“If you’ve never had a good night’s sleep, you don’t know what you’re missing,” said Dr. Albert Kim, facility director of the Mercy Sleep Center at Mercy Medical Center.
“If you are having sleep trouble, first ask your family doctor,” he said. “But if you really have concerns, maybe see a sleep specialist in your area.”
Q. How much sleep do we need?
A. “Adults need six to eight hours. School-age children need more than adults, eight to 10 hours. There are some very rare people who can get by with less than six hours, but that’s rare. If you’re sleeping more than you think you should, you might have narcolepsy. Fatigue can be caused by depression.”
Q. What kind of general advice can you offer for getting a good night’s sleep?
A. “One basic is a bed-time regimen, going to sleep at a regular time even if it’s the weekend. Having a quiet, dark place to sleep. Light and noise are big stimulants.”
Q. What are some other tips?
A. “No caffeine. Alcohol at night is not the best way to fall asleep. You’ll go to sleep, but the sleep is fragmented.”
Q. How about exercise?
A. “No late-night exercise, although regular exercise during the week actually helps sleep. Just not before bed.“
Q. Is room temperature a factor?
A. “Yes. People do better in cooler temperature rooms than warmer.”
Q. What about TV and cellphones in the bedroom?
A. “Don’t go to bed to watch TV and spend an hour on devices. TV in the bedroom I don’t think is good at all. No computers, no cellphones.”
Q. What about over-the-counter sleep medications?
A. “People use Benadryl all the time. I don’t have a problem with that. Melatonin is used for a lot of people; it won’t hurt. Chronic sleep aids like Ambien, not good. Most people don’t need sleep aids if they’ve got a good routine.”
Q. I know sleep apnea is a common and serious sleep disorder. What are the symptoms?
A. “If you’re tired during the day and someone tells you that you’re snoring at night, you may have sleep apnea. We do what we call a STOP BANG test for people. S is snoring, T is tiredness, O is being observed having difficulty at night, P is high blood pressure, B is elevated BMI (body mass index), A is age, N is for neck circumference, G is gender. Apnea is worse for men than women. Obesity is a risk factor for sleep apnea, but skinny people can have it also.”
Q. What are some other causes of acute insomnia?
A. “Sometimes it’s situational—divorce, losing a job, a family member who’s died. That’s pretty common. Chronic is three months of sleeping trouble. We try to figure it out. Some have restless leg (syndrome). Also, sleep problems can run in the family—sleep walking, sleep talking, sleep apnea.”