A Sleep Reset for the New Year

By Jane E. Brody

As many as 20 percent to 30 percent of people in the general population sleep poorly. They may have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, some awaken much too early, while others do not feel rested despite spending a full night seemingly asleep in bed. For one person in 10, insomnia is a chronic problem that repeats itself night after night. Little wonder that so many resort to sleeping pills to cope with it.

But experts report that there are better, safer and more long-lasting alternatives than prescription drugs to treat this common problem. The alternatives are especially valuable for older people who metabolize drugs more slowly, are more likely to have treatable underlying causes of their insomnia and are more susceptible to adverse side effects of medications. Read more>>>

By Jane E. Brody

Early to bed, early to rise — a fine plan for a dairy farmer who has to get up long before dawn to milk the cows. But if you’re someone who works all day with stocks and clients and may want to enjoy an evening out now and then, it would be better not to be getting up at 2 a.m. and have to struggle to stay awake through dinner or a show.

Such is the challenge faced by a friend who has what sleep specialists call an advanced sleep phase. Her biological sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, is out of sync with the demands of the modern world. Read more>>>

By Perri Klass, M.D.

The biology of adolescent sleep reflects a natural and normal delay in melatonin secretion that leads to a later sleep onset time, which unfortunately coincides with early high school start times, creating a high-stress set up. Pediatricians often see adolescents with insomnia, who have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, waking up too early or finding sleep not restful or refreshing.

Evaluating insomnia in an adolescent means looking at the predisposing factors, she said, including how that adolescent responds to stress, and possible genetic influences, and the precipitating factors — the specific triggers for insomnia — and finally, the perpetuating factors, which can keep the pattern going. Read more>>>

By Jane E. Brody

Many of the factors that can cause poor sleep can be easily treated and often eliminated entirely by knowing how to adapt to age-related changes in sleep structure and by modifying sleep-disruptive behaviors.

Start by practicing good sleep hygiene. Avoid or minimize the use of caffeine, cigarettes, stimulants and especially alcohol. It’s true that a glass of wine may help you fall asleep more quickly, but it can — and often does — disrupt the quality and duration of sleep. Read more>>>

By Gretchen Reynolds

Taking more steps during the day may be related to better sleep at night, according to an encouraging new study of lifestyle and sleep patterns. The study, which delved into the links between walking and snoozing, suggests that being active can influence how well we sleep, whether we actually exercise or not.

Sleep and exercise scientists have long been intrigued and befuddled by the ties between physical activity and somnolence. To most of us, it might seem as if that relationship should be uncomplicated, advantageous and one-way. You work out, grow tired and sleep better that night. Read more>>>

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