Pets, TV and Chocolate: Potential Sleep Scuttlers

Photo courtesy of N.C. Industrial Commission

You simply are not going to be able to reverse lost sleep by trying to cram it in on the weekends.

“It takes the average person three days to rebound from one night of sleep deprivation,” explained David Sholes, manager of Neurodiagnostics at Tucson Medical Center, which oversees the Sleep Laboratory.

Memorial Day weekend aside, he said, “There are not three days in a weekend, so you’re never going to recover at that rate. You’re better off just keeping a reasonable schedule so your sleep is more consistent.”

With May designated “Better Sleep Month,” Sholes shared some tips on how to get the restorative Zzzzzz’s you need.

Sholes said the brain is built on a circadian rhythm – think of it as your internal body clock. By keeping a regular routine, it knows what time to go to sleep and what time to wake up, and is more likely to transition through the necessary four stages of sleep without interruption. Furthermore, obtaining adequate levels of each stage of sleep is important for restorative sleep.

Other tips include avoiding alcohol and caffeine, including choclate, within five hours of bedtime. Avoid going to bed on an empty stomach and finish exercising at least three hours before bedtime.

A cooler room often improves sleep. And if you can’t fall asleep after 15 to 20 minutes, get up and do some other relaxing activity instead of stewing over your inability to sleep.

Sholes said among his least popular tips: Make sure that your television stays off during sleep time. At the very least, he suggested, set the sleep timer so that it turns off within 20 minutes instead of letting it stay on the entire night. Televisions have fluctuating volumes and lighting, which can cause microarousals without the patient completely waking up. This can make it difficult for patients to transition to deeper stages of sleep or get back to sleep all together.

Also, don’t think sharing the bedroom with your pet will necessarily help with quality sleep. Although many are convinced their pets bring them comfort, Sholes said if the animal is moving around every few hours, it could interrupt the cycle of sleep stages and may do more harm than good.

Sholes suggests keeping a sleep diary for two weeks with the pet, then starting a new diary cycle without the pet to see if any difference is evident. By noting your energy level and the way you feel at wake time and half way through the next day, it will soon become apparent if the pet is significantly disturbing your sleep, he said.

As anyone pulling an all-nighter can attest, bad sleep can impede on quality of life. “It can cause an inability to stay awake during the day, which decreases productivity and can interfere with the lifestyle you want to live. Maybe your friends are going on a hike, but you’re just too tired. Maybe you have some personal goals you want to accomplish, but you can’t seem to motivate yourself,” Sholes said.

Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, can also have significant health impacts, he said, from high blood pressure to diabetes and heart problems.

Tucson Medical Center offers a diagnostic sleep lab with spacious, overnight accommodations to help patients get to the root of their sleeping problems.

Sholes said people tend to diminish the importance of sleep. “It’s entirely under-rated. People think it’s more of an inconvenience than a true health concern, which is alarming,” he said. “Here at TMC, we are trying to educate the community that it can really put your health at risk and prevent you from getting out of life all that you want to get out of it.”

For more information about the Sleep Diagnostic program at TMC, call 324-3318.

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Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461
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