Microsleep: WHO,WHAT,WHEN,WHERE,WHY?

Chinese businessman inside car falling asleep

When you hear or see the word insomnia, narcolepsy, or sleep apnea, most people automatically know they are sleep disorders and what they mean. What about the word microsleep? Have you ever heard of it, or know the meaning?

Micorsleep is an episode of light sleep lasting anywhere from one second up to two minutes. What makes microsleep extremely dangerous is when the episodes occur you’re completely unaware that you are sleeping.  In fact, someone next you may not even realize what is going on since the majority of the time the eyes stay open during an episode. People wake suddenly, usually with a jerk of the head. Microsleep can be caused by insomnia, sleep deprivation and fatigue. Individuals with sleep disorders are more likely to experience microsleep. However, anyone can experience them especially if they are tired.

An episode can happen at anytime of the day, but are more likely to occur during pre-dawn hours and in the mid afternoon. According to the Department of Transportation an estimated 20% of accidents on major roads are sleep related.  Some symptoms to be ware of that can lead up to a microsleep episode are:

  • Constantly blinking of the eyelids
  • Nodding of the head
  • Eyelids drooping
  • Difficulties concentrating

If any of the above symptoms occur while driving a motorized vehicle the best-case scenario is to find a safe place to pull over on the side of the road and take a short nap. A brief nap as short as 20 minutes could help prevent a microsleep episode.

To prevent microsleep try to get the recommended amount of sleep of 7-9 hours a night. Coffee and other caffeine supplements can also help with falling asleep.  Remember to keep in mind if you consume caffeine closer to your bedtime it will cause you to have difficulties falling asleep.

To learn more information about Microsleep, contact a PM Sleep Center to schedule an appointment.

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On Graveyard? Working overnight could be the cause of sleep problems

Night Shift Causes Sleep DisordersThe sun has set; many people are winding down for the evening. Meanwhile, approximately 2 million other people are heading into work. Roughly around 20% of the United States workforce work night shift or some type of shift work.

First responders, hospital and nursing homes workers, military personal and truck drivers are a few to name that work the graveyard shift. In addition to an opposite sleep schedule, these employees often aren’t working a normal 8 hours, they are pulling a 12-hour shift or longer. Their schedules are flipped completely around. During the day they have to sleep while the sun shines bright, and loud sounds from cars and people carries nose through their walls. As the rest of the world sleeps, they have to fight against their natural circadian rhythm to stay awake.

The circadian rhythm also known as “body clock” is a 24 hour biological clock that informs our bodies when to sleep. Sunlight helps manage the clock to know the difference between day and night. Our brains also produce a natural hormone called Melatonin. Melatonin is made by the pineal gland in the brain and maintains the circadian rhythm. The pineal gland is turned on after the sun goes down and starts producing Melatonin. When Melatonin is released into the blood stream we begin to start feeling less alert. This process usually starts around 9pm producing high levels of melatonin until the sun starts to rise in the early morning.

Fighting against your natural sleep cycle to stay awake can become extremely dangerous, especially for someone who has to make life or death situations and split-second decisions. Ultimately working these types of hours can lead to restlessness, sleeping on the job and fatigue. Even if you sleep for a full 8 hours before starting a shift, it won’t help entirely.

Quite frankly the solutions are limited from dodging sleeping problems. Switching to day shift would be the best situation, however that is easier said than done. In reality someone will always be working “third shift” or “graveyard”. One possibility is taking stimulates such as coffee or a caffeine pill to help stay wake. As for helping you sleep try using a sleep aid. Stick with the same bedtime everyday and try going straight to bed as soon as you get home from work.

Are you experiencing sleeping problems from working shift work or during the night? Contact PM Sleep Center to learn more information on sleeping disorders.

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Preparations for a Good Night’s Sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep can be challenging, if not downright impossible, for many individuals. Nearly a third of Americans say they struggle with being able to fall asleep a few nights per week. Sleep deprivation has been linked to several health complications including high blood pressure, obesity, poor concentration and a pervasive lack of energy to name a few. Good health and a better quality of life begins with a good night’s sleep so let’s look at a few ways to help get you that quality rest your body requires.

