Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Need Two Bedrooms?

It happened again this week. I was sitting at dinner with a group of friends and they kindly asked about my book project. As we chatted about our book about couples sleeping together, the talk turned - as it always does - to our own sleep issues. It soon became clear that all of the women had problems sleeping with their partner, and several had abandoned the practice altogether. And, by the way, these are all women in long-term, happy marriages.

The main complaint? Snoring. Other complaints? Too much body movement and conflicting sleep schedules.

This is a little detail that never would have come out if I'd been writing a book about, say, the military history of Japan. But now I hear this all the time. That's one reason I love working on this project - it gives me a fascinating peek inside people's lives (or under their covers, as the case may be). We assume that all married couples sleep blissfully together at night, snuggled together, with no greater problem than cold tootsies. This just isn't true. In fact, many homes are now being built with two master bedrooms. Here's a link that'll give you everything from information about the topic to links and master plans for homes:

It's a fascinating trend. Is it just for the affluent who don't know what to do with all their money? Is this a crazy trend? Is it a movement inspired by homebuilders who want to make bigger and bigger homes? Or is it just smart?

The actor Michael Caine said the secret to a happy marriage is separate bathrooms. ( Maybe it's really separate bedrooms!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Sleep and Depression

In the past three weeks, Robert and I have been to the Atlantic Ocean and to the Pacific. I like that. We went to New York for fun - and found it while exploring the city with two of our sons. We went to California so Robert could give a talk to marriage and family therapists about sleep and its impact on mental health.

Does sleep impact mental health?

There's only one reasonable answer. Duh. Otherwise, what on earth would Robert have spoken about?

However, most people don't think that way. We think sleep is another biological necessity to check off the to-do list. But in a country where millions of dollars are spent on antidepressants, maybe it's smart to think about how sleep affects our mental status. So, today we'll begin.

Let's start with depression, since it's so common. Here are some facts:

--Sleep deprivation makes depression worse.
--If a depressed person has insomnia, the depression is more severe and the risk of suicide is higher.
--People with insomnia are more likely to have repeat episodes of depression.
--Excessive sleepiness may be a symptom of depression, but more depressed people suffer from insomnia.
--People with sleep apnea or Periodic LImb Movement Disorder have higher rates of depression.

If you're depressed, you need to get help, and that comes in many forms -- medications, talk therapy, exercise, etc. But don't forget to get your sleep. It can help too. Share your experiences in this forum and tell us what's worked and what hasn't.

(By the way, if you're wondering whether you might be depressed, here's a link to a quiz at the website that can help you decide.)

For a brief discussion on how antidepressants affect your sleep, read this column:

Friday, April 4, 2008

Sleep and Lose Weight

The latest research on sleep is a stunner. It sounds like a late-night infomercial: Sleep more and lose weight.

Huh? It's this easy? Who knew? I thought you had to eat less food and exercise more. But wrong! Research says you need to get more sleep. (Here are a couple links to information about the research:,

Okay, now I'm mad. For years I've been playing the weight loss game. And, for the record, I used to weigh a whole lot more than I weigh now, though I've yet to be mistaken for Heidi Klum. I am not thin, or anything close to it, but I'm working my way down the numbers on the BMI chart, trying to get out of the red zone. I've worked at slowly changing bad habits and overcoming what my doctor calls a body that is built-for-a-famine because it's so stingy with the calories it burns. I've plowed through mounds of salads and vegetables and spent a small fortune on athletic shoes. And, I am continually trying to wrestle the evil twins of eating less and exercising more.

Now the researchers say I should have been sleeping more. They've discovered:

  • A correlation between lack of sleep and overeating, less physical activity and lower fruit and vegetable consumption
  • A direct link between sleep deprivation and weight gain
  • A decrease in serotonin levels in sleep-deprived people, which results in carbohydrate craving

I'm wondering if this weight loss technique can be retroactive. I missed a lot of sleep in college and during postpartum years. So, if I catch up now will the pounds melt away? Maybe if I go to bed right now and sleep for the next day or two, I'll wake up ten pounds thinner.

Hey, people have done lots stupider things to lose weight. So, maybe instead of lacing up my shoes and running to my kick-box class, I'll head back to bed.