The ABCs of Sleep

The ABC's of Sleep

From Apnea to Zzzzzz's

 

This Special Report on Sleep is full of practical, up-to-date help for how you can get a good, restful night of sleep. And even if you’re already a restful sleeper, The ABCs of Sleep will help you learn more about sleep to help you stay that way.

The good news is that simple self-help methods can really work. If you follow the advice in this Special Report you can change some basic habits, and probably train yourself to be a better sleeper.

Humans spend about a third of their lives sleeping—at least the lucky ones do. But many of us have insomnia, which simply means difficulty falling or staying asleep.

Inadequate sleep can make you feel exhausted all the time, adversely affecting your ability to work, think, and drive. And as accumulating research shows, chronic poor sleep can harm your physical and mental health.

To help dispel some of the confusion around why restful sleep can be so difficult to obtain and maintain we asked Dr. Jana Cooke, MD and John Edward Swartzberg, M.D., F.A.C.P., and the editors of the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter to share their insights in this DIGITAL Special Report on Sleep, The ABCs of Sleep.

You may already know Dr. Swartzberg from the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter, where he is Chair of the Editorial Board and writes a regular column. Dr. Swartzberg is also Clinical Professor of Medicine in the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley.

Your Sleep Expert

Dr. Jana Cooke, MD, is a pulmonary and sleep medicine specialist in Everett, Washington, and has been in practice for 19 years. She graduated from the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California and completed her postgraduate training at the University of California, San Diego.

Despite decades of research, scientists don’t understand exactly why we sleep and how it benefits us. But accumulating research does shows that sleep affects nearly every bodily system—and that poor sleep can harm your health in many ways.

In easy-to-understand layman's language, this Report on Sleep explores key issues, including:

The Architecture of Sleep

Sleep is an activity that has a structure consisting of four stages. You'll learn about each stage and important features of each.  You'll understand better what occurs while you sleep.

Biological Clocks

  • In this section you'll learn:
  • How your brain's biological clock impacts your sleep.
  • What impact the production of melatonin has on sleep
  • What can suppress the production of this hormone.
  • What effect does habit play in getting a good night's sleep
  • Evolution and sleep. Do your genes play a role in your ability to fall asleep.

What is good quality sleep?

This can be difficult to measure since it's subjective. When people are asked if they are good sleepers, they usually focus on how many hours they sleep. Discussed here are the National Sleep Foundation key indicators of sleep quality. Based on their analysis of 277 studies, they came up with four “objective components” of good-quality sleep. You'll read more about the study and find out how this panel defined quality sleep.

Many questions surround how we sleep.

  • What is “enough” sleep?
  • What are the risks of poor sleep?
  • Should you check into a sleep clinic?
  • What are the steps I should take to get a better night's sleep?

This special report provides the answers and a by step plan for better sleep.

If you are having trouble sleeping, the steps you'll read about in this special Report may help you achieve the sleep you're seeking.

What is a sleep log and can it help me?

Find out how keeping track can be beneficial to achieving a restful night of sleep. Learn what to record and for how long to keep a log before sharing it with a health care provider.

Is it time to call the doctor and what can my doctor can do for me?

The trouble with sleeping pills.

Many sleep aids are discussed, including what they do and their potential side effects.

Also there can be drawbacks to using over the counter and prescription sleep aids. Learn what problems can develop from regular usage.  

There’s a wide variety of prescription sleeping pills. Learn about the three general categories. You'll find out how they work and what impact they have on sleep. Precautions to consider while taking sleeping pills are listed in an easy to read format.

Dietary Supplements for Sleep

Sleep potions are almost as old as insomnia — ancient herbalists and poets alluded to the soporific qualities of poppies and mandrake root, for instance. But do these alternative sleep aids really work? Melatonin, Valerian, GABA, Kava, and other herbs are touted as solutions. Find out if there’s any solid evidence about the effectiveness and safety of herbal sleep supplements. 

CBY-I: Treating Insomnia Without Drugs

How effective is cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia? Very. Find out the goals of this practical approach and how it trains the brain to help achieve unmedicated sleep.

Restless Leg Syndrome

If you experience an inexplicable yet irresistible urge to move your legs while sleeping, you may have restless leg syndrome. Learn the symptoms, why they worsen at night, what causes this uncomfortable sensation, and finally what you can do about it.

Nocturnal Leg Cramps

You wake from an otherwise restful sleep with a painful cramp in your leg. You've had this before so you take the steps to find relief. Learn the facts about this misunderstood condition. For example the following claims and more are presented and the facts for each are provided:

Claim: There’s usually an identifiable cause of the cramp.

Claim: Nocturnal cramps can be alleviated by vitamin and/or mineral supplements.

Claim: Quinine prevents leg cramps.

What can you do? There are three things you can do to relieve a nocturnal cramp. The Report discusses each one and provides some important tips for preventing future cramps.

Sleep Apnea: When Snoring Goes Haywire

Estimates vary widely, but it’s likely that sleep apnea affects about 10 percent of all adults. By robbing you of restorative sleep, apnea leads not only to daytime drowsiness, but also to irritability, faulty memory, inability to concentrate, headaches, and possibly depression and decreased libido. You'll read about the basic characteristics of this condition, getting diagnosed, what to do and not do, and what treatments are available including a discussion of medications and CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), an air pump attached to a mask via tubing.

Finally, the Report has Ask the Expert questions about sleep, some of which may be on your mind.

For example:

  • Do you need less sleep as you get older?
  • Can you make up for a “sleep debt” by sleeping longer on weekends?
  • What should you eat and drink to get a better night’s sleep? What about all those “sleep-promoting” diets on the Internet?
  • Will evening exercise have a negative effect on sleep?
  • Does counting sheep really help for insomnia?
  • And More!

Plus, when appropriate, you can expect to find our bottom line advice throughout the Report. That way you're sure of where we stand on a particular approach, medication, or therapy.

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University of California, Berkeley,
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The ABCs of Sleep: From Apnea to Zzzzzz's is published by the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health. This publication and others like it are an outgrowth of the School's commitment to help improve the health and wellness of our community of readers by publishing expert advice on prevention, diagnosis and treatment for a wide range of ailments and disorders. We provide trusted, authoritative health guidance from leading physicians and researchers at America's top medical centers and hospitals.

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