aids

The OTC meds are good because they don’t require a prescription, but you also need to be careful about tolerance and addiction.

Most OTC sleeping aids are a type of antihistamine or diphenhydramine. There are drowsy formulas of drugs often taken for allergies, sinus, and colds. These might include Benadryl, Advil PM, Unisom, and Sominex.

These are also not recommended on a long-term basis since they can cause drowsiness throughout the next day after taking them.


Natural Sleep Aids

For something, you can take more on a continuing basis, look at the natural options. These are not as harsh on your body, and can often help with long-term sleep issues.


Melatonin

The first natural sleep aid to consider taking is melatonin. This is a hormone you already have in your body that will help you decide when it is time to sleep. Unfortunately, you might have a decline in this hormone and need to take a melatonin supplement. It is really beneficial for people who need to sleep during the day or at different times each day from a shift work schedule.


Magnesium

You can also try adding a magnesium supplement to your daily routine. If you are not getting enough magnesium through natural food sources, you might notice a decline in the quality of your sleep. There are different types of magnesium, from supplement pills, you can take, to powder you add to your water.


Natural Herbs

If you are a fan of herbs and essential oils, there are a few that can help you get better sleep. Some of the best ones are lavender, rose, and chamomile.

5 Secrets of How to Help Your Children Get Better Sleep

It is hard enough getting your own quality sleep, but when your kids aren’t sleeping, neither are you in most cases.

Here are some easy tips for helping your kids get the best sleep possible.


Set Your Child’s Bedtime

The very first thing you should do if your children are struggling with sleep is to choose a bedtime. There might be some nights where they don’t quite get to be on time, but the more consistent you are with when they need to be in bed, the better off everyone will be.

Choosing a bedtime isn’t just good for ensuring they get enough sleep before having to wake up the next morning, but for the purpose of good sleep habits. By knowing their bedtime, they also understand when it is time to start their nightly routine of getting ready for bed. It is really important for your children’s development.


Be Consistent with Bedtime Routines

Once you have chosen their bedtime, you can start working on their bedtime routine. This is a routine that should be done every night, which helps get them ready for bed.

It might include taking a bath or shower and brushing their teeth, reading a book in bed, drinking a glass of milk to get them sleepy, and maybe taking medications if they have anything they need to take in the evening.

It is also when your kids usually stop watching TV or playing games, and do more relaxing activities. Maybe you start the routine an hour before their bedtime, so they can change into their pajamas and sit on the bed to relax and talk a bit before bed, or you read them a story.

These activities get both their brain and body used to the idea of bedtime coming soon. These sleep habits are a lot more important that you might think, and it is equally important that the routines are consistent.


Create a Relaxing Sleep Environment

Make sure your kids have a bedroom that is calm and soothing. You want them to have a relaxing sleep environment, even beginning with the color scheme of their room. It should have calming and soothing colors, usually on the lighter side, like light blue, green, yellow, purple, and pink.

It is okay to have a good amount of color if that’s what they want but try to avoid anything too bright, as it will make it hard for them to adjust to being relaxed at night.

They should have quality mattresses and bedding, along with proper temperature control. It is difficult to get good sleep in a room that is too hot or too cold, or if it gets bright. A pair of blackout curtains is great to have in their room.


Keep Their Stress Levels Low

If there is an evening when your child is a little stressed, such as a big school project coming up or they had issues with a kid at school, try to relieve their stress before sending them to bed. It is just as hard for a kid with stress to get good sleep as it is an adult.

They need to be fully relaxed and eased of any stress or tension before getting good quality sleep, so this might mean talking to them or getting their mind off what they are worried about with a book or cartoon before bed.


Don’t Push Pressure on Sleep

While you want your children to get good sleep, don’t put too much pressure on them. This can actually create more stress and make it even harder for them to sleep.

Don’t tell them they NEED to be asleep in a matter of minutes or how early they have to wake up. Just continue their nightly routine and be consistent with their bedtime.

How much sleep do your kids need? This will depend on the child and their age, but most children need about 9-10 hours of sleep on average. As they get older, this will decrease, but it is a good place to start.

