Study may be in order for restless COVID sleepers

It’s no secret that sleep is essential for one’s health. Then it shouldn’t be hard to imagine that failure to get an adequate amount of sleep results in several health problems including but not limited to impaired memory, delayed reaction times, higher blood pressure, increased risk of heart disease and a weakened immune system.

Lack of sleep is actually a fairly common thing, according to sleephealth.org. “It is estimated that sleep-related problems affect 50 to 70 million Americans of all ages and socioeconomic classes.” Though it is rarely discussed between patient and doctor during yearly check-ups or otherwise. 

Those who have brought up their sleeping problems to their doctor will most likely be asked to undergo polysomnography or better known as a sleep study. This is an overnight exam usually taken in a hospital or another authorized sleep center where doctors can easily monitor one’s sleep. This study usually involves a type of machine that can track one’s stages of sleep, whether it be through REM (rapid eye movement), nonREM (non-rapid eye movement, also called NREM) most commonly known as an EEG monitor or an electroencephalogram.

While this type of sleep study would help to diagnose insomnia, sleep apnea, REM behavior disorder, etc., those just looking for ways to sleep better or to make their own sleeping patterns more consistent might not need this exact type of study done. And now that the world has found itself in a pandemic, many are trying to stay away from places full of ill people, such as hospitals, unless they have an absolute reason to. Not to mention, depending on the type of insurance one has, a sleep study can cost from $600 to over $5,000 out of pocket. 

Luckily, there is a cheaper option in-store, and now that most have plenty of free time on their hands, this option has become more accessible, and that is to conduct one’s own self-sleep study. While this option does not and will not help one to diagnose themselves with a sleep disorder (and please remain from doing so, if you feel you have a sleeping disorder, please take it up with your doctor and do not self diagnose!), it will help one to pay more attention to their sleeping patterns and allow one the opportunity to tweak and re-work their sleep. Here are some steps one can take to conduct their own self-sleep study:

  1. Keep a dream journal. This one might seem a bit silly, but it is important to keep documentation of one’s sleep. Try starting with the date and what time you go to sleep and wake up; this will at least allow one to see approximately the amount of time they spent sleeping, though it is also important to state whether one has had a dream or not. This can be essential for knowing if one had entered the REM stage during their sleep.
  2. Try to stay consistent with sleeping times. This is saying that one should try to remain within the half-hour to one hour range of the time they regularly go to sleep. Say one usually goes to sleep around 10. To keep this sleep time consistent, try not to exceed staying awake for more or less than a half-hour to an hour of 10 o’clock. Though if one is trying to go to sleep earlier, one should attempt to follow the same rule with what time one has chosen. One should also try to wake up around the same time every day to keep up with this consistency. 
  3. Create a bed-time routine. This can be difficult for some who have schedules that are always changing, but it doesn’t hurt to get into a routine that both mentally and physically tells one’s body that it is time to sleep. For example, try lighting a candle an hour or so before bed-time every night. To further implement the sleep factor, try using a scent that will help one relax such as lavender, rose, jasmine or chamomile. One can also put time aside for reading a chapter of a book, or even some quick stretches before lights out. It’s important to introduce even a small routine that will help switch one’s mind from work to rest and relaxation. 
  4. Try out some sounds. Another seemingly silly step, but it could be another step in getting one’s mind to let go of work and turn instead to sleep. Whale call sounds are commonly heard about when people talk about sounds to listen to while one sleeps, but whales aren’t the only thing one can listen to for better sleep. Have a look at the app store for the many free sleep sound apps such as “Rain Sounds.” Many of these apps have several different options of sounds to listen to for one to experiment with for different effects. When one finds one that works, one should be able to find sleep easier after a few minutes of playing their sound. As an added feature many of these sound apps have timers on them to allow them to shut themselves off after you’ve fallen asleep.
  5. Finally, and most importantly, shut off all the lights. Make sure the phone is flipped over so the light doesn’t break the darkness, find a way to cover the light of the TV buttons (yes, even the tiny specs of light and, yes, especially the red ones), block out the hallway lights, close the curtains and close your eyes. Complete darkness is extremely important in one’s sleep, though especially in the act of getting one to sleep. Even the tiniest shine of light can disrupt the REM or dream cycle, which is also the deepest stage of sleep one can reach. If one wishes to reach this important stage, make sure to turn off all of the lights.

This self-sleep study can take some time so don’t expect or be too disappointed not to have a good set of results in the first few days. One should attempt to continue working with their sleep patterns until and maybe even through when they have reached a satisfactory amount of rest. 

Again, this type of self-sleep study will not help to diagnose a sleep disorder. If you feel you have a sleep disorder, please refrain from self-diagnosing and see your doctor to further discuss the issue. 

Remember, the important thing is to document what works, what doesn’t and work out one’s own routine as best seen fit for the individual. Good luck and good night.  

 

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