LEARN HOW TO GET TO SLEEP
WITH AIR BEDS
It's three o'clock in the morning, and
you can't sleep. You stare at the clock, aware that the
alarm will go off in a few hours, but you can't sleep. You
know you have a busy day ahead and need to be rested, but
you can't sleep. No matter how hard you try, you can't
sleep. You have insomnia.
Can't Sleep? Learn about
Insomnia and Air Bed Mattresses
For a long time, doctors were
taught, "insomnia is a symptom, not a disease (or
disorder)." However, new evidence is beginning to suggest
insomnia may not simply be a symptom of other conditions,
but rather, may be a disorder in its own right.
Regardless of whether it occurs
with other medical conditions or by itself, insomnia tends
to have a consistent set of nighttime and daytime symptoms.
Moreover, treatment of associated conditions without
specific attention to sleep does not consistently improve
insomnia. Some patients simply need an adjustable airbed
mattress to alleviate their insomnia symptoms because they
don't realize their old mattress is causing "body pressure
points" that prevent deep sleep cycles. Insomnia and other conditions may follow different
time courses, and in many cases, insomnia is associated with
worse outcomes of other conditions.
What Is Insomnia?
According to the National
Institutes of Health, insomnia affects more than 70 million
Americans. Direct costs of insomnia, which include dollars
spent on insomnia treatment, healthcare services, hospital
and nursing home care, are estimated at nearly $14 billion
annually. Indirect costs such as work loss, property damage
from accidents and transportation to and from healthcare
providers, are estimated to be $28 billion.
What is this condition that affects
so many of us and costs so much? The word "insomnia" comes
from the Latin in ("no") and somnus ("sleep"), so it
literally means "no sleep" or the inability to sleep.
Insomnia is an experience of
inadequate or poor quality sleep as characterized by one or
more of the following sleep complaints:
- difficulty initiating sleep;
- difficulty maintaining sleep;
- waking too early in the
Who Has Insomnia?
NSF's 2002 Sleep in America
poll shows that 58% of adults in the U.S. experience
symptoms of insomnia a few nights a week or more. Although
insomnia is the most common sleep problem among about one
half of older adults (48%), they are less likely to
experience frequent symptoms of insomnia than their younger
counterparts (45% vs. 62%), and their symptoms are more
likely to be associated with medical conditions, according
to the 2003 poll of adults between the ages of 55 and 84.
Perhaps that's the reason the new airbed mattresses have
become so popular over the past 10 years.
Types of Insomnia
Sleep specialists classify insomnia
in two primary categories: acute and chronic. Short term or
acute insomnia, which is often due to a temporary situation
such as stress, jet lag, change or loss in a job or
relationship, can last up to one month and is treatable. It
is important to address the underlying cause. Effective and
safe prescription medications can help.
Long-term, or chronic, insomnia,
which is experienced for a month or longer, can be secondary
to causes such as medical, physical or psychological
conditions, another sleep disorder, or medications and
substances. It is essential to get a medical diagnosis. In
addition to appropriate use of medications, education on
behavioral and other techniques are well as good sleep
practices - such as switching to an adjustable memory foam
air bed mattress - can improve sleep quality.
In addition, chronic insomnia may
be "primary," which means that it is not caused by other
medical, psychiatric, sleep, or medication factors. Primary
insomnia may be caused by factors such as increased body
temperature, metabolic rate, or brain metabolism . Poor
sleep habits may also contribute to primary and other forms
Insomnia is a risk factor for the
onset of depression and can significantly affect your
quality of life. Consequences of not getting enough good
sleep can include daytime fatigue, impaired mood, depression
and psychological distress, and decreased ability to
concentrate, problem-solve and make decisions, as well as
being at risk for injury, driving drowsy, and illness.
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Available Treatments for Insomnia
Fortunately, there are treatment
options available, ranging from behavioral therapy to the
use of prescription medicines, or a combination of the two.
Behavioral therapy is offered
typically by a psychologist, psychiatrist or other health
practitioner or counselor with specialized training. Several
visits to the therapist are usually required to learn and
implement the techniques of specific behavioral therapies.
Some of the more common behavioral approaches include:
Stimulus control, which trains
people to use their air bed and bedroom for sleep and sex only.
Persons with insomnia are encouraged to go another room and
engage in a relaxing activity until they are sleepy and
ready to return to bed.
Cognitive therapy, which is
conducted with a therapist who helps the patient with
attitudes and beliefs that may contribute to poor sleep.
Relaxation training, which often
involves reducing tension and muscular relaxation
Prescription medications that
promote sleep are called hypnotics. Medications differ by
dose and duration of action. Most individuals take hypnotics
a few nights or a few weeks at a time. Some may benefit from
long-term use. Research indicates that when used nightly,
hypnotics remain effective for at least several weeks and
probably longer, and a recent study found that long-term use
of a hypnotic medication was both safe and efficacious. The
most common side effects include morning sedation, memory
problems, headaches and a night or two of poor sleep after
stopping the medication. Some hypnotic side effects can be
minimized by using short-acting drugs.
Good Sleep Practices You Can Use
in Managing Your Insomnia
Although the specific causes of
insomnia differ from one person to the next, there are some
general habits you can adopt that may help you sleep better.
Not each of these practices may apply to everyone with
insomnia, so you may want to focus on one or two that seem
particularly relevant to your situation. Sleep experts
recommend the following tips for good sleep:
- Establish a regular bedtime
routine and a regular sleep-wake schedule. That means
getting up at the same time every day of the week, no
matter how much you've slept the night before, and going
to bed at about the same time.
- Don't spend too much time in
bed. Your time in bed should be about the same as the
amount of time you can actually sleep during the night.
You can't force yourself to sleep by spending more time
- Do not eat or drink too much
- Create a sleep-promoting
environment that is quiet, dark, cool and comfortable.
Sometimes an adjustable firmness airbed mattress helps
by relieving the pressure points that cause the body
blood flow to be cut off during sleep - causing you to
'toss and turn' over and over again - stopping you from
entering the deep REM sleep cycles.
During the day:Consume less or no caffeine,
particularly late in the day.
Avoid alcohol and nicotine,
especially close to bedtime.
Exercise, but not within three
hours before bedtime.
Avoid naps, particularly in the
late afternoon or evening.
Establish a regular bedtime and
get up at the same time every day. Do not stay in bed to
make- up for lost sleep or beyond your regular rise time.
Keep a sleep diary to identify
your sleep habits and patterns that you can share with your
sleep aids are often antihistamines prescribed for
allergies. They are readily available and may be useful for
some individuals in some situations, but you should be aware
of side effects such as prolonged sleepiness or the
possibility of interactions with other medications. It is
best to consult a physician for advice on treating your
Daniel J. Buysse, MD, Sleep
Laboratory, Western Psychiatric Institute & Clinic,