While you may not be able to control all the factors keeping you from a full night’s sleep, adopting healthy sleep habits will ensure you are giving your body the best possible environment for achieving a restorative night’s sleep. The number one recommended healthy sleep tip is to establish a consistent schedule. It is so tempting to stay up late and then sleep in on your days off, but that actually disrupts your sleep-wake cycle, making it even harder to fall asleep when you need to. Along with a consistent schedule, it also helps to establish a bedtime ritual to signal to your body that it is time for sleep. Whether it’s taking a warm shower, reading a book or doing some relaxing yoga every night before bed, it will help ease the transition into sleep. The one caveat to this however, is to avoid using the TV or other electronic devices as part of your nightly ritual. There has been considerable research done that suggests the lights from the screen can actually stimulate your brain making it even harder to nod off.

What you eat and drink, especially close to bedtime, can be directly related to how well you sleep at night. Eating too much as well as eating too little, can disrupt your sleep. It is recommended that you finish dinner at least four hours before bedtime to eliminate reflux, heartburn or other sleep depriving symptoms. The converse is true as well, if you eat too little for dinner and go to bed on an empty stomach, you could have a problem getting to sleep and staying asleep; a small, healthy snack before bedtime can help you nod off more quickly. Indulging in nicotine, caffeine and alcohol too close to bedtime can wreak havoc on your sleep quality as well. Even though alcohol can help you fall asleep, as it is metabolized in your system it can wake you up not too long later.

Stress is another trigger that causes insomnia. Finding ways to manage your stress levels can help alleviate insomnia. Creating a peaceful and comfortable sleep environment can help; cool, dark and quiet are ideal sleeping conditions. Physical activity throughout the day not only helps you manage stress, it also promotes better sleep at night. Work tends to be a major source of stress for many individuals, so a couple hours before bed, put away the computer and iPad and leave any emails and other work items for the next day. It will help to calm your mind and let your body wind down so you can fall asleep easier and faster.

If these strategies don’t help, and you still find yourself plagued with insomnia or just feel as if you are never rested properly, it could be a sign of another underlying condition. A visit to a sleep doctor might be in order. They can help you accurately diagnose the source of your symptoms, and a sleep study can determine if you have an undiagnosed sleep disorder that is preventing you from a good night’s sleep.

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Warning! You Could be Suffering From a Sleep Disorder

Do you go through the day feeling unrested or groggy, even after a full night’s sleep? Are you constantly relying on caffeine or energy drinks to make it through the day? Do you have trouble staying awake during sedentary activities like watching TV, sitting down to read or riding in a vehicle? Don’t just write these symptoms off as stress or an uncomfortable mattress. A sleep assessment or a sleep study can help you and your doctor determine if you have an underlying sleep disorder that is causing your tiredness.

We all have days where we feel like we are dragging; maybe we stayed up too late or had to get up too early, however those days should be the exception to the rule – not the norm. It is estimated that over 40 million people in the United States suffer from some sort of sleep disorder and often don’t even realize it.

When our bodies are sleep deprived due to a chronic sleep disorder, they can’t function properly. It doesn’t take long before we start noticing the effects; depression, lack of mental acuity, weight gain and impaired judgment are just a few problems attributed to sleep deprivation. Sleep disorders also put you at risk for some more serious complications such as heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes.

The most common sleep disorder is sleep apnea, currently affecting more than 18 million people here in the US. It is not the only type of sleep disorder however; insomnia, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy and sleepwalking round out the top five. There are actually more than 85 different types of sleep disorders, ranging from mild to life threatening, which makes being properly screened critical to developing a correct diagnosis and an effective treatment plan.

If you or a loved one think you might be suffering from a sleep disorder, take a minute to fill out our online assessment. Early detection and treatment of sleep disorders have been associated with significant improvements in emotional, psychological and physical wellbeing. Even a mild decrease in the quality of your sleep can considerably impact your life, so don’t wait to be tested and treated!

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