5 Danger Signs you are Sleeping Too Much

Most people worrying about getting enough sleep. But did you know it can be bad for you’re if you are sleeping too much?

Oversleeping can seem like a great thing when your schedule allows for it, but this is actually a lot worse for your health and wellness than you might think.

Both inadequate sleep and too much sleep are not good for you. The best thing to do for your health is getting a normal amount of sleep, without going too far under or over.

Here are some of the more common signs that you are oversleeping.


1. You Always Wake Up Tired

It is normal to be a little tired in the morning, especially when you were woken up by an alarm or you went to sleep a little later than normal.

However, there is a difference between being sleepy because you just woke up, and being exhausted and severely fatigued. People who are oversleeping have similar effects to waking up after not sleeping much at all. It might feel similar to having jet lag or a bad hangover. When this keeps happening, it is usually a sign that you might be sleeping too much.


2. You Have Brain Fog

You might also be oversleeping if you are experiencing brain fog. Of course, brain fog can occur from many different situations and conditions, but oversleeping is definitely one of them. When you have brain fog, you feel out of it. Almost like you are walking around like a zombie without being able to really focus or concentrate on anything much. There are different levels of brain fog, but typically you just feel like your brain can’t quite focus on any one thing at a time.


3. You Wake Up with a Headache

If you find that you are waking up with headaches that might be a sign that you have slept too much. Before assuming your headaches are from oversleeping, consider other potential causes, including sleep deprivation, stress, hormones, or clenching or grinding your teeth while sleeping.


4. Unusual Weight Gain

Any time you gain weight without changing your diet or habits, it is something you should look into. You might be gaining weight for any number of reasons, including medical conditions like thyroid disease, so it is not something you should ignore.

However, your weight gain might actually be from oversleeping. A person who sleeps too much have a tendency to gain weight due to a lack of energy throughout the day, a poor diet, and less time spent with physical activity during the day.

Oversleeping can also be linked to changes in your appetite, so without realizing it, you might be eating more than usual.


5. Physical Discomfort

Lastly, consider if you have more body pain than you used to. This might include arm and shoulder aching, your hips hurting, or your legs aching.

These types of body pains come from lying for too long in one position, or just because you are not stretching out your muscles and joints enough. If the physical pain has come on after you started sleeping a little more than usual, it is often linked to oversleeping. Sleeping too much might seem like a blessing if you have struggled with insomnia in the past, but it can be detrimental to your health just like lack of sleep can.

7 Ways to Improve Your Sleep with Shift Work Sleep Disorder

Working the graveyard shift can have many advantages. While everyone else is working, you can be at home. You also can go to doctor’s appointments and take care of other things that you normally would have to take a day off work to do. If you have young children, you can be available to spend time with them during the day, attend school functions, or volunteer at their school. However, this free time during the day can come at a high price because of sleep problems associated with working at night.

Shift work sleep disorder (SWSD) is a real thing. Although it doesn’t happen to everyone, somewhere between 10% and 40% of shift workers develop symptoms associated with SWSD. Some of the common symptoms of SWSD are headaches, difficulty concentrating, lack of energy, and excessive sleepiness. Being aware of these symptoms and some of the things that you can do to help combat them will make your ability to work shift work easier.

People who do not manage SWSD well could be prone to have more work-related accidents, mood swings, poor coping skills, which could affect their relationships and social life. They can also develop health problems and be susceptible to drug and alcohol dependency.

Here are some tips to help you manage SWSD: 

1. Make sleep a priority.

It can be tempting to get all the items done on your to-do list but don’t overdo it. Recognize that your body needs at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every day to function well.


2. If you can get off work and make it home while it is still dark, do so.

Minimizing the exposure to sunlight will keep your body from activating its internal daytime clock.


3. Don’t work too many nights in a row.

If you work at night, try not to work more than 5 nights with days off in between. If you can, take more than 48 hours off work after working you string of nights.


4. If possible, don’t commute for long distances.

The sooner you can go to sleep after working the better. If you work at a job that provides a place to rest, consider taking advantage of it.


