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Putting sleep issues to rest

Nocturnal health: From new mattresses and pillows to relaxing before bedtime, there are many easy wa

Posted: March 4, 2010 10:43 p.m.
Updated: March 5, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Customers test out a mattress at Sit 'n Sleep in Stevenson Ranch.

 
Just about everyone has endured a few restless nights of sleep every now and then.

It could be anxiety before a big test that keeps your mind spinning well after it should be in rest mode.

Or maybe it's the grief from a personal loss that has you sad and distracted as you try to drift off.

"It's something about being in a dark bedroom, and the mind starts going over all the problems we have in our life," said Dr. Peter Fotinakes, director of sleep medicine at St. Joseph's Medical Center in Orange.

It can become a vicious cycle that often worsens before it gets better, Fotinakes warned.

"And after a few nights, the mind can become very anxious because a performance anxiety can develop," he said.

Whether it's one of the above or something else altogether that's disrupting your sleep, there are serious consequences to not addressing your nocturnal health, according to Fotinakes.

In addition to health and professional performance, sleeplessness can affect one's personal life and closest relationships.

Fotinakes said eight out of 10 couples who come into his clinic are already sleeping in other rooms before they've taken steps to address the sleep apnea or insomnia that's keeping a partner awake.

He said one common cause is a bit of irony, courtesy, of Mother Nature. As we get older, our sleep becomes more important, but it can also become more easily affected by our environment.

"As women enter menopause, their sleep becomes much lighter and is more easily interrupted," Fotinakes said, before adding that 50 percent of men over 50 years of age snore.

But there is plenty people can do to sleep easier deal with what's behind keeping themselves or their spouses awake at night.
One thing that's commonly overlooked is the process of winding down, Fotinakes said.

A lot of times when we prepare for bed, we do a lot of things that activate the brain, such as turning on the TV, listening to the radio or working near a computer, when we should be doing the opposite.

"All of these things are very mentally stimulating," he said. "And as a result, the mind isn't prepared for sleep."

This is often a factor that might not keep someone up at night, but could worsen a stressful situation if someone is having trouble with sleep.

Just as important to solving sleep problems is the way in which they are addressed, says Dr. Roger De Sesa, a licensed chiropractor in the Santa Clarita Valley for more than 10 years.

"There's a couple of different ways of approaching it," De Sesa said. "You can look at the sleep challenge as a symptom and you can treat it with medication.

"But if you want to address the underlying problem, you have to look at what that problem is," he continued. "Sometimes it's stress. Sometimes it's a lack of exercise, and sometimes, it's diet. Certainly caffeine too late in the day is bad for sleep."

Other common mistakes are eating or snacking right before bedtime, or not getting enough exercise during the day, he said.

He also stressed the importance of forming good habits to achieve the necessary seven or eight hours of shut-eye.

De Sesa mentioned a warm bath, a relaxing cup of tea writing in a journal as ways to unwind that can be mentally and physically therapeutic for sleep preparation.

"(Keeping a journal) is fantastic because it takes those stressful thoughts of the day and puts them down on paper," De Sesa said.

He also said as little as 20 minutes of exercise per day can also help our body expend energy or anxiety that can build up.

Outside of lifestyle habits, there are also a number of bedroom changes that can be made that will have a positive impact on sleep, Fotinakes said.

They can be as simple as making sure your sheets are hypoallergenic if you have serious allergies. Sometimes down-feather sheets or older quilts collect bugs and dust that can keep you awake and affect your health during the day.

Fotinakes said there are plenty of modern foam alternatives that are comfortable and specifically hypoallergenic.

Replacing your mattress every eight years is also helpful in reducing these types of allergy-related sleep problems.

A newer mattress can also provide you with a better night's sleep because a mattress gradually accrues dirt, oil and sweat from our bodies that can make it double in weight. As this happens, mattresses give our bodies less of a cushion and can eventually contribute to chronic sleep issues.

In addition to a wide variety of mattresses and sleep aids, the Sit 'n Sleep location on The Old Road offers a sleep diagnostic test that can help identify any problems with rest and help address them, according to Patricia Santa, sales lead at the store.

She said the test takes into account personal information such as age, height and weight, then combines it with a pressure mat that reads a customer's pressure points and feeds out a mattress suggestion geared toward the individual's needs.

"The whole idea behind it is to minimize the guesswork," Santa said. "The store has hundreds of mattresses and they all look the same - they're all rectangular."

While the mattress is important, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the most important thing you can do, De Sesa said.

"That's one of the bigger things that I do coach my clients on," De Sesa said. "I'll ask, ‘After a nap - when you wake up - do you feel more tired or energized?' And usually, they say, ‘More tired.' Our body has to expend that energy during the day. You've got to get your body moving. "

De Sesa Chiropractic will host a free "Stop Counting Sheep, Get Some Sleep" workshop at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 16, 27674 Newhall Ranch Road #65 in Valencia. Info: www.scvhealthcare.com.

 

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