St. Patrick's Day is this weekend and 125 million Americans will celebrate the Irish holiday. Outside of the color green, drinking alcohol is linked to almost all of these celebrations. BUT REMEMBER, throwing back a few too many and sleep apnea can be a bad combination.
Alcohol may initially help you nod off, but even a small amount can affect your quality of sleep. Once alcohol starts to metabolize(usually within 2 hours) it actually increases the number of times you awaken during the night.
Though it may not feel like it to the US East Coast residents getting pummeled by snow, sleet, and rain from the back-to-back nor’easter storms, spring is almost here. In anticipation of the season’s official start on March 19, Americans will “spring forward” THIS Sunday by moving our clocks an hour ahead. While the start of Daylight Saving Time (DST) means losing sixty minutes of precious sleep or play, it does allow for longer days during the spring and summer months.
When we think about the typical sleep apnea patient, we often picture a heavyset man over forty years old with a thick neck and an earth-rattling snore. And while this image often does fit the profile of a sleep apnea patient, it by no means represents a complete picture of the demographic of sleep apnea sufferers.
Contrary to popular belief, sleep apnea patients come in all shapes, sizes, races, genders, and can even have symptoms atypical of those common for sleep apnea. For instance, not all sleep apnea sufferers snore, many are not obese or even overweight, and not all of them are male.
Here we discuss the prevalence of sleep apnea in women and why they are often an under-diagnosed and under-served population suffering from this sleep disorder.
A sleepless night can be attributed to a lot of reasons. Some blame the lumpy mattress, their snoring spouse, the hot temperature, or the extra anxiety that comes with a stressful day. But one way to ensure a good night sleep is the environment. Dark colors on the wall, wrong curtains on the windows, and even clutter filling the nightstands can prohibit your chances for an oasis to call your own.
No matter the size of the master bedroom or type of home, there are some easy fixes for your condo, apartment, or house to create an atmosphere that will aid a restful night.
“Feng shui — which literally translates to ‘wind and water’ — is the ancient Chinese art of placement. The goal is to enhance the flow of chi (life force or spiritual energy), and to create harmonious environments that support health, beckon wealth and invite happiness.”
Start with calm colors. Earth tones and cool coloring provide the healing energy feng shui supports.
Position the bed. Keep the bed in an area where you can see the entrance but far enough away that provides a tranquil balance.
Avoid clutter and distractions. Make certain the master bedroom is simple and clean but also free from past pain or negativity.
Remove the stress. The bedroom is a place for rest. Leave behind a loud television, a pile of work, and any exercise equipment. Use it for its main purpose: relaxation.
Paint on the Wall
While searching for tranquil colors in a bedroom, there are a lot of colors to consider and others to completely avoid. Subtle choices in color will instill a sense of relaxation and calmness while others can hinder an 8-hour sleep.
Blues: Think about all the spas and retreats painted in shades of blue: robin-egg, cool blue, and blue-gray alike. Want to think outside the box? HGTV suggests “painting light blue on your ceiling to give the look of greater height.”
Lavender: A lot of violets are bold and flashy but a lavender splash on the wall can add personality without distracting.
Grays: Known as the new beige, grays offer a sophisticated and soothing neutral color that is airy and pairs well with other colors.
The good news is a gallon of paint can cost around $40 or less depending on the quality and supplies are minimum. So do not worry about breaking the bank to create your oasis. A quick trip to the hardware store is the first step.
Combining a blue or lavender with a gray comforter or gray walls can create the balance you are looking for.
With so many choices of fabric and style, curtain shopping can be daunting. But to gain endless sleeping nights in the bedroom, consider one type of curtain: blackout. Besides lowering energy bills and canceling out noisy neighbors, the National Sleep Foundation credits blackout curtains a a simple addition to help sleep. Bright lights from the streets and loud cars passing by help catch the light and noise onto the curtain versus onto your walls.
While some can endure a quiet sleeping space with ear plugs, others benefit from soft music or white noise to fill the space. Air purifiers can serve not only the issues with an eerily quiet sleeping space but also filters out impurities, dander, and dust. Classical music or soft sounds of a babbling brook, tree frogs, or a thunderstorm through a sound machine may be the ticket to adding some sound to the room without disrupting your heart rate.
