Alaska Sleep Education Center

Remedies for Sleepless Nights Caused by Grief and Anxiety

Posted by Stefanie Leiter on Oct 16, 2019 8:17:00 AM

According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America those who suffer from depression or anxiety claim an increase in their anxiety due to lack of sleep with 52 percent of men and 42 percent of women stating it directly affected their ability to remain focused the following day.

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Topics: stress, anxiety, healthy sleep

Is Your Child's Fear Keeping Him and You Awake at Night?

Posted by Stefanie Leiter on Oct 15, 2019 11:16:57 AM

Fear can become crippling for children. As a parent center stage with a son confronting fear, the warning signs are what can help the healing process.

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Topics: nightmares, sleep physician, Pediatrics, board-certified sleep specialists

Stop Snoring and Sleep Better at Night

Posted by Juan Koss, M.D. on Oct 14, 2019 10:40:00 AM

A snore is called noisy breathing during sleep, but it can also be the beginning of something life-threatening. People who snore are at risk of developing chronic sleep disorders and over the long term, serious health problems. To stop snoring, It is important to know what causes snoring and what can be done to address an individual problem.

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Topics: Snoring, treatment, sleep disordered breathing

Restructure your day to get a better night's sleep

Posted by Jennifer Hines on Oct 13, 2019 3:44:00 PM

Consistency in your schedule may help restore patterns of sleep and waking so you can get needed rest.


Wake up at the same time every day. Waking time is the anchor for your circadian sleep rhythm.

The free time that accompanies your older years may allow you to keep any schedule you like: sleep late one day or wake up early the next. But that lack of structure can have a negative impact on your sleep.

Risks of inconsistent sleep

Even though it may feel like a luxury, an inconsistent sleep schedule can throw off your circadian rhythm, the body's way of regulating sleep and waking. "That can lead to insomnia," warns Dr. Dorsey, "but people don't realize that their schedule is causing the problem."

Let sleep problems go on too long, and you may experience the effects of sleep deprivation, such as changes in mood, thinking skills, and judgment. A lack of sleep can also lead to many health problems, such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.

Getting help

Rather than suffer with sleeping difficulties, talk to your doctor or go to a sleep specialist for help. Get a physical exam to make sure there isn't an underlying cause for your sleep problems.

If the cause is unclear, a sleep diary can help. Dr. Dorsey recommends recording the details of your sleep for two weeks. "Each morning, write down when you went to bed, estimate how long it took to fall asleep, count how many times you woke up in the night, and record when you finally woke in the morning. That baseline data will help you see patterns that may need to be changed," says Dr. Dorsey. But keep the diary out of the bedroom and just estimate the values the next morning. Try not to look at a clock if you are awake during the night. That can create anxiety that makes sleeping more difficult.

Get back on schedule

To get your circadian rhythm back on track, start by waking up at the same time every day. The wake time is most important to getting on a schedule again. "It's the anchor of your circadian sleep rhythm," says Dr. Dorsey. She recommends using an alarm clock, since it sets a boundary for you.

Make your bedtime about seven or eight hours before the alarm will sound. "But don't get into bed until your sleep time, and only if you're sleepy. Trying too hard to fall asleep will wake you up," says Dr. Dorsey. It helps to make a wind-down period part of your bedtime routine. That means stopping the use of all electronics an hour and a half before bed, keeping the lights low, and doing relaxing yet nonstimulating activities such as reading. "It's worth it to wind down before bed because physical, emotional, and cognitive relaxation helps you to fall asleep faster," says Dr. Dorsey.

Filling your day with more structure will also reinforce your circadian rhythm. Keep a regular schedule for meals, exercise, and activities such as grocery shopping, socializing, or housework. "Maintaining structure throughout your day can help you stick to your sleep schedule. Plus, routines are good for mood and can make you feel productive and vital," says Dr. Dorsey. "You don't have to be rigid about it. It's fine if you occasionally stay up late. Just try to get up at close to the same time every day."

The physical challenges of sleep in older years

An inconsistent sleep schedule isn't the only sleep challenge older adults face. "As we age, we lose our slow-wave, or deep, sleep," says Dr. Cynthia Dorsey, assistant professor of psychology in Harvard Medical School's psychiatry department. As a result, you may wake up feeling unrested.

