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Lately it seems everyone isn't sleeping. Here's some advice to get the sleep you need.

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Many people (including myself) make resolutions to improve their overall health. For good health adequate sleep is as important as regular exercise and a sensible diet.


As I well know the pressures and sensory overload of each day can lead to difficulties falling or staying asleep. If any of you are currently planning a wedding, as I am doing, sleep seems to be a luxury and not necessarily a “sure thing”.


Compared with 1998 more people are sleeping less than six hours a night with the average sleep on work nights being 6.8 hours (National Sleep Foundation, Harvard Women’s Health Watch, January, 2006).

While many people have bouts with insomnia once in a while, chronic sleep disturbance has become more common.  Researchers have found that after two weeks, people sleeping four to six hours a night are as cognitively impaired as those who have been awake for two to three days (Harvard Women’s Journal Health Watch, January, 2006). 


How much sleep do we need? 

Experts believe that seven to nine hours should be the goal.  Routine sleep loss can take its toll and can affect your health in several ways.


First and foremost lack of sleep affects learning and memory.  Sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory, a crucial part of learning and retaining information.  In addition there seems to be a link to lack of sleep and weight gain.  The processing and storage of carbohydrates can be altered. It also appears that excess cortisol, a stress hormone, is released contributing to abdominal obesity.


Lack of sleep contributes to safety concerns as well.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsiness causes 100,000 vehicle crashes resulting in 76,000 injuries and 1500 deaths each year.(Harvard Journal Health Watch, January, 2006). 


Poor sleep may result in symptoms of irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness and may be associated with the development of depression.


What can you do to get better sleep? Here are some tips:


  • Make your sleeping place comfortable. Be sure that it is dark, quiet, and not too warm or too cold. If light is a problem, try a sleeping mask. If noise is a problem, try earplugs, a fan, or a "white noise" machine to cover up the sounds


  • Get regular exercise, but not too close to bedtime as exercise acts as a stimulant and can prevent you from getting to sleep.


  • Do not use alcohol as a sleep aid as alcohol can cause waking in the night and interferes with sleep quality.


  • Avoid caffeine form noon onwards.  Caffeine is a stimulant and can keep you from falling asleep. When you drink a caffeine-containing drink (coffee, tea, or cola), over 95% of the caffeine is absorbed by the gut. It takes a trip to the liver, and then makes its way into the general blood circulation. The highest blood levels of caffeine are reached within 15 to 45 minutes.  For the average non-smoking adult the effects of caffeine last about five to seven hours after caffeine consumption.


  • If you can't fall asleep and don't feel drowsy, get up and read or do something that is not overly stimulating until you feel sleepy


  • Review with your doctor any potential medications that you are taking. You doctor will be able to identify any medications that might have stimulant properties that can impact the ability for you to get to sleep.


  • Go to bed and awaken at the same time daily. This should be something that is implemented indefinitely as it promotes better sleep habits.


Despite these measures if you have a sleep problem that becomes chronic talk to me or your regular doctor as there are medications that can be used occasionally for insomnia treatment.


I look forward to taking care of you this year.


Warmest regards and sweet dreams,


Andrea Ruman M.D.


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Andrea Ruman, M.D. - Doctor of Internal Medicine
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Dr. Andrea Ruman: Female medical doctor, physician, internist for Marina Del Rey, Santa Monica, West Los Angeles (LA), and Culver City in California. Specialties include women's health (including physical examinations, pelvic exams and pap smears), weight loss support and preventive medicine.