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5 SLEEP PROBLEMS NOBODY TALKS ABOUT

Lets take a moment to talk about sleep eating.


You drift off at night like a newborn baby yet cant recall the last time you woke up truly refreshed.
It may not seem that weird: People tend to assume that because our modern lives are so hectic, nobody
feels rested, says Meir Kryger, MD, a professor at the Yale School of Medicine. But the reality is, you
might have a sleep disorder and not even know it. There are a handful of problems that can cheat you out of
quality slumber, leaving you more tired in the morning than you were when you went to bed. Find out what
could be going on between your sheets and how to catch more restorative zs, starting tonight.
Sleep Problem No. 1: You snore like a saw
Those snuffle-snorts mean that your slack tongue and throat muscles are narrowing your airway, possibly
due to the shape of your soft palate or any extra weight youre carrying.
Although youre likely to wake up if you get short of breath, it may not be for long enough to remember.
Some people wake dozens or even hundreds of times a nighta disorder known as sleep apnea that
increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and possibly osteoporosis, according to a new study in the Journal
of Bone and Mineral Research. Those repeated awakenings are as disruptive as someone pinching you
every two minutes all night long, says Safwan Badr, MD, chief of the division of pulmonary, critical care
and sleep medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit.
Sleep aid: If you rarely wake up feeling bright-eyed, see a specialist to get checked for sleep apnea.(Three to
9 percent of women between the ages of 30 and 70 suffer from it.) If you have the condition, a CPAP
machine and mask can help by keeping your pharynx open with a steady stream of air.
To quiet your snore, avoid rolling onto your backa position that makes your airway more likely to
collapse. Rachel Salas, MD, associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of
Medicine, suggests this little trick: Sew a tennis ball into the pocket of a sweatshirt and wear it backward to
bed.
Sleep Problem No. 2: You grind your teeth
Do you wake up with a sore jaw or get chronic headaches? If so, you may be gnashing your ivories
overnight. All that clenching can cause enough pain to interfere with your shut-eye (not to mention wear
down your enamel). Experts believe that teeth grinding, which about 16 percent of us do, is associated with
anxietythough an abnormal bite and antidepressants can also play a role.
Sleep aid: A dentist will fit you with a mouth guard. If youre clamping down because youre overwhelmed
and overloaded, find a healthier way to manage stress, urges Michael A. Grandner, PhD, an instructor in
psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Its also crucial to spend
plenty of time winding down before bed so you drift off in a calm, relaxed state, he adds.
Sleep Problem No. 3: Your body clock is off
Not even drowsy until the wee hours? Delayed sleep-phase syndrome (DSPS) is the technical term for this
disorder, which afflicts 10 percent of people who seek help for insomnia. It involves a biological glitch that
prevents your body from making melatonin (the sleep hormone) until 12 a.m. or later. A prime sign youve
got DSPS: Youve been a night owl since high school. The syndrome is common among teenagers and
sometimes persists into adulthood. If youre not squeezing in at least seven hours of zs a night, youre at
greater risk of high blood pressure and diabetes. Whats more, a recent study published in Cognitive
Therapy and Research found that people who nod off late (and get less sleep as a result) tend to experience
more negative thoughts.
Sleep aid: Begin by improving your sleep hygiene. Cut back on caffeine. Avoid tech and television starting
90 minutes before bedtime. Create a soothing wind-down routine. And get some sun first thing in the
morning to help reset your bodys 24-hour rhythm. In 80 percent of cases, these strategies lead people to
conk out earlier, Dr. Badr says. If they dont do the trick, a specialist may prescribe synthetic melatonin, as
well as light therapy with a medical lamp to use in the morning.
Sleep Problem No. 4: Your legs feel jittery at night
That creepy-crawly feelingaptly called Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)troubles as many as 1 in 10
people and is thought to be linked to a dysfunction in the way the brain processes the neurotransmitter
dopamine. However, in some cases it suggests a nutritional deficiency, Dr. Kryger notes: With people who
have low iron, there seems to be overactivity in parts of the brain that results in an urge to move the legs.
Sleep aid: Ice packs, warm packs, massages, a bathany of these remedies might help, says David N.
Neubauer, MD, associate professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine:
Different things seem to work for different people.
Also, talk to a sleep doc about trying an RLS drug. Be sure to mention your current prescriptions because
some meds (including certain antidepressants) reduce dopamine activity. Get your iron levels checked, too,
Dr. Gardner advises: Sometimes a supplement is the only treatment necessary.
Sleep Problem No. 5: You sleepwalkand even sleep eat
For reasons that arent completely understood, somnambulists are partially aroused in the nightoften from
the deepest stage of slumber (called slow-wave)and proceed to wander around the house. The behavior,
which may affect up to 4 percent of the population, appears to run in families and is more likely to occur
with sleep deprivation. Another trigger: taking zolpidem (one of the most popular sedatives), according to
Robert S. Rosenberg, DO, author of Sleep Soundly Every Night; Feel Fantastic Every Day.
Additionally, 1 to 3 percent of people who experience such a zombie-like state actually raid the kitchen.
Called sleep-related eating disorder, this condition often strikes women on a diet, who go to bed hungry.
Sleep aid: Benzodiazepines (aka tranquilizers) can sometimes help, and so does getting more sleep. As long
as your nocturnal adventures dont involve anything risky (like, for example, baking cookies), you may not
need medication, Rosenberg says: Just make sure you safety-proof your home by clearing out clutter and
stowing away sharp objects. If youre a nighttime roamer, let your partner know that the ideal approach is
to gently lead you back to bed.