When was the Last Time You Woke Up Feeling Rested?
Washington Women's Center Class Offers Tips for Sleeping Better
Does the following situation sound familiar? You are watching television in the evening, barely able to keep your eyes open because you are so tired, but as soon as you crawl into bed, you lay there wide awake wondering why you can't fall asleep. You may have insomnia.
"Why is it that you can be so tired, but can't get to sleep?" said Dr. Nitun Verma, medical director for the Washington Township Center for Sleep Disorders and a member of the Washington Hospital medical staff. "This is a common scenario.
That's why it's important to know how the brain works when it comes to insomnia."
He will offer tips for getting a good night's sleep at an upcoming class titled "Learn How to Sleep Better" on Wednesday, April 10, from 7 to 8 p.m. The class will be held in the Washington Women's Center Conference Room, located in Suite 145, at 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West) in Fremont.
Dr. Verma will explain the brain's involvement in sleep cycles as well as the difference between over-the-counter and prescription sleep medications. He will also talk about how sleep issues can increase for some women during and after menopause.
Sleepiness and Arousal
"Traditionally we used to think there was only something called sleepiness," Dr. Verma explained. "We thought that people experience sleepiness around bedtime and then when they wake up, that sleepiness is gone. We considered insomnia a disorder that involved the lack of sleepiness. But now we know the brain actually has two systems: sleepiness and arousal. That's why you can be sleepy, but fairly functional at the same time."
When good sleepers go to bed, the state of arousal falls off like a rock, he added. Sleepiness takes over and they fall asleep. But those with insomnia are stuck in that state of arousal. That's why you can feel "tired but wired."
"You may be falling asleep while watching TV or sitting at your computer," Dr. Verma said. "But as soon as you go to bed, that arousal system gets turned back on and you are wide awake even though your body feels so tired."
He said over-the-counter sleep medications are not very effective or can become habit forming because people start to think they can't sleep without them. Prescription medications are better, but are still not recommended for long-term use.
"Most sleeping pills don't touch the arousal system, they just take sleepiness up to 100 percent," Dr. Verma explained. "Over-the-counter medications make you tired, but not sleepy. That's why you often wake up feeling very tired even though you slept. Prescription sleep medications can be effective for short-term use, but they are not a long-term solution."
Good Sleep Habits
For many people, developing good habits can improve their sleep. Dr. Verma will talk about ways to get a better night's sleep and feel more rested. For example, taking naps can help as long as they last less than 30 minutes and occur before 3 p.m.
"Naps can give you a small reset in the middle of the day and help you feel rested," he said. "As long as you take them earlier in the day, they won't diminish the sleepiness you need at night to fall asleep."
Making sure your bedroom is as dark as possible can also help. According to Dr. Verma, if light gets into your eyes it confuses your brain.
"One of the most important tips I can give is to get up at the same time every day," he added. "I know people are tempted to sleep in on the weekends, but it's not a good idea. Regular sleep patterns are best."
Dr. Verma will also discuss how menopause affects sleep in some women. He said the risk for sleep apnea increases 300 percent after menopause.
There are three quizzes on the Washington Township Center for Sleep Disorders' website that can help you assess whether you have a sleep disorder.
"The quizzes are meant to help you assess your sleep and are not meant to take the place of medical advice or a proper diagnosis," Dr. Verma said. "But they are a good place to start."
To learn more about services offered at the center or to take the quizzes, visit www.washingtonsleep.com. For information about other services offered at the Washington Women's Center, visit www.whhs.com/womenscenter.