Solutions to the Seven Most Common
By Dr. Narinder Duggal and Dr. Leslie Van Romer
know that sleep is absolutely critical to feel your best, look your
best and perform at your best – every day. A lack of sleep can
result in issues such as decreased productivity, creativity and
focus, but a continuous lack of sleep can lead to more serious
health issues. While the quality and quantity sleep take front and
center stage, there are other major health players such as: eating
lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, making time for 60 minutes of
exercise each day, taking in fresh air, drinking lots of water and
having an uplifting outlook on life.
important but there is a lot of confusion about how we can get this
sacred time to rest, recuperate and reenergize. Sometimes the
confusion and misinformation is harmless; sometimes it is dangerous.
Here are the solutions to the top seven myths about getting your
#1: Snoring may be annoying to a sleep partner, but it is never
Fact: Snoring may be harmless, but it can also be a
symptom of a life-threatening sleep disorder called sleep apnea,
especially if it is accompanied by severe daytime sleepiness. Sleep
apnea, or pauses in breathing while sleeping, prevents air flow,
reduces oxygen levels and strains the heart and cardiovascular
system, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. People with
sleep apnea awaken frequently during the night. Obesity can also
contribute to sleep apnea.
Solution: Lose weight and if you suspect sleep apnea,
get it checked out. It is treatable. Newer, medical advancements can
assist in helping you get a good night’s sleep.
#2: You can “cheat” on the amount of sleep you get.
Fact: Sleep experts say that most adults need between seven
and nine hours of sleep each night for optimum performance, health
and safety. When we don’t get adequate sleep, we accumulate a sleep
“debt” that can be difficult to “pay back.” The result: sleep
deprivation, which is linked to obesity, high blood pressure, mood
swings, decreased productivity and safety issues in the home, on the
job and on the road.
Solution: Put your body and health first and get to
bed early enough for your full eight hours of rest.
#3: Insomnia means difficulty falling asleep.
Fact: Difficulty falling asleep is only one of the four
symptoms associated with insomnia. The others include waking up too
early and not being able to fall back asleep; frequent awakenings
during the night; and waking up feeling un-refreshed. Insomnia can
be a symptom of a sleep disorder or other health problems. According
to a recent National Sleep Foundation poll, 58% of adults in this
country reported at least one symptom of insomnia in the past year.
Solution: Daily exercise, loading up on lots of whole, fresh
fruits and vegetables, and avoiding or eliminating stimulants from
the diet, such as caffeine, chocolate and refined sugar in foods and
drinks. When insomnia symptoms occur more than a few times a week
and impact a person’s daily life, the symptoms should be discussed
with the appropriate health care provider.
Myth #4: Health problems such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension,
and depression are unrelated to the quantity and quality of a
Fact: Studies have found a direct relationship between sleep
and many health problems. Insufficient sleep affects growth hormone
secretion that is linked to obesity. As the amount of hormone
secretion decreases, the chance for weight gain increases. Blood
pressure usually falls during the sleep cycle. However, interrupted
sleep can adversely affect this normal decline, leading to
hypertension and cardiovascular problems. Insufficient sleep impairs
the body’s ability to use insulin, leading to the onset of diabetes.
Solution: Losing weight and building up one’s health with
whole fruits and vegetables, while reducing fat-loaded foods, such
as meat, cheese, and hydrogenated fats found in many processed foods
can help. Also, 60 minutes of daily exercise and avoiding
stimulants, such as caffeine, chocolate and white sugar found in
drinks and foods.
Myth #5: The older you get, the fewer hours of sleep you need.
Fact: Just like most adults, people over the age of 65 need
7 to 9 hours of sleep. While sleep patterns change as we age, the
amount of sleep we need generally does not. In fact, a poll by the
National Sleep Foundation’s found that older adults typically do not
sleep less than their younger counterparts, but an average of seven
hours. Poor health, not age, is a major reason why many older people
report sleep problems.
Solution: Building healthy, lifelong habits is a must to
getting a good night’s sleep and enjoying life as a senior. Daily
walking, deep-breathing and stretching exercises, spending time with
family and friends and jumping into a hobby can contribute to a good
night’s sleep. Eat the right kind of foods and avoid caffeine,
refined and processed foods, and fatty foods. Napping in the very
early afternoon, around noon, is less likely to interfere with
sleeping at night. And, of course, get down to your ideal body
Myth #6: During sleep, your brain rests.
Fact: The body rests during sleep. However, the brain
remains active and gets “recharged.” During sleep, you drift between
two sleep states, REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM, in 90-minute
cycles. Non-REM sleep, when our minds can still process information,
has four stages with distinct features, ranging from stage one
drowsiness, when one can be easily awakened to “deep sleep” stages
three and four, when the most positive and restorative effects of
sleep occur. REM sleep is an active sleep where dreams occur and
eyes move back and forth under the eyelids.
Myth #7: If you wake up in the middle of the night, it is best to
lie in bed, count sheep, or toss and turn until you eventually fall
Fact: If you wake up in the middle of the night, relaxing
imagery or thoughts may help to induce sleep more than counting
sheep, which may be more distracting than relaxing.
Solution: Most experts agree that if you do not fall back
asleep within 15-20 minutes, get out of bed, go to another room and
engage in a relaxing activity such as listening to music or reading.
Return to bed when you feel sleepy. Avoid watching the clock. The
bed should be associated with sleep and sex only.
Read other articles and learn more about
Dr. Leslie Van
Narinder Duggal, M.D.
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