Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Does your Bed Partner Have Sleep Apnea?

Simple snoring can be amusing, frustrating or annoying to others. Loud, incessant snoring is a different animal. It can be a symptom of sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a serious disease. The good news is that treatments improve every year. Getting tested and treated for sleep apnea has real impact on longevity and quality of life.
Many patients are tested for sleep apnea only because their bed partners drag them into the sleep lab. If you sleep with a snorer, you know how distressing it is to hear someone stop breathing in the middle of the night – then hear the loud snort/gasp that comes with the ability to breathe again. Some of these individuals wake up and hear the noise themselves. However, most remain blissfully asleep (well, not technically, but they don’t wake enough to know it).
People with sleep apnea attribute their daytime sleepiness to stress, hard work, or aging. So, it’s up to bed partners to let snorers know what’s happening during sleep.
If you think the snorer you sleep with may have sleep apnea, do whatever it takes to get him/her to see a physician. The risks of not treating apnea include high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack and diabetes. Sleep apnea patients also have more drowsy related accidents. Trust us, this is not something to ignore.
Don’t be surprised if the snorer denies what is going on and accuses a bed partner of exaggeration. But don’t give up. Persistence is vital. Enlist the help of other people in the house (or next door, if the snoring is loud enough).
If your bed partner’s snoring is heroic in volume, and s/he refuses treatment, getting out of the bedroom (either by having him/her move out or moving yourself out) may be the best answer. It won’t help the physical damage the snorer suffers, but it can save a marriage, and the mental health of the snorer’s bed partner.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Easiest New Year's Resolution Ever

We all agonize over our New Year's resolutions. What shall we try to accomplish this year? Losing thirty pounds? Again? Dusting off that treadmill sitting in the basement? Organizing the overstuffed garage or paying off your credit card bills?

How about trying something revolutionary this year. Make a New Year's resolution that you'll keep.

Make a resolution to get enough sleep in 2009. Go to bed a little earlier. Or get up a little later. Or sleep in longer on the weekends. Make sleep a priority.

If you do this, you'll:
--Have fewer colds and illnesses.
--Control your weight more easily.
--Reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes
--Have a clearer memory.
--Reduce inflammation in your body.
--Decrease depression.
--Repair cell damage faster.

It goes beyond these benefits though. If you get adequate sleep, you'll feel better! You'll find more joy in life and have more energy throughout the day to accomplish all those tasks on your to-do list (and those other resolutions). Sleep will do you as much good as the other difficult resolutions. And it's not nearly as hard as exercising everyday, following a low-carb diet, or cutting up your credit cards.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Simpler Life and Sleep

Unless you've been hanging out on some remote island eating coconuts, you know all about the economic crisis. It's been called an economic tsunami, the perfect storm, and all kinds of other creative names. The country is scared. We're worried about getting the kids through college and having some kind of retirement fund when the time comes. Hey, we're worried about paying for groceries this week.

Television anchors and pundits are wringing their hands, placing blame, and pretty much increasing the anxiety of Americans. But surely there's an up side. Could it be our sleep?

Maybe this is a good time to catch up on your sleep. We all know the country is dangerously deprived of sleep. We know that on a macro level, when we read statistics about drowsy driving and industrial accidents. We know it on a micro level, when we're tired day after day after day. So, as part of the simpler life many of us are putting into place, let's sleep more. Stay out of the stores, buy less stuff, play with fewer toys. Sleep more!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Pity for Sleep-Deprived Presidential Candidates

I feel sorry for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain. Oh, I now they're all wealthy and powerful and have willingly signed on to run for the presidency. Still, I would hate to be in their position of having every word scrutinized and criticized. They've all gotten into trouble because they've misspoken. Some more than others.

What we need to remember is that these folks are getting by on little sleep. We all say stupid things when we're tired. We are a tad ornery. Presidential candidates are only human, and they react the same way.

They don't get much sleep. At one time, McCain said he was trying to get five or six hours a night. Obama said his best Christmas gift was eight hours of sleep. I doubt he's gotten much lately. Jeremiah Wright is insomnia in a pastor's robe. The whole country has noted Clinton's fatigue in unflattering, bleary-eyed photos. Her husband even pointed it out to the media.

Politicians are sleep-deprived, no doubt about that. Bill Clinton said sleep deprivation caused some of the "edginess" in Washington D.C. He was notorious for only getting a few hours of sleep per night. Harold Dean's rambling shriek that cost him his presidential bid was blamed on sleep deprivation. Mike Huckabee (remember him?) blamed some of his problems on fatigue, stating he was down to four hours of sleep per night. Giuliani spent a night in the hospital because he was so exhausted. All-night campaigning toward the end of a campaign is a badge of honor for all candidates.

Given what we know about sleep deprivation - specifically that it impairs judgment and decision-making skills - wouldn't we all be better off if these people would go home and take a nap?

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: http://askville.amazon.com/house-plan-master-suites/AnswerViewer.do?requestId=4272222

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. (http://spicyceleb.blogspot.com/2008/03/michael-caine-secret-to-happy-marriage.html) 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 depression.com that can help you decide.) http://www.depression.com/depression_questionnaire.html

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: http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/cant-shed-those-pounds, http://www.physorg.com/news72978010.html)

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.