5. Make sure you get enough sleep on the days when you are off work.

Maintaining a routine and practicing good sleep habits while you are off will help keep you from going back to work sleep deprived.


6. Try to avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine before going to bed.


7. If you’re still having difficulty sleeping after trying the tips mentioned, you should go see your doctor.

Your doctor can prescribe sleep aids to help you relax.


Depending on the type of employment you have, working shift work may not be an option for you. However, working the shift work can have many advantages if you can get the proper amount of sleep. If you follow the tips provided, working shift work can be a positive experience.

3 Ways Eating Disorders Will Disrupt Your Sleep

You are probably aware of the side effects of eating disorder and how they affect your body and mental health. But did you know it could also be affecting your sleep? There have been studies that show a correlation between certain types of eating disorders and unhealthy eating behaviors and having issues sleeping.


Unhealthy Habits Beget Unhealthy Habits

The first way your lack of sleep could be affecting you’re eating disorder, and vice versa is that one unhealthy habit often leads to another. People who suffer from eating disorders often find many different areas of their life and health is at jeopardy. Not just the immediate health concerns, but things like your mental health and problems sleeping. Your body might not get the nutrients it needs to find good rest at night, so you find yourself with insomnia.

It also can work the other way around. Where you are having issues sleeping, and suddenly you have a larger appetite or unhealthy eating habits you used to suffer with suddenly come back. It is all related to how you feel and your emotional health, which sleeps deprivation, unfortunately, can really have a negative effect on.


Sleep-Related Eating Disorder

There is also an eating disorder called sleep-related eating disorder, where you tend to have unusual eating patterns at night. This is often related to a type of sleepwalking, where when you get up at night, you tend to eat whatever you can find in the kitchen, and in the morning, you don’t remember doing so.

This isn’t just an issue with sleepwalking, but with your emotional health when you wake up and realize how much you have eaten. It is an unconscious form of overeating that can develop into other types of eating disorders and unhealthy eating patterns. This is why sleepwalking should be treated properly to avoid this type of behavior


Binge Eating from Lack of Sleep

You might also notice that on the days when you have a larger appetite or eating without even thinking about how much you are eating, you didn’t get good sleep the night before. One of the side effects of sleep deprivation is having appetite changes, usually where your body craves more food. You might notice binge eating behaviors when you have continued lack of sleep, particularly cravings for unhealthy food like sugar and refined carbohydrates.

It is important that you really focus on getting on proper sleep for your mind and body. Your health and wellness rely on you to get proper rest in order for the other functions of your body and mind to work properly. When you don’t get enough sleep, it can lead to overeating, not eating enough, or developing otherwise unhealthy eating habits.

It can also lead to disordered eating if you have a history of mental illness, which is often linked to eating disorders or any unhealthy eating behavior. Make sure you talk to a doctor about your sleep and eating disorder issues, as they might very well be linked.

4 Secrets to Dealing with Menopause Sleep Changes

When women get to a certain age, they start going through menopause. During this time of your life, you go through various hormonal and physical changes, including mood swings, night sweats, a change in your weight and metabolism, and an end to your period. Among these other changes in your body, you might also start to experience a disruption in your normal sleep pattern.


What is Menopause?

During menopause, your reproductive hormones slowdown, which is when you typically stop menstruating and no longer have a menstrual cycle each month. This often happens gradually, with perimenopause first. This is often referred to as a transition phase, in which your progesterone and estrogen start declining gradually, starting in your 40s (for most women). Full menopause is usually reached by the type you are 50, though of course, this can vary a lot. With the changes in your hormone levels, your body and mental health go through a lot of changes as well, including lack of sleep, increased anxiety and depression, mood swings, hot flashes, and many other physical symptoms.


How does it Affect Your Sleep?

The first thing you should know is that just because you are a woman around these ages with sleeping issues, doesn’t necessarily mean it is from menopause. That is simply one of the factors. However, if you are struggling with sleep deprivation around the time you started menopause, they are probably linked. Your body is going through a major change during this time in your life. You just went through 40 or more years of having monthly menstrual cycles and a certain hormone level, so to suddenly have that drop, your body is going to need time to adjust. The good news is that insomnia won’t last forever, and there are quite a few things you can do to get better sleep.

