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Sleep - Just as Important as Diet and Exercise

March 6, 2009 2:00 PM with Dr. Thomas Freedom

The first week in March is Sleep Awareness Week. Thomas Freedom, MD, Neurologist and Program Director at the NorthShore Sleep Center will cover the importance of sleep, sleep disorders that may disturb sleep and ways to ensure a good night sleep.

Kristin Philbin (Moderator) - 1:50 PM:
Welcome! Today’s chat: Sleep - Just as Important as Diet and Exercise will begin shortly. Please start submitting your questions and Dr. Thomas Freedom will begin answering them as soon as we get started. While you are waiting for the chat to begin, feel free to visit the Sleep Center to obtain more information about the importance of sleep.

Dr. Thomas Freedom (NorthShore) - 1:59 PM:
Good afternoon and welcome to the chat on I look forward to answering any questions you may have about sleep disorders and ways to get a better sleep at night.

  Rich (Evanston, IL) - 2:01 PM:
Is there such a thing as too much sleep? Sometimes if I get to bed at around 10 p.m. and don't wake up until 7 a.m. I feel more lethargic then if I had gone, say, 11 pm to 6 am.
Dr. Thomas Freedom (NorthShore)
Yes, at least too much time in bed is probably not conducive to good quality sleep. However, it is also possible that one could have underlying sleep disorder such sleep apnea that could be compromising the quality of sleep. In that case regardless of how much sleep someone has they may still not feel rested when they awaken. The other possibility is that some people are sleepy regardless of how much sleep they get or require more sleep than the average person. It is possible that 10 hours may not be enough sleep for somebody with one of those conditions. You may want to discuss with your family doctor or a sleep specialist.

  Owen (Winnetka, IL) - 2:05 PM:
Are there any health benefits associated with sticking to a specific sleeping schedule?
Dr. Thomas Freedom (NorthShore)
If someone keeps a regular sleep schedule and is getting enough sleep the quality of sleep will be improved. Good quality sleep has numerous health benefits. Did that answer your question?

  Owen (Winnetka, IL) - 2:06 PM:
Do you have any tips on how to ensure a good night's sleep?
Dr. Thomas Freedom (NorthShore)
There are a number of ways to ensure a good night's sleep. - Keeping regular sleep hours - Awakening at the same time everyday - Going to bed only when sleepy - Making the bedroom conducive to good sleep (decreased noise, low lights, comfortable bed, comfortable room temperature, etc) - Removing distractions such as televisions and computers - Avoiding caffeine within 8 hours of bedtime There are other tips that can be found at the National Sleep Foundation website,

  Owen (Winnetka, IL) - 2:11 PM:
I've heard that there are specific amounts of time that you should nap to avoid grogginess, is this true?
Dr. Thomas Freedom (NorthShore)
Naps can be helpful in people who don't have difficulty sleeping at night. Generally the nap should be short (less than 30 minutes - using an alarm if needed). Also the nap should be no later than early afternoon. If you find that your night time sleep is disrupted, either the nap is too late in the day, too long or detrimental to your sleep.

  Rich (Evanston, IL) - 2:12 PM:
Have things like room temperature or sound machines been proven to affect sleep?
Dr. Thomas Freedom (NorthShore)
Yes. Slighly lower room temperature for most people promotes sleep. White noise can help if a person is sensitive to noises.

  Rebecca (Wilmette) - 2:13 PM:
It seems that my husband sometimes twitches or jumps right as he (and I) is falling asleep. Is there a cause for this and can anything be done to eliminate it?
Dr. Thomas Freedom (NorthShore)
I suspect these are "sleep starts". If it only occurs once at the beginning of sleep its probably a cause for concern. If it occurs more frequently and disrupts sleep then you may want to discuss with your family doctor.

  Edward (Highland Park) - 2:16 PM:
Are there any foods or supplements that are conducive to sleep? Yogi Tea offers a 'bedtime' tea, but do things like that offer anything more than a placebo effect?
Dr. Thomas Freedom (NorthShore)
At best herbal remedies offer a very modest effect on sleep. Probably not entirely placebo effect in some cases.

  Owen (Winnetka, IL) - 2:17 PM:
How does obesity affect quality of sleep?
Dr. Thomas Freedom (NorthShore)
It depends on how overweight a person is. In extreme obesity, the decreased mobility i.e. ability to turn in bed could have an impact on the quality of sleep. Finding a bed to accomodate someone who is severly obese may be difficult. There are a number diseases associated with obesity that can effect sleep such as heart disease. Sleep apnea is a major concern in people who are obese and can not only compromise sleep but can lead to other cardiovascular diseases.

