Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sleep Happiness not Apneas

Leave it to Americans to try to find happiness in a pill. This is a pet peeve I have as both a coach and psychotherapist. Last year Americans filled 49 million prescriptions for sleeping pills. Check out this morning’s Jon Mooallem interview on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday:

You can also see this morning’s NY Times Magazine cover story for more info on sleep and the mattress industry’s attempt to capitalize on our desire for better sleep

Did you know some researchers believe that the use of sleeping pills merely causes us to have a kind of amnesia for the night? Thus, we believe we had a better night’s sleep because we can’t recall tossing and turning.

Did you know that, historically, people didn’t sleep for eight hours straight? Getting up for an hour or so during the night to feed animals, have a chat or have sex was not unusual. In other words, our expectations for sleep might be a bit out of line. We may not have been made to sleep for eight consecutive hours.

As an ofttimes cognitive behaviorist, I can tell you that I too have observed that people sleep better as soon as they stop worrying about sleeping better. Cutting down on caffeine, vigorous exercise before bed (no, that doesn’t mean sex) and spicy food late in the day, and keeping a regular sleep-wake schedule and relaxing before bed (yes, that could mean sex) are also quite helpful. Warm milk also apparently does have some physiological effect that aids sleep.

As with so many things in life, a pill may not be the best answer. Apparently, being satisfied with one’s sleep leads to greater sleep happiness, not to be confused with sleep apneas.

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