What can be done about it?

When you go through menopause and have trouble sleeping, there are a few things you can do. Many of these are simple lifestyle changes that might also help with some of your other symptoms as well.


1. Improve your sleep habits

Start by focusing on sleep hygiene, which includes different habits that can help you get better sleep. Have a quality mattress and bedding, make sure your bedroom is calm and peaceful, and start winding down before bedtime so you are fully relaxed and ready for sleep.


2. Get regular exercise

Getting regular exercise is really important no matter your age, but especially during menopause. It can help with your cardiovascular health, reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, and help you sleep better at night.


3. Eat a healthy diet

Make sure you eat a well-balanced diet with essential vitamins and minerals. You want to have plenty of nutrients through a healthy diet, without too many food restrictions. Don’t focus on weight loss during this time, but instead of having the healthiest possible meals and snacks.


4. Reduce your stress levels

You might be feeling an increase in your stress levels ever since you started menopause. You can relieve your stress through exercise, meditation and mindfulness, and a simple change in your daily lifestyle habits. If your sleep issues persist, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor. You might have sleep disorders like insomnia or sleep apnea that is the cause for your sleep issues, whether during menopause or not.

4 Danger Signs You Aren’t Getting Enough Sleep

Are you constantly in a poor mood and aren’t sure why? Do you feel exhausted?

Throughout the day, even when you felt like you slept enough? DO you find it hard to concentrate? If so, you might be dealing with a lack of sleep. Even if you are in bed for what seems like 7-8 hours a night, that doesn’t mean you are sleeping that long or getting enough rest. Here are some signs that you are not getting enough sleep.


You Have Been in a Bad Mood

When you don’t get enough sleep, you are much more vulnerable to mood swings, irritability, and even anger. You might find that you are constantly in a bad mood, and don’t even know why. When this happens regularly, it is a good idea to try to figure out why this is happening, especially when you can’t figure out any other reason for it.

Try to take a look at your sleep recently, and figure out if the moodiness started shortly after you noticed the quality of your sleep went down. Remember that your mood and attitude doesn’t just affect you, but your family, friends, relationships, and other people you come in contact with.


You Have an Increased Appetite

Are you suddenly ravenous? Do you have a larger appetite than you remember having before? This can also be a big sign that you are not getting enough sleep. Your appetite changes quite a bit based on your emotional state and whether or not you are getting adequate sleep at night. When you don’t get enough sleep, the hormone in your gut called ghrelin can increase.

This makes you feel hungrier than normal, and often with more cravings of sugar, refined carbs, and otherwise unhealthy food options. The hunger and increased cravings might dissipate if you start improving your quality of sleep.


You Have Lower Productivity

Another way lack of sleep affects you is with less concentration, focus, and productivity.

Maybe you notice that you can’t focus for long stretches of time anymore, or your concentration is failing quite a bit. You might have less productivity at work and are actually suffering as a result of it.

The first thing to do when you have these issues is to figure out if something has changed recently. Start with whether or not you are getting quality of sleep. If you aren’t sure how your sleep is, because it seems like you are sleeping just fine, consider these other signs of sleep deprivation as well.


Your Memory is failing

You could also be experiencing lower memory function as a result of sleep deprivation. When you go to sleep, you go through multiple phases, with the fifth phase being REM sleep. The later phases, including stage 3 and 4, are when you enter deep sleep. All of these are important for brain function, but especially that crucial deep sleep. This is when your brain is able to hold onto memories from the day before and use them for long-term memory storage. If you never get deep sleep, you might start noticing major holes in your long-term memory.

Top Tips for Helping Baby Sleep

The area of infant sleep is somewhat controversial. Some advocate letting babies “cry it out,” while others believe in meeting baby’s needs around the clock. Still others support co-sleeping, while the crib camp points to the advantages of baby having his or her own room.