  Owen (Winnetka, IL) - 2:20 PM:
Are there any home remedies for snoring? If not, what is the easiest/best way to prevent snoring?
Dr. Thomas Freedom (NorthShore)
To begin with, snoring may be a sign of sleep apnea. If there is gasping, choking or witnessed pauses in breathing, this could be a sign of sleep apnea. Also daytime sleepiness along with loud snoring could also indicate sleep apnea. For snoring weight management, body position (not sleeping on your back), avoiding alcohol, treating acid reflux and nasal congestion may be helpful. Sometimes nasal strips can help.

  Kyle (Morton Grove, IL) - 2:23 PM:
If I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t seem to fall back a sleep, is there anything I can do to help me fall back asleep more easily?
Dr. Thomas Freedom (NorthShore)
There are a number of things that one should do to make sure that the sleeping environment allows good sleep. If you have not identified anything that wakes you up and keeps you awake the following may be helpful: If you are not able to fall back asleep within a short period of time (longer than 20 minutes) it is often better to get out of bed, sit somewhere comfortable and do something that might help you get back to sleep (reading, listening to soothing music, etc). Only going back to bed when you feel sleepy. This process may need to be done a few times during the night. You should still wake up in the morning at the same time.

  Eric (Chicago) - 2:30 PM:
What about over the counter meds? If my sleep schedule gets off, are they okay to use for a night or two?
Dr. Thomas Freedom (NorthShore)
Not without consulting your health care provider first. For occasional difficulty falling asleep, in an otherwise healty person, there are safe and effective products that your healthcare provider can advise you to try. Even over-the-counter medications can lead to complications.

  Kyle (Morton Grove, IL) - 2:34 PM:
I can never seem to remember my dreams when I wake up, why? Does that mean I don’t dream?
Dr. Thomas Freedom (NorthShore)
Almost everyone dreams. Many people don't remember their dreams and others can remember very vivid dreams. This is a normal variation among people.

  Michael H. Mendelson (Chicago, IL) - 2:37 PM:
I also have cataplexy. What is your perspective on taking prescription medication, such as xyrem (if taken exactly as prescribed, i.e. not abused?) My doctor thinks I should take it.
Dr. Thomas Freedom (NorthShore)
Sodium Oxybate (Xyrem) is an effective medication for both sleepiness and cataplexy associated with narcolepsy. Under the care of a physician experienced with this medication and with appropriate medical evaluation, Xyrem is usually safe when taken as prescribed.

  Eric (Chicago, IL) - 2:41 PM:
How do I approach my doctor about presriptions for sleeping medications? I'm hesitant to start a conversation that centers on a prescription for sleep medication, because of some people's propensity to abuse them.
Dr. Thomas Freedom (NorthShore)
Medication is almost never the first treatment for problems with sleep. A thorough evaluation for the causes of the sleep problem is the first step. If no specific medical or sleep disorder is found, then behavioral treatment is usually more effective than medication. Sometimes medications may be needed in addition to the behavioral treatment. The exception to this is the person who suffers occasional insomnia (no more than a few times a month). A sleep medication may be appropriate in this situation. I would suggest approaching your doctor with the difficulties you are having with your sleep. If he/she is not able to help, perhaps consulting with a sleep specialist may be beneficial.

Kristin Philbin (Moderator) - 2:46 PM:
Thank you everyone for your great participation, the chat will be ending in approximately 10 minutes. Please submit any final questions you have.

  Kyle (Morton Grove, IL) - 2:47 PM:
What is narcolepsy and how is it diagnosed?
Dr. Thomas Freedom (NorthShore)
Narcolepsy is a neurological condition associated with sleepiness in the day, attacks of weakness with emotion (cataplexy), waking up from sleep completely unable to move (sleep paralysis) hallucinations as one falls asleep and disrupted night time sleep. The diagnosis can be made based on symptoms and ruling out other disorders. There are also tests that can be done in the sleep laboratory involving overnight and daytime testing.

  Michael H. Mendelson (Chicago, IL) - 2:52 PM:
Is there a way to ascertain what is causing sleepiness? I also have some food allergies that make me tired (corn by-products), can no longer drive without dozing, and have trouble staying awake when reading? I have done two sleep studies, one said apnea, the other said cataplexy, not apnea. also tried low vision exercises. I am very frustrated. have tried provigil and adderall, without much success. yes, i'm the one who asked about xyrem.
Dr. Thomas Freedom (NorthShore)
Michael, without knowing your entire history and results of sleep tests, it is very difficult to answer your question. I understand your frustration. I am not sure that I can answer your question in this forum.

Kristin Philbin (Moderator) - 3:00 PM:
Thank you again for participating in our chat today. For more information please visit our Sleeping disorder pages.

Also, a transcript of this chat will be available shortly.

Dr. Thomas Freedom (NorthShore) - 3:02 PM:
Thank you for participating in the sleep chat today. For more information you may contact the sleep center or call 847-663-8200.

This chat has ended.

Thank you very much for your participation.