A word of caution: stay free of a nightstand cell phone app. Having your phone bedside may tempt you from a restful sleep. If an app is your best choice, move your phone across the bedroom to maximize the tempting space in arm’s reach.
A lot of misconceptions have confused people for years when it comes to plants in the bedroom. Health and Natural World provide some context behind the debate. “During the photosynthesis process, plants take in carbon dioxide (CO2) and emit oxygen, but because plants require light to photosynthesize, at night the process reverses and plants take in oxygen while emitting carbon dioxide.”
On the opposite side of the conversation, research notes a number of plants can “lower your blood pressure and heart rate… suppress airborne germs, release water vapor, and remove indoor air pollutants and chemicals.”
Purchasing an indoor plant for the bedroom may be a confusing choices. Try these top indoor plants for the bedroom:
The snake plant has been noted by NASA as one of the top 10 best air filtering houseplants. The plant emits oxygen at night (and day) naturally allowing for fresh and clean air.
Did you know in ancient times people who fill their pillows with lavender flowers and leaves? You probably know essential oils like lavender are used during a massage and in diffusers but many forget its origin lies within the plant. The blue petals also complement the cool colors in your room.
Credited in Asian culture as a natural health aid, for thousands of years jasmine has been used to help with restless nights caused by anxiety or depression. Though commonly used in topical or lotion form (even as a tea), jasmine can easily be maintained indoors.
If indoor plants are not an option due to allergies, pets, or a curious baby crawling around, try to use a diffuser with plant oils. Any with anti-anxiety relief or a tranquil spa experience will promote the refreshing scents needed to give the senses a healthy break. A few can even be used in a humidifier or vaporizer if needed during the winter months.
Need extra support?
Maybe you already have tried creating the perfect feng shui, painted a light gray on the walls, and taken care of the lavender but you STILL cannot sleep? You may need to consider any health or mental health issues causing sleep deprivation. Contact the Alaska Sleep Clinic for either a free sleep consultation or sleep study to determine the issues.
The modern elite athlete knows that physical conditioning and good nutrition are critical in reaching peak athletic performance; however, sleep, while often overlooked, plays an equally important role. In recent years, it’s become clear that the quality and quantity of sleep obtained by elite athletes can be the edge between winning and losing on game-day.
Five areas sleep has the greatest impact on athletic performance
1. Improved reaction times
Elite athletes can’t spare even fractions of a second to react to a play unfolding in front of them. Sleep deprivation is known to reduce reaction times significantly. Even a single all-nighter can reduce reaction times by more than 300%, not to mention recovering takes several days. Studies have shown even a surprisingly low level of fatigue can impair reaction times as much, if not more, than being legally drunk.¹
It’s surprising to hear that “being awake for 22 hours straight can slow your reaction time more than four drinks can”.² Clearly, there are physiological differences between being intoxicated and being fatigued; however, if an athlete wouldn’t reasonably expect to have peak reaction times after putting back four beers, they can’t expect to perform their best on less than a full night’s sleep either.
A University of California study concluded that injury rates in youth athletes increased during games that followed a night of sleep fewer that 6 hours.¹ Another study looking at injury rates in high school athletes found that sleep hours was the strongest predictor of injuries, even more so than the hours of practice.²
Why is this the case? As we explored in the first point, fatigue affects reaction time. A tired athlete is slower to react to a potential hit on the ice, the field, or the court. Secondly, fatigue affects the body’s immune system, making players more susceptible to illness. Thirdly, shorter sleep periods don’t provide the body with sufficient time to regenerate cells and repair from the abuse of workouts, games, and daily activities. Over time, game-earned injuries, health issues, and the inability to fully recover can wear on an athlete and contribute to more time spent on the sidelines.
“If you told an athlete you had a treatment that would reduce the chemicals associated with stress, that would naturally increase human growth hormone, that enhances recovery rate, that improves performance, they would all do it. Sleep does all of those things.”
