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Better in Bed: Do You Need a Sleep Makeover?


WebMD Feature from "Marie Claire" Magazine

By Ying Chu
Marie Claire magazine logo
Insomnia plagues more than 50 million Americans - but can we ditch the fast-fix meds in favor of a healthier long-term solution? Sometime Ambien-popper Ying Chu books a session with a holistic sleep doc


I was a champion sleeper. I'd doze off on cue, snooze soundly for seven hours, dream blissfully, and always wake up rested. My idea of a sleep aid was chamomile tea and a hot bath. But then last spring, after nine years together, my live-in boyfriend and I broke up. It left me in an emotional gutter for months. And for the first time in my life, I had trouble in bed — falling and staying asleep.

My once-happy home now felt desolate; the cozy bed that we had shared was eerily lonely. My personal anxieties were keeping me awake, but turning up to work bleary-eyed wasn't an option. So I took the fast and easy escape, indulging in Riesling and Ambien on alternate nights throughout the summer.

By the time I met Rubin Naiman, Ph.D., sleep and dream specialist and clinical assistant professor at the University of Arizona's Center for Integrative Medicine, for a personal consult in early fall, I was relying on half an Ambien twice a week (while supplementing with cocktails). A staunch adversary of prescription sleep remedies, Naiman advocates a more natural approach to slumber. "Truly restful sleep requires quantity and quality," he says. "Most sleep drugs literally knock you out and can compromise both REM and deep sleep, so you often wake up hungover. Dependency is also a huge issue."

You could call it an epidemic, considering Americans spent $3 billion on prescription sleep aids in 2007, according to Consumer Reports. That's 50 percent more than 10 years ago, with the sharpest spikes seen in young adults and women. (Fluctuating hormones and a higher incidence of depression and anxiety is to blame for our insomnia, says a recent Duke University study.) All too familiar with my situation, Naiman diagnoses me with "rebound insomnia," then sizes up my sleep routine and surroundings before prescribing his holistic fix:

Foremost, Naiman insists that I quit the pills cold turkey. "Keep them around for emergencies, but stash them out of sight," he says. It was hard not to reach for them on the first few restless nights, but it got easier after a week.

Then he instructs me to scale back the cocktails, as alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that facilitates sleep initially, but hinders it later and disturbs dreaming once the drowsy buzz wears off.

To kick my habit of unwinding — and dozing off — in front of 30 Rock reruns (only to wake up slightly disoriented an hour later), Naiman recommends adopting a bath-and-aromatherapy ritual (he helped develop the Origins Night Health line), which coaxes the body and mind into rest.

Finally, he advises me to personalize my freshly painted — but still empty — bedroom. "It should feel intimate," he explains. "How would you want it to look if you were spending seven waking hours there?" I add a night table and some candles and move in a few framed photos from the living room.

Now, seven months post-split, my sleep pattern is much improved. On nights when I need help putting the brakes on the day's thoughts (or when I've had an extra glass of wine), I'm back to unwinding with a bath. And for peace of mind, I keep a couple of Ambiens hidden in a jewelry box on my new night table — should the ex call. But I haven't needed them yet.

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You say you are able to function well with fewer than seven hours of sleep. Some people say they can function on four to six hours of sleep each night, but research shows that adults who get fewer than seven hours of sleep — whether for just one night or over the course of days, weeks, or months — have more difficulty concentrating and more mood problems than people who sleep seven to nine hours.

Since you usually get too little sleep, please talk to your doctor about your sleep patterns. Poor quality sleep can affect many areas of your life and health, and your doctor may be able to help you if you have insomnia or other conditions affecting your sleep.

Sleep deprivation can have both short- and long-term consequences. Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's not surprising you feel that you're not functioning at your best today. Some people say they can function on four to six hours of sleep each night, but research shows that adults who get fewer than seven hours of sleep — whether for just one night or over the course of days, weeks, or months — have more difficulty concentrating and more mood problems than people who sleep seven to nine hours.

Since you usually get too little sleep, please talk to your doctor about your sleep patterns. Poor quality sleep can affect many areas of your life and health, and your doctor may be able to help you if you have difficulty sleeping, have insomnia, or have other sleep disorders.

Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's not surprising you feel that you're not functioning at your best today. Some people say they can function on four to six hours of sleep each night, but research shows that adults who get fewer than seven hours of sleep — whether for just one night or over the course of days, weeks, or months — have more difficulty concentrating and more mood problems than people who sleep seven to nine hours.

