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Don't Just Toss and Turn — Good Sleep Can Be Learned

Joan DeJesus fell asleep behind the wheel. That's when she knew she needed help with her insomnia.

By Dr. Sanjay Gupta

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Our sleep cycle is largely determined by the rising and setting of the sun, but bedtime can also become a battle with our biology. Melatonin is a chemical that regulates our sleep: It makes us sleepy when the sun goes down, then wakes us up when the daylight returns. But exposure to light at night can interfere with the body's production of melatonin. Difficulty falling and staying asleep is a common problem, and it can have a host of effects on your health.

Shelby Harris, Psy.D., director of Behavioral Sleep Medicine at Montefiore Medical Center, connects our new sleep patterns to our new way of life, "When we look at just insomnia in general, the rates for it have just skyrocketed," said Dr. Harris. "Because of stress, because our society is a 24-hour society now, it's really about trying to limit things that our bodies aren't meant to deal with."

Joan DeJesus, a retired high-school guidance counselor, knows how that feels, "I was very restless, I was getting up like two or three times in the middle of the night," she recalls. "I was getting anxious because then I said, 'Oh my god, I gotta get up by six and look it's four. I haven't even slept two hours.'" Her restless sleep got so bad, she fell asleep while driving on multiple occasions, "I drove over the George Washington Bridge, and I didn't know that I had dozed off," she said. Fortunately, the sound of the car's tires rolling over bumps in the road woke her up. "If it wasn't for that waking me up, I could have gone over," she said.

DeJesus made an appointment to see Harris, who believes that changing your behavior and maintaining good sleep hygiene can help prevent sleep patterns from getting disrupted. It appears to have worked for DeJesus, who is now sleeping well at night.

Harris advises her patients to stop drinking caffeine after 2 pm, exercise in the early evening at least four to six hours before bed, stay away from the television or anything that has a screen before bedtime, and make sure you focus on unwinding from your day. She notes that tossing and turning in bed puts extra stress and pressure on you, making you even more anxious and less likely to fall asleep. She recommends that, if you find yourself unable to sleep, get up and complete a task. She also recommends keeping to a regular sleep schedule, even on weekends and holidays.






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Date: 06.12.2018, 19:10 / Views: 63441