Monthly Archives: December 2009

Ahhh . . . 10 hours of Sleep

The last two nights I’ve gotten 10 hours of sleep each night, and it’s been fabulous. All day I’ve had lots of energy, a sharp mind, and a sense of humor. All those things a person gets from being well-rested. A quote by Ovid comes to mind “Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.”

A friend asked is it normal to sleep 10 hours? Here’s my answer.

Given how 47% of Americans get less than the recommended amount of sleep each night, it is thought that many people have an accumulated sleep debt. (One expert is said to have estimated the average American has a 50 hour sleep debt).  So sleeping longer once in a while will help.

However, some people are considered “long sleepers.” These are folks who sleep 10 to 12 hours for at least seven nights in a row.  This typically begins in childhood, and over their life they consistently need more than the typical amount of sleep.  Their sleep architecture and stages are normal, and there are no other signs of disorder.  About1.5% of women and  2% of men are long sleepers.  These folks tend to be slightly anxious or depressed.   It is thought that these people are on the high end of the normal continuum of sleep needs.

If you are one of the people who have a chronic sleep debt, or are a long sleeper, either way, get ready for the new year by getting the sleep you need – it will make all the difference!

Dr. Catherine Darley is a naturopathic physician who specializes exclusively in the treatment of sleep disorders using natural medicine.  Learn more at www.naturalsleepmedicine.net.

Sleep Health Education in Seattle

Talking with people about sleep health, giving them the facts, and the knowledge of how to promote healthy sleep for themselves and their families, is one of the things I love to do.  Just last week we put excerpts from a recent PTA talk on YouTube.  You can view it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syxCF12fWdM.  Watch it and let me know what you think!

The calendar for 2010 is growing, please let me know if you’d like me to come talk to your PTA, civic group, or corporation.  Here’s a sample of what’s going on so far.

“Optimizing Work Performance – The Sleep Connection”

Vulcan Inc.
January 26, 2010, 12:30-1:30pm
Open to employees

Join Dr. Darley to learn about how good sleep health can improve your job performance.   Objectives for this one hour “Lunch and Learn” are:

  • Understand the ways poor sleep interferes with mental, physical and emotional performance
  • Understand the most prevalent sleep disorders, including insufficient sleep
  • Learn ways to improve sleep

“Sleeping Like a Baby”

PEPS (Program for Early Parent Support)
Good Shepherd Center, Seattle
January 26, 2010, 6:30-8:00pm
Open to PEPS participants

Many new parents struggle to help their infant get into a regular sleep routine, and get enough sleep themselves.   Dr. Darley will discuss questions parents frequently ask about how to get their baby to sleep, the safety of co-sleeping, nap routines and sleep schedules.   There will be 30 minutes for questions and discussion after her presentation.

“Sleep and Mental Health: A Dynamic Interplay”

Continuing Education event for the Seattle Counselors Association (SCA)
February 19, 2010
Open to SCA members and visitors

Dr. Darley will discuss the dynamic interplay between sleep and mental health.   We’ll look in depth at a few conditions, including ADHD, anxiety, and depression.   The second half of the presentation will include screening questions for counselors to use in assessing whether sleep may be a contributing factor.   We’ll also discuss the effects of pharmaceuticals, over the counter medications, and supplements.   There will be ample time for questions and discussion.

“Sleep Well, and Succeed in School”

Loyal Height Elementary, Seattle Washington
April 29, 2010, 7:00p to 8:30p
Open to school parents

Many children have sleep problems, and their mood and performance suffers.   Come learn about common pediatric sleep problems, how they influence your child, and what you can do to ensure your child gets healthy sleep.

Join Dr. Catherine Darley, ND from The Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine as she discusses:

  • normal sleep in children
  • the effects of insufficient sleep, the most common sleep problem
  • sleep disordered breathing in children
  • Learn steps to take at home to improve your child’s sleep

Lessen the Effects of Shiftwork

About 20% of Americans do shiftwork, starting work either in the late afternoon or in the middle of the night.  Their health suffers, and their relationships can suffer too.  If you are on a shiftwork schedule, here are some strategies to manage the shiftwork lifestyle well.

– First, establish a wake / sleep schedule that you can maintain most days of the week.  Try to have some of your sleep hours the same, regardless of whether it is a work day or day off.

– Shiftworkers typically get less sleep than those who work during the day.  Adjust your schedule to allow enough sleep time, close to 8 hours each night is probably needed.

– To help you sleep those hours, make your bedroom ideal for sleeping.  It needs to be cool, dark, relatively quiet, no pets, and no lit clocks.  If you are trying to sleep during the day this can take more effort, but it will be worth it.  Get blackout shades, or use an eyecover.  Keep a fan running softly or earplugs to keep it quiet.  Train your pets that you are not available during your sleep time.  Set the alarm to wake you up, and then ignore the time, allowing yourself to be ‘off duty.’

