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CAN'T SLEEP? TIPS FOR A GOOD NIGHT'S REST Dark is good. Darkest is best. Light signals the brain to wake up. That means your alarm clock flashing those blue digits can jolt you awake long before you are ready. Turn the clock toward the wall or hi...



Dark is good. Darkest is best. Light signals the brain to wake up. That means your alarm clock flashing those blue digits can jolt you awake long before you are ready. Turn the clock toward the wall or hit the dim switch. "You need darkness, quiet and comfort to sleep and the need to be safe. If you're not safe with your home or bed partner you won't sleep well," cautions Joyce Welsleben, a sleep specialist with the NYU School of Medicine.

Eat properly. Going to bed overstuffed, especially on carbs and fat, interferes with sleep. Starving yourself also counters a good night's rest. Try a small high-protein bedtime snack, maybe a little cheese or a hard-boiled egg.

A snoring bedmate. Suggest, lovingly of course, that your partner sleep on his or her side. Barring that, opt for comfortable earplugs or consider separate bedrooms.


Keep to a schedule. Body rhythms matter. Try to wake up at the same time every day even if you go to bed later than usual on a party night. You might get away with sleeping in an extra hour, say on the weekend, but any more than that and you are "jet-lagging" your system.

Go to bed 15 minutes earlier. If you cut 15 minutes off of your activity and go to bed at 11:45 instead of midnight you net an additional 1- hours of sleep per week. It adds up.

Nap smart. A short siesta, about 20 to 30 minutes in the early afternoon, can be refreshing. Be careful. Nap too long and you enter REM sleep. You'll wake up groggy and have a hard time falling asleep at bedtime. Napping too late in the afternoon, at 5 p.m. or later, also impacts night sleep.

Keep your feet covered. This widens blood vessels down there, drawing heat from the core to the extremities, which cools you a little, inducing sleep.

Play music that you consider relaxing. Dock your iPod into a speaker system and set its timer so the lullaby can cease once you reach sleep.

Can't sleep? Stay in bed. No, get outta bed. Experts differ on this one. A Duke University expert suggests leaving the bed. Welsleben, however, advises staying in bed. "You'll have more of a chance to fall asleep in a dark room than if you get up to do something else, like getting hooked on the Internet." Both agree that whichever option you settle on, do not turn on any lights.

Sources: Darrel Drobnich, National Sleep Foundation; Joyce Welsleben, NYU School of Medicine; Drs. Dalia Lorenzo and Douglas Wallace, UM/VA Hospital; Prevention magazine; Jose Oliveros, North Shore Medical Center; National Center on Sleep Disorders Research and Institute of Medicine.



Sleep loss during December is common but it's not the only impediment to getting a good night's rest medical conditions can affect your sleep.

Stacia Smith, a 25-year-old restaurant hostess in Aventura, Fla., suffers from narcolepsy, a disorder causing daytime sleepiness. She was diagnosed while attending college in Fort Worth, Texas.

"I had trouble staying awake in class. I didn't think anything of it at the time, figuring I was one of many college students sleeping through class," she says, laughing. "But I did fall asleep at work and it's pretty embarrassing when you're sitting at your desk talking to the boss and you fall asleep."

Smith sought treatment at the University of Miami/VA Sleep Center, where she was hooked up to monitors in a lab to measure brain waves. She is now being treated with medication.

She's among the fortunate.

"The magnitude of sleep disorders out there is staggering," says Dr. Dalia Lorenzo, medical director of the UM/VA Sleep Center. "Problems with breathing in sleep can be more common than asthma. One in four middle-aged men will have a problem with sleep apnea disorder. Apnea often is linked to being overweight."

While women are less at risk, they increase their chances of contracting the disorder after menopause, when weight gain can occur.

Here are some common sleep disorders treated at UM and other South Florida sleep centers:



An estimated 18 million Americans have sleep apnea, a potentially life-threatening disorder that interrupts breathing during sleep. "It sneaks up on you over time," Lorenzo said.

Apnea occurs when air can't flow through the airway because of fat buildup or loss of muscle tone. Obesity is a factor. Sleeping on your left side may help as it moves the tongue from the airway.

You lose sleep because the brain realizes it's not getting air and jolts the person awake to start the breathing process again. The National Sleep Foundation warns that those with sleep apnea should refrain from taking sleep aids because they could prevent someone from awakening to breathe.

Specially designed pillows and oral appliances fit by a dentist can help, along with losing weight. Surgery may be required.


One in 2,000 suffer from narcolepsy, a neurological disorder causing people to fall asleep throughout the day, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Drugs can treat the disorder.



RBD is an ailment in which the temporary muscle paralysis that naturally results during deep REM (rapid eye movement) sleep does not function. RBD can cause the person sleeping to react to vivid dreams usually action-oriented and violent by punching or kicking or thrashing. Those suffering RBD can later develop Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, says the UM's Dr. Douglas Wallace.


The National Institute of Health says that 30 percent of the population complains of sleep interruption, or insomnia, a problem of initiating or maintaining sleep. See tips on Page 11 for how to get a good night's sleep.

(c) 2007, The Miami Herald.

Visit The Miami Herald Web edition on the World Wide Web at http://www.herald.com/

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

PHOTOS (from MCT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): sleep AMX-2007-12-14T06:21:00-05:00

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