By Dr. Bob
Dr. Hart and I talk about sleep a lot, and not always about how we aren’t getting enough of it. If we were to measure the amount of sleep our patient’s tell us they get, I can pretty confidently say that it is minimal. Most daunting is the fact that it’s not just one subset of the clinic. New moms don’t get any sleep. Studies have shown new parents can lose 50 night’s sleep in their kids first year. Kids and teens don’t get enough sleep. Adults in the work force work too much and can’t sleep. What can we do about sleep?
1.) First we need to make sure there’s not a medical barrier to sleep.
- Do you snore heavily?
- Does your partner complain that gasp for air at night?
- Will your kids refuse to share a hotel with you because of the noises you make in your sleep?
- Can you be in bed for 12 hours and still not be rested?
These are the type questions that may lead to us checking you for sleep apnea, by ordering a sleep study. Sleep Apnea is a chronic condition that can contribute to fatigue, low energy, heart disease, and a shortened lifespan- It’s also the second most common sleep disorder in the world, right behind insomnia. We may also check your labwork to look for other causes, like an overactive thyroid making sleep more dificult.
2.) Every time someone comes in to talk about sleep, we are going to get into the nuts and bolts of your personal sleep routine and situation.
- When do you wake up?
- When do you go to sleep?
- Do you wake up in the night?
- Do your kids sleep in your bed?
- How old is your mattress?
- Is the window open or closed?
- What do you do before bed?
- How many times do you get up to pee during the night?
- What do you do if you wake up in the night?
There are countless questions that help lead us to the right solution. Not everyone’s insomnia or fatigue is the same!
One of the first areas we often address when talking about sleep is the number of screens in the bedroom. I know I’m guilty of watching awful cartoons on my tablet in bed. However, those screens act similarly to sunlight on our brain which confuses our circadian rhythm, preventing our body from making natural melatonin. A growing body of research on the impact of screens on sleep is consistent: that they hamper our sleep.
For many of our patients, kids are the culprit. There’s not a single magic answer to helping you get more sleep when your kid won’t sleep, but we’d love to see your whole family and work on solutions for everyone including helping you set boundaries, create routines, and to make sure nothing more serious is interfering with your family’s ability to go from counting sheep to counting zzzzz.
5. Routine and ritual:
Often when addressing sleep, we have to address this chaotic world in which we live. Is every night at your home different? What social and scheduled cues do you have that let your body know to expect sleep is coming? Sometimes we can approach this with something as simple as a calming cup of herbal tea, a shower, or a song played every night before bed.
6. Herbs, supplements, and medications:
Lifestyle is often a major component to sleep issues, but sometimes there are barriers that can’t be overcome easily by just rearranging evening routines. Work, children, mental health, pain, and outside stressors all impact sleep. We have a large variety of herbs and supplements we can use to help you sleep and will individualize the treatment to your specific issues with sleep. There may be a different treatment for someone with difficulty falling asleep vs. someone who falls asleep fine, but can’t stay there.
There is a theory called “Hering’s Law of Cure” that says that the oldest symptoms take the longest to treat. Have you been an insomniac since 5 years old? It might take us some time and some different treatments to get you sleeping as we peel back layers of the human onion, to reach the root cause
Sleep is fundamental. Our bodies and brains cannot heal themselves without letting the body go through it’s sleep rhythm. If you’re having difficulty, give us a call and we will work together to find answers and solutions that work for you, using our vast and sleep inducing tool kit.
Some sleep situations you might find yourself in:
So you wake up every night wide awake at 4 am?
We might work on lowering cortisol levels in the evening using herbs and supplements, such as Cortisol Manager, or help you shift your circadian rhythm off of that east coast time stamp.
Can’t fall asleep:
Maybe we need to try some melatonin, or work on bringing down some of the night time anxiety with herbs like Lavender, Lemon Balm, and Chamomille. Maybe the cell phone needs to be in another room. For folks that have trouble turning their brains off, a guided meditation practice, progressive relaxation, or listening to a book being read may help.
We may discuss some mental health options especially if you have a history of trauma. Is there an undiagnosed PTSD that needs managed before a good night sleep can be attained? For our younger folks, 4 and 5 year olds can really let their imagination run away with them sometimes- maybe they need us to make a monster spray or to help them get rid of their worries before bed.
Maybe you sleep great, but the toddler does not. We will discuss methods of helping your kiddo sleep better and help you create boundaries around your own sleep. Dr. Hart is a strong advocate that if you can’t sleep at your house you should still sleep somewhere! Getting quality sleep while living with people who suck at sleeping can be quite the community project.
But doc, I havn’t slept in a week and I feel great:
This could be a sign of a serious mental health issue such as bipolar disorder which may need pharmacological treatment. You do actually need sleep. It’s a thing.
My fitbit says I sleep well, but I never feel rested:
Is there an underlying depression or nutritional deficiency? Are you breathing all night long? Probably time to bring in some additional help to get you the energy you need to go through the day.
I drink coffee all day and I can’t sleep:
We may ask you to lower the coffee consumption…I know, I know. But the stimulants to wake up and sedatives to calm down pattern is not a healthy way to move through life, and we want you to have the freedom to break that pattern.
My family says I snore, and I sometimes wake up gasping for air:
Maybe you need a CPAP and sleep study to get more oxygen in at night. Oxygen is not optional.
Sleep is necessary to maintaining physical and mental health and is rooted in our physical and mental health as well as our habits and lifestyles. We look forward to helping you sleep just a little better- you can get on the books here: http://vitalitynw.com/schedule-appointment/ or by calling 503-344-1345