It's good that you usually do get more sleep, since sleep deprivation can have both short- and long-term consequences. Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. And if you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

You say you are able to function well with fewer than seven hours of sleep. Some people say they can function on four to six hours of sleep each night, but research shows that adults who get fewer than seven hours of sleep — whether for just one night or over the course of days, weeks, or months — have more difficulty concentrating and more mood problems than people who sleep seven to nine hours.

It's good that you usually do get more sleep because sleep deprivation can have both short- and long-term consequences. Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. And if you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's not surprising you feel that you're not functioning at your best today. Some people say they can function on four to six hours of sleep each night, but research shows that adults who get fewer than seven hours of sleep — whether for just one night or over the course of days, weeks, or months — have more difficulty concentrating and more mood problems than people who sleep seven to nine hours.

Since you usually get less sleep, please talk to your doctor about your sleep patterns. Poor quality sleep can affect many areas of your life and health, and your doctor may be able to help you if you have difficulty sleeping or have insomnia or other sleep disorders.

Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's wonderful that you got a good night's sleep last night. Many people struggle to do so. Having a good sleep routine often is the key to getting the quality sleep night after night that your body needs for optimal health. Whether your sleep routine involves taking a warm bath, reading a book, or meditating, it's important to keep your bedtime and routine consistent every night and wake up around the same time every morning.

Click here to read more about the importance of sleep. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's unfortunate you're not functioning at your best today. You say you had a good quantity of sleep last night, but maybe the quality of your sleep is not as good as it could be? Having a good sleep routine — including a consistent bedtime and wake time — often is the key to getting the quality sleep night after night that your body needs for optimal health. Since you usually sleep this amount, if you often aren't feeling your best, you should consider talking to your doctor. Could you have an underlying condition? Are you feeling anxious or depressed? Have you taken medication that disrupted your sleep? Do you or could you have sleep apnea? Or do you naturally require a little bit more sleep?

Although sleep is crucial for optimal health, some research suggests that sleeping too much can also have negative consequences. Learn more about sleep. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's unfortunate you're not functioning at your best today. You say you had a good quantity of sleep last night, but maybe the quality of your sleep is not as good as it could be? Having a good sleep routine — including a consistent bedtime and wake time — often is the key to getting the quality sleep night after night that your body needs for optimal health. Since you usually sleep longer, if you often aren't feeling your best, you should consider talking to your doctor. Could you have an underlying condition? Are you feeling anxious or depressed? Have you taken medication that disrupted your sleep? Do you or could you have sleep apnea? Or do you naturally require a little bit more sleep?

Although sleep is crucial for optimal health, some research suggests that sleeping too much can also have negative consequences. Learn more about sleep. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's wonderful that you got a good night's sleep last night. Many people struggle to do so. Having a good sleep routine often is the key to getting the quality sleep night after night that your body needs for optimal health. Whether your sleep routine involves taking a warm bath, reading a book, or meditating, it's also important to keep bedtime consistent and wake up around the same time every morning.

Although sleep is crucial for optimal health, some research suggests that sleeping too much can have negative consequences. Learn more about sleep. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or sleeping too much, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's unfortunate you're not functioning at your best today. You say you had a good quantity of sleep last night, but maybe the quality of your sleep is not as good as it could be? Having a good sleep routine — including a consistent bedtime and waking up at the same time — often is the key to getting the quality sleep night after night that your body needs for optimal health.

Since you usually get less sleep, please talk to your doctor about your sleep patterns. Poor quality sleep can affect many areas of your life and health, and your doctor may be able to help you if you have insomnia, another sleep disorder, or conditions affecting your sleep.

Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

It's wonderful that you got a good night's sleep last night. Many people struggle to do so. Having a good sleep routine often is the key to getting the quality sleep night after night that your body needs for optimal health.

Since you usually get less sleep, talk to your doctor about your sleep patterns. Poor quality sleep can affect many areas of your life and health, and your doctor may be able to help you if you have insomnia or another sleep disorder or conditions affecting your sleep.

Learn more about the health consequences of sleep loss. If you're concerned about having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, assess your risk for a sleep disorder.

SOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Effect of short sleep duration on daily activities--United States, 2005-2008. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2011; 60:239.

Carskadon, MA, Dement, WC. Normal Human Sleep: An Overview. In: Principles and Practices of Sleep Medicine, Fifth, Kryger, MH, Roth, et al. (Eds), Elsevier Saunders, St. Louis, MO 2011. p.16.

Harvard University: "Sleep, Performance, and Public Safety."

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