In our 24 hour society people will need to work at all hours.  With a thoughtful strategy working shifts can be easier.

At The Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine, Dr. Darley provides care for people of all ages who have sleep problems. More at http://www.naturalsleepmedicine.net/

Shiftwork and Your Health

High numbers of people in America do shiftwork – 20% of those who are employed. One definition of shiftwork is starting work after 6pm, and before 6am. “Swing shift” which often starts around 3-4pm is also included in some definitions of shiftwork. Whichever definition you use, it is clear that the health of people who do shiftwork suffers.

Shiftworkers experience symptoms such as stomach upset, moodiness, high blood pressure and elevated stress hormones. In the long term these employees also have higher rates of breast and colon cancer in women, and prostate cancer in men.   These problems are thought to be due to the fact that shiftworkers are awake and engaged during a time that our body clock and circadian rhythm are programmed to be asleep.

Although these symptoms and conditions are concerning, it’s clear that some industries must work around the clock. Especially industries such as public safety, healthcare, and transportation. Fortunately there are ways in which the negative effects of shiftwork can be minimized. Check back on Friday for info on how to lessen these effects.

At The Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine, Dr. Darley provides care for people of all ages who have sleep problems. More at http://www.naturalsleepmedicine.net/

“Sleepy” vs. “Tired” vs. “Fatigued”

In our American culture, many words can be used interchangeably. This is even true of sleep words. Several years ago I had the honor of speaking at the annual Association of Professional Sleep Societies (APSS) meeting on the language of sleep medicine for the trainees. We looked at the different meanings of “sleepy” vs. “tired” vs. “fatigued.”

“Sleepy” means the propensity to actually fall asleep. Whereas “tired” is more about a feeling of reduced strength after exertion. “Fatigue” is a deep weariness or exhaustion.

Why do I bring this up on the blog? When you are thinking about your health, knowing whether you feel sleepy, vs tired or fatigued, will help you decide what kind of care to pursue.

Of course, if you are feeling sleepy, then a sleep specialist is a good place to start with.  Wednesday we’ll talk about medical conditions that can make you more sleepy.

To learn more about how you can sleep well using naturopathic sleep medicine, go to http://www.naturalsleepmedicine.net/

Are Naps Healthy?

I get this question all the time from patients who ask “what about naps?” Let me give you a little information about naps and night time sleep. Another day we’ll look at the effect of naps on alertness and performance.

There are several things to know before deciding to take a nap or not. First of all, from the time we wake until the time we go to bed our sleep drive increases. This sleep drive helps us fall asleep easily. When a nap is taken, it decreases our sleep drive back to zero, and there is less time than normal until bedtime, so at bedtime our sleep drive is less than normal. This can result in difficulty falling asleep, or in a short sleep duration.

The second thing to understand is the sleep cycle. There are four stages of sleep – REM, and NonREM stages 1, 2, and 3. Stage 3 is considered “deep” sleep, and is the most difficult to wake up from. We cycle through all these stages every 90-120 minutes. So a short nap of 30 minutes, or a longer nap of an hour and a half is best. This helps avoid waking out of stage 3 sleep and feeling groggy.

So overall, if you are going to take a nap, take it earlier in the day so that your sleep drive has time to build up again before bedtime and help you fall asleep easily. Also time your nap for less than 30, or more than 90 minutes so that you can wake feeling alert, not groggy.

The Healing Power of Nature

Over the last several months we’ve talked a lot about sleep medicine.  This month I’d like to share with you some interesting information about the healing power of nature.  The Healing Power of Nature is one of the principles of naturopathic medicine, which sets it apart from other medical philosophies.  As the year comes to a close, you may be thinking about how you want 2010 to be different.  Using this information will get the new year off to a great start.

Medical research has shown many ways that being in a natural environment with views of trees, birds, and plants of all kinds improves health as opposed to being in a ‘built’ environment.  ‘Built environment’ means the man-made cars, concrete, high-rises and pollution most of us are surrounded by in our urban neighborhoods.  Here’s a sample of the research findings:

–         Hospital patients recover more quickly, require fewer painkillers, and have fewer post-op complications when they have a view of trees and animals out their window.

–         Office workers report less job stress, fewer illnesses and overall higher job satisfaction when they have a view of nature outside their desk.

–         When roads are surrounded by a greenbelt drivers’ blood pressure and heart rate decrease, as does their sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system.

–         When urban people go into a natural setting for a few days (like on a camping trip) their concentration and problem-solving improve while mental fatigue decreases.

In our modern lifestyle we spend less time outdoors than people did historically.  Recently the book Last Child in the Woods brought attention to this disconnection from nature that children experience.  In my practice many sleep patients report problems with stress and anxiety.  One of my recommendations is to cultivate a habit of being outside regularly, as lower stress, lower sympathetic nervous charge, and greater feelings of pleasure will improve sleep.