Do you suffer from sleepless nights or toss and turn for hours? If so, you're in luck- Dr. Joseph Ojile President of the Clayton Sleep Institute and National Sleep Foundation Board Member joined me recently to discuss common sleep myths, the difference between sleeplessness and insomnia, and what you can do to help combat insomnia.
Candace Rose: Why is sleep so important and why do so many people have trouble falling asleep at night?
Dr. Joseph Ojile: "As you know, Candace, sleep is important for every function of our daytime life and our health. We need sleep to live. If we don't have enough sleep we can't think correctly, we're irritable- high rates of depression so it affects our day-to-day relationships, and it affects our health as far as things like blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes- so all three components of our life. Increasing sleep difficulties are being seen now more and more likely because of our 24/7 society. People are awake all the time from the standpoint of doing different activities, work, socializing, in shift work, increased stress and increased technology in the bedroom. So smartphones, computers and TV's are very disruptive to sleep. Those are three big areas that we see."
Candace Rose: Is it true that women are more likely than men to have insomnia?
Dr. Joseph Ojile: "Women appear to be a higher risk for insomnia (not exclusively) but slightly higher risk. Women are just slightly less at risk for Obstructive sleep apnea, although the numbers are quite close."
Candace Rose: What is the difference between occasional sleeplessness and something like insomnia?
Dr. Joseph Ojile: "Insomnia is difficulty initiating sleep or staying asleep or having restful sleep or restorative sleep with a daytime consequence. Chronic insomnia typically occurs 14 nights per month or more, whereas occasional sleeplessness is just that occasional every now and then/once a week/once a month difficulty getting to sleep from a variety of reasons which could be stress, travel or some work issue or staying out socially."
Candace Rose: We're all guilty of watching TV in bed. Is it true that it can help you wind down and fall asleep?
Dr. Joseph Ojile: "Well, that is one of those sleep myths that we want to dispell a little bit, which is watching TV- if that's how you want to wind down is okay. But you shouldn't watch TV in bed, and preferably not even in your bedroom."
Candace Rose: We've all heard that you don't want to exercise too close to bedtime. Is that true?
Dr. Joseph Ojile: "Yes, exercise is good. We're all for exercise and it helps with sleep in a variety of other health issues as you're aware. But you want to keep the exercise three to four hours distant or away from the bed time so that your body has a chance to cool your heartrate and other bodily functions are quieting down as you ease into sleep."
Candace Rose: If you're having trouble sleeping, should you get out of bed or should you just stay there?
Dr. Joseph Ojile: "If you're having trouble sleeping 15 or 20 minutes, it's good to get out of bed and either meditate; relax; read something in a dim light that's relaxing and as you start getting sleepy again, then you can get back in bed and try to go to sleep."
Candace Rose: Are there any simple over the counter sleep aids that will help reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep so we can wake up refreshed?
Dr. Joseph Ojile: "There are, and there was a new one released called ZzzQuil, which is a new preparation of an old medication diphenhydramine, which is an antihistamine developed in 1946. It's been put into a liquid form so it's easy for folks to take, and that liquid has kind of a warming sensation to it when people take it. This is something that can be used on an occasional basis that they can have in their medicine closet or pick up at the drugstore."
Candace Rose: Are over the counter sleep aids safe for everyone to use?
Dr. Joseph Ojile: "They're safe for folks to use. They should be coordinated to make sure they don't have any reactions with their other medications undertoward side effects. But otherwise they've been around for many, many years and should be safe."
Candace Rose: What should we keep in mind when we're looking for the right sleep aid?
Dr. Joseph Ojile: "Part of it is having a coordinated attempt at sleep health. So doing the things that we've talked about- fixing your awake time and bed time; avoiding some of the things you've already talked about as far as technology; doing exercise at the right time. By the way, avoiding alcohol and caffeine prior to bed time and then if you need an occasional sleep aid it's fine to use that, and if you need something chronically you want to talk to your physician about more chronic therapy."
Candace Rose: And when it comes to food, what should we avoid and what should we eat if we're looking to sleep better?
Dr. Joseph Ojile: "So avoid a heavy, heavy meal right before bedtime, and if you're going to eat a snack you want to lean more towards a low sugar, low carb snack at bedtime is better. And certainly nothing with caffeine- like chocolate right at bedtime."
Candace Rose: Do you have any additional tips or information you'd like to share?
Dr. Joseph Ojile: "I just want to encourage folks to include sleep in their total healthplan, to continue to work on diet and exercise and healthy sleep can help make those activities and their health plan more effective."
Candace Rose: Where can we go for more information?