Good Sleep: Can It Still Be Simple?

All's quiet, yet you still can't sleep. Do you really need a NASA-designed pillow or a computerized bed to fix your sleep problems?

From the WebMD Archives

Want a good night's sleep? It is not as easy as it may seem, but fortunately, these days there are plenty of aids to help with sleep problems.

You can buy an "insomnia relief" face mask filled with sweet-smelling herbs, Forbes magazine reports. Or a specially rigged pillow that lulls you to slumber with soothing tunes. A bracelet will gently massage your wrist as you drift off.

Another option: Check into the "snoozing suites"or "catnap rooms" that are popping up around the country. These are rent-by-the-minute resting spots, so weary travelers and shoppers can catch a few winks.

Getting a good night's sleep - a perfectly natural human function -- has become quite complicated. Do we really need all these extra creature comforts to eke out some quality Zzz's?

Setting Your Sleep Goals

For sleep to be restorative, we need several "complete sleep cycles" every night, says Dalia Lorenzo, MD, instructor of neurology in the Sleep Disorders Center at the University of Miami Veterans Affairs Hospital.

"Sleep is not about just shutting your eyes and opening them in the morning," she tells WebMD. "There's stuff going on, regeneration of the brain, consolidation of memories, and that only happens if the architecture of sleep is good." By sleep architecture, she refers to the pattern of sleep cycles that one completes in a night's time.

Sleep is prompted by natural cycles of brain activity and consists of two basic states: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and nonrapid eye movement sleep, which consists of stages 1 through 4. Each cycle lasts about 90 minutes, she explains. "You do that cycle several times night, you've had a good night's sleep," Lorenzo tells WebMD. "Anything that interrupts that pattern will cause sleepiness the next day."

Insomnia 101

Insomnia, indeed, is a complex issue in our 24/7 society, says Lorenzo. "Insomnia varies much from person to person," she tells WebMD. "Some people have trouble falling asleep. Others wake up and can't get back to sleep. When you're talking about insomnia, you need to talk about the thing that's causing the insomnia."