Following are some tips for helping your baby sleep. None of these tips is intended to advocate or promote a particular parenting style or school of thought; these are tips that are applicable to all sorts of parenting approaches. Here are some ideas.

Swaddling

For young babies, especially newborns, the lights, open space, and cold (relative to the womb) temperatures can be overwhelming. Swaddling, or wrapping your baby closely in blankets, can go a long way to helping baby feel secure enough to sleep.

If you have trouble with swaddling, or it does not seem to be working, try wrapping baby more closely. Remember how tight he or she was in the womb just days or weeks before! It sometimes surprises parents how closely baby needs to be swaddled to feel comfortable. Of course, you should never tie or fasten anything tightly around your baby.

White Noise

Fans or white noise devices can be very helpful for promoting baby’s sleep. Some parents use an air purifier, or even a radio set on static. Pretty much anything that makes a steady hum and does not pose any risk to baby’s safety will work.

Flexibility

Despite what some sleep trainers claim, you are better suited to make adjustments to your baby’s lifestyle than your baby is to yours. There may be something small that you could do that may make a big difference. For example:

* Baby does not have to sleep in a crib or bed right off the bat. As long as it’s safe, there’s no “wrong” place for a baby to sleep. If baby sleeps well on a blanket on the living room floor, great!

* Try varying how you put baby to sleep. Some experts note that this keeps baby from expecting a particular action – rocking, singing, nursing – in order to fall asleep and fall back asleep. So it’s recommended that you vary your methods for putting baby to sleep.

Closeness

If babies do not get a lot of cuddling, interaction, touch, and a certain amount of peace and quiet, they may look to have those needs met at night. Try to satisfy your baby’s needs for closeness and touch during the day, and you may find that he or she rests more peacefully at night.

Tips on Getting Enough Sleep

It’s easy to point to your schedule as the reason why you can’t get enough sleep. By the time you get a free moment it’s bedtime, and you really don’t want to go to bed just yet; you need some down time. Then you stay up too late and the cycle continues.

There are all sorts of other reasons, too, for not getting enough sleep. Maybe you have a spouse who snores, or you just have trouble sleeping once you do get to bed (insomnia). Whatever the reason, it’s important to make time and create the right environment for getting enough sleep. Here are some tips on how to do that.

It’s Bedtime

Remember how your parents pestered you about bedtime? They had a point. Instead of looking at the ever-later clock each night, knowing you “really should” get to bed, set a bedtime and stick with it. Most experts agree that you should go to sleep before midnight, preferably before 11pm.

If this isn’t possible, be realistic and set a bedtime when you know you can get it, even if it’s midnight or 12:30am. Then be sure you get between 7 and 8 hours of sleep.

Another note about bedtime – if it’s too early, that can cause problems too, experts note. If you find yourself fading to sleep at 7 or 8pm, you may find that you wake up in the small hours after only 5 or 6 hours’ sleep, and you can’t get back to sleep.

Your Bedroom

You may have a set-up in your bedroom that is not conducive to sleep. Here are some things to look for and adjust in your bedroom to make it more sleep-promoting.

* Dark and cool is the rule for a sleepy bedroom. Darkness is important for a proper night’s sleep – lights from neighbors’ homes, screens (including the TV or computer screen), lamps, and so forth can disturb your sleep patterns.

Cooler temperatures are said to promote sleep. A higher body temperature may actually stimulate the body and prevent sleep, but cool temperatures help promote a comfortable night’s sleep.

* Your bed is for sleeping, not working. If you’re in the habit of working on bills, office work, etc. while sitting on or in bed, you might be inadvertently training your brain to be stimulated when you are in your bed. Also, it’s harder to walk away from work worries if you literally take them to bed with you! Try to keep your work in another room, or at least away from your bed.

* Keep it quiet in your bedroom. If you have trouble in this regard, use a fan or other source of white noise at night to drown out disruptive sounds.

Make Lists

Do worries keep you awake? Do you have a hard time turning off your brain? Making a list may help. Write down all of those things that are bothering you or that you can’t get your mind off of, and note some practical steps you can take in the morning (or during the upcoming day or week) to work those things out.