Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Search for Sleep

Maybe you’re snapping at your children more, or guzzling coffee at a rate that would make Juan Valdez blush. It’s possible what you’re really looking for is a good night’s sleep.

Most Americans are sleep deprived, says Abdallah I. Kafrouni, M.D., a sleep and pulmonary specialist at Northwest Hospital in Randallstown.

“Nobody gets enough sleep anymore,” Kafrouni says. “Everyone thinks they can get away with four or five hours, when the average American in the 1920s got 8 to 8 1/2 hours of sleep."

Kafrouni offers the following tips for getting a good night’s sleep:
  • Cut back on caffeine.
Kafrouni recommends no caffeinated drinks in the afternoon. In addition to coffee, soda and iced tea can contain enough stimulants to keep you awake at night.
  • Avoid sleeping pills.
“Insomnia is extremely prevalent in our society, and some turn to sleeping pills,” Kafrouni says. Always talk to a physician before taking sleeping pills.
  • Make your bedroom cool, dark, quiet and comfortable.
“Minimize as much as you can,” Kafrouni advises. This may include using earplugs and room-darkening shades. Other options include eye covers or a fan, which can both cool you off and drown out excess noise. These tricks can be especially important for night-shift workers who need to sleep during the day, he says.
  • See a physician if you have insomnia, severe snoring or other breathing problems.
Insomnia can often be addressed through behavioral modifications, Kafrouni says. Obstructive sleep apnea impacts 10 percent of women and 20-25 percent of men
  • Establish a bedtime routine.
“A routine is always great,” Kafrouni says. Set an established time to go to bed and wake up. And if you need the alarm in the morning, you haven’t gotten enough sleep, he says. Relaxing nighttime activities, such as listening to soft music or reading, are a signal to your body to start slowing down.
  • Stop smoking.
"It’s not a healthy habit in any way," Kafrouni says. Even if they claim non-addiction, he says smokers will often reach for a cigarette first thing in the morning. For more information on quitting smoking, visit
  • Exercise.
While you should not work out less than an hour before bed, exercise helps you achieve a restful night of sleep, Kafrouni says.
  • Choose a good mattress and pillow.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average life cycle for a mattress is around a decade. Putting allergy covers on pillows and mattresses can also cut down on dust mites, which may trigger allergies and interrupt sleep.
  • Avoid alcohol before bed.
Alcohol is a sedative, so people often think it will work to help them fall asleep. But it's more likely to cause you to wake up in the middle of the night, thus disrupting your sleep.

For more information on the Sleep Disorders Center at Northwest Hospital, call 410-601-WELL (9355).

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I notice that this is a growing problems in teens and young adults. I have two daughters with this problem. I need to get them over to Northwest.