On top of that, older adults may wake more in the night be-cause of discomfort from chronic illness, frequent trips to the bathroom, medication side effects, or sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) or periodic limb movement disorder.

Treating the physical problems that are keeping you awake may be simple, such as switching medications if a drug side effect is causing sleep disturbances. If symptoms indicate that there's an underlying physical ailment—such as high blood pressure, an enlarged prostate (in men), or OSA—treatment may be more complicated, but will go a long way toward improving your sleep.

IF you live in Alaska, please call Alaska Sleep Clinic today to speak to one of our board-certified sleep specialists.

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Topics: sleep habits, sleep hygiene

Awake at 3 a.m.? Strategies to get back to sleep

Posted by Jennifer Hines on Oct 12, 2019 5:41:00 AM

Sleep-maintenance insomnia is common in mid-life. Changing your thoughts and behaviors can help.

It's 3:00 in the morning—far too early to get up for the day. But you can't get back to sleep because your mind keeps rehashing past and future worries—and fretting that you're going to be exhausted all day long. Sound familiar? Known as sleep-maintenance insomnia, this common problem often crops up in mid-life.

In the wee hours of the morning, the last thing you want to do is take a sleeping pill, since you probably need to get up in a few hours. In fact, experts now recommend a special type of short-term therapy as the first-line treatment for insomnia instead of drugs. Called cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, or CBT-I, this therapy teaches people to change the unproductive thinking patterns and habits that get in the way of a good night's sleep. It's just as effective but safer than sleeping pills for both sleep-maintenance insomnia and trouble falling asleep at the start of the night (sleep-onset insomnia).

Rethinking your sleep habits

According to the Harvard Medical School Special Health Report Improving Sleep, edited by Dr. Lawrence Epstein, people with insomnia tend to become preoccupied with sleep and apprehensive about the consequences of poor sleep — a phenomenon dubbed "insomnia-phobia" by Harvard sleep specialist Dr. John Winkelman. In CBT-I, a therapist helps you replace negative thoughts (such as "I'll be so tired, I'll have a terrible day at work tomorrow!") with more positive ones ("My job does not depend on how much sleep I get tonight"). Typically, you meet with the therapist once a week for an hour, for six to eight weeks. He or she also provides structure and support while you practice new thoughts and habits, and teaches you other successful sleep strategies. For example, you should:

  • Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary. Reserve it for sleep, intimacy, and restful activities such as meditation and reading for pleasure. Keep it cool, dark, and quiet. To block out noises, use a fan or other appliance that produces a steady "white noise." Make sure your mattress is comfortable.
  • Set a regular sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, which helps synchronize your sleep-wake cycle.
  • Limit awake-time in bed. If you don't get back to sleep within 20 minutes after waking up in the middle of the night, get out of bed and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy again.
  • Stay away from stimulants. Avoid caffeinated beverages (coffee, many teas, chocolate, and some soft drinks) after 1 or 2 p.m.—or altogether, if you're especially caffeine-sensitive.
  • Get regular exercise. Aerobic exercise such as walking, jogging, or swimming can help you fall asleep faster, get more deep sleep, and awaken less often during the night.

How to access CBT-I

Many health insurance plans cover CBT-I, which falls under mental health coverage. However, not many therapists are trained in this special type of talk therapy. Even in the medical mecca of Boston, only a handful of clinicians offer CBT-I. Also, some people fail to complete all the required sessions or to practice the techniques on their own.

Internet-based programs might help address both problems. Several small studies suggest that online CBT-I programs can help insomniacs sleep better. In one such program, called SHUTi (Sleep Healthy Using the Internet), participants were about half as likely to wake up after falling asleep compared with a control group.

Another study documented at least mild improvements in about 80% of people who completed weeks of online CBT-I, with 35% reporting that their sleep was "much improved" or "very much improved."

IF you live in Alaska, please call Alaska Sleep Clinic to speak to one of our board-certified sleep specialists.

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Topics: insomnia, healthy sleep

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