— Casey Smith, Head Athletic Trainer, Dallas Mavericks
Beyond acute injuries, one recent study on MLB players has shown fatigue can shorten the playing careers (and therefore income) of professional athletes. “We were shocked by how linear the relationship was,” said the principal investigator W. Christopher Winter, MD, medical director of the Martha Jefferson Hospital Sleep Medicine Center in Charlottesville, Va. “It is a great reminder that sleepiness impairs performance. From a sports perspective, this is incredibly important. What this study shows is that we can use the science of sleep to predict sports performance”.¹
Sleep is crucial to the body’s physiological, biochemical, and cognitive restoration. Cheri Mah, a researcher at Stanford, conducted a sleep-extension study with the university’s men’s basketball team. After maintaining a normal sleep schedule for 4 weeks to establish a baseline, players from the team went through a 7-week sleep extension period. Over this time, the players obtained as much nighttime sleep as possible, with 10 hours being the goal. The results:
“Measures of athletic performance specific to basketball were recorded after every practice including a timed sprint and shooting accuracy. Subjects demonstrated a faster timed sprint following sleep extension. Shooting accuracy improved, with free throw percentage increasing by 9% and 3-point field goal percentage increasing by 9.2%. Improvements in specific measures of basketball performance after sleep extension indicate that optimal sleep is likely beneficial in reaching peak athletic performance. ”
Similar performance improvements after sleep extension have been seen in tennis players, swimmers, weightlifters, and more.
Sleep loss impairs judgement. Studies have shown motivation, focus, memory, and learning to be impaired by shortened sleep. Without sleep, the brain struggles to consolidate memory and absorb new knowledge. “Past studies have shown that sleep loss impairs the frontal lobe of the brain and has negative effects on decision-making such as sensitivity to risk-taking, moral reasoning and inhibitions”.¹
On the field, one study has shown that MLB players show decreased ‘plate discipline’ as the season progresses.² Meaning the number of times a batter swings at a ball outside of the strike-zone increases. While common logic would predict that plate discipline would improve over the season – as players had more practice and at-bats – the opposite was shown to be true. MLB players consistently showed better judgement at the beginning of the season than at the end. The suspected cause? Mental fatigue during an arduous 162 game season.
“A team that recognizes this trend and takes steps to slow or reverse it – by enacting fatigue-mitigating strategies, especially in the middle and late season, for example – can gain a large competitive advantage over their opponent.”
For all of us, sleep is an important component of maintaining optimum health. For elite athletes, however, sleep becomes a crucial pillar of success. Reaction times and motor function, motivation, focus, stress regulation, muscle recovery, sprint performance, muscle glycogen, glucose metabolism, memory and learning, injury risk, illness rates, unwanted weight gain…. sleep (or lack thereof) plays a part in all of these things. And sleep, as more and more athletes are learning, has a big impact on performance, wins, and losses.
“We’re teaching our players: Sleep is a weapon.”
— Sam Ramsden, Dir. of Player Health and Performance, Seattle Seahawks
Winter roads in Alaska pose many difficulties: icy corners, snow-choked roadways, low visibility from ice fog, and heavy snowfalls are dangers northern drivers are all too aware of. And when you partner poor road conditions with drivers that are intoxicated, aggressive, texting, or simply not paying attention, the chances of accidents increase significantly.
In recent years another kind of hazardous driving condition is beginning to get more national recognition: drowsy driving. You may be familiar with the 2014 news story in which a Wal-Mart truck driver, fatigued from being awake for more than 24 hours, struck the limousine of comedian Tracy Morgan on the New Jersey Turnpike. The accident claimed the life of fellow comedian James McNair and critically injured Morgan and four other passengers. The accident also made the public very aware of the dangers of drowsy driving.
Does this scenario sound familiar? You have a snoring problem. You come into a sleep lab to have a sleep study conducted and find out you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea.
The next thought is “ok, so how do I treat my sleep apnea?”
The most common way to treat sleep apnea is to be put on a positive airway pressure (PAP) machine while you sleep. PAP Therapy involves placing a small mask or nasal pillows over the nose or nose and mouth and blowing compressed air into the lungs.
PAP machines are also known as Durable Medical Equipment (DME). DME is the medical term for long lasting medical equipment prescribed by a doctor for use in your home.
Most likely you’re overworked. You’re stressed out, you haven’t had a vacation in a while, and you’re sleeping less. You’re waking up earlier and going to bed later in an effort to get more done. According to a recent NPR story, Americans are even taking less vacation to accomplish more. Some are even doing significant work while on vacation. And there is a ton of research that shows how Americans are sleeping less and less, year over year.
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