Monthly Archives: March 2010

Is it Insomnia or Delayed Sleep Phase?

Insomnia is an inability to fall asleep easily or stay asleep throughout the night. Delayed Sleep Phase is when a person is on a later schedule than the norm. The tricky thing is that Delayed Sleep Phase can masquerade as insomnia, because it can also cause difficulty falling asleep.

In Delayed Sleep Phase the circadian rhythm is pushed later, so the person doesn’t get sleepy until later than the norm. So if he tries to go to sleep at a normal time, he lies awake in bed, and experiences insomnia. However, if he goes to bed later when he feels sleepy he will have no sleep problem.

Recently I saw an adult woman who had delayed sleep phase, but who had been diagnosed with insomnia and treated with sleeping pills. One of the clues that she had Delayed Sleep Phase is that she said ” I am never sleepy at bedtime.” We shifted her circadian rhythm earlier, using light therapy and precisely timed melatonin.

Within 6 weeks she was sleeping well through the night, without the sleeping pill she’d previously taken.  Her last comment to me was “Now there’s nothing for me to do but keep on sleeping.”

To learn more about Naturopathic Sleep Medicine and Dr. Catherine Darley please go to www.naturalsleepmedicine.net.  Sleep Well, Naturally.

Sleep Promoting Thoughts

There’s a saying in the sleep community “the only people who try to sleep are insomniacs, everyone else just sleeps.”

Unfortunately, sleep can be one of those things that becomes more difficult the harder you try. Sometimes patients share that when it starts getting dark, they begin worrying whether they’ll be able to sleep well at bedtime. Other thoughts that can disrupt sleep include comparing your sleep to others, canceling fun activities due to your sleep, attributing your mood to your sleep.

So if you find yourself having negative sleep thoughts during the day: pause, and question “is this true, or is there another way of seeing this?” There may not be, but purposefully switching into sleep promoting thoughts when you can will help your sleep in the long run.

More about natural sleep medicine can be found at www.naturalsleepmedicine.net.

Falling Asleep at the Wheel

Several years ago I had a neighbor who worked odd hours. Sometimes she’d work in the day, sometimes leave for work at 4pm, and sometimes she’d be in her office for more than 24hrs. Our kitchen and dining room looked out onto her driveway and front door so we frequently saw her coming and going.

And thank goodness we could see her! Several times she pulled into her drive in the morning after being gone all night, and fell asleep right there in the car, with her head on the steering wheel and the engine running. We’d go and wake her when we noticed that the engine wasn’t turned off.

This is just one example of the dangers of drowsy driving. What would have happened if she’d fallen asleep on the road, or if nobody had been there to wake her up?

Family Sleep Health

Last month we discussed infant sleep health, today I’d like to follow-up with discussion of family sleep health. Whenever I’m working with a family to help them improve their child’s sleep, I also think about the parents sleep too. So many parents come in saying they get hours less sleep each night than they need, and they can’t think as well as they used to, or that they aren’t getting along like they used to. Here’s some more information.

Facts About Parents’ Sleep
Many adults in our culture don’t get adequate sleep. For parents, an additional sleep disturbing factor is the children who wake them up in the night or early morning. This sleep disturbance can have a broad impact on how parents function during the day, and even on how parents get along with each other.

In the 2004 Sleep in America poll it was found that among parents of children 10 years old and younger:
– 58% of parents think they need 8-9 hours of sleep each night
– But on average get 6.8 hours
– 62% said they are not getting enough sleep
– And 20% say daytime sleepiness interferes with their daily activities
– 5% of parents say their childs’ sleep causes marital stress

In mothers of infants and toddlers, after just 3 weeks of their child sleeping better, the mothers are less depressed, and able to think more clearly.

How to Get Healthy Sleep for the Whole Family
So if you find that someone in the family isn’t sleeping well, take the opportunity to create a healthy sleep plan for the whole family. Here are some questions you can think through for each parent. You may want to print this out and post it so everyone will know the plan and can be involved.

For each individual have a section with these answers:
1. Nightly sleep need:
2. Quiet (non-task) time will start at:
3. Lights out at:
4. Night waking responsibility:
5. Wake time:

Remember how not getting adequate sleep can affect physical and cognitive performance, and mood. When everyone is well rested you’ll be better able to enjoy your family!