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Do You Love Sleeping? You Should

Featured Speaker

Shannon Handler, FNP

Shannon Handler, FNP

About this Podcast

About This Podcast

Doctors are increasingly convinced that restful and regular sleep is just as important to their patients’ health as exercise and a balanced diet.

Overcoming a sleep disorder and getting a good night’s rest has many benefits for overall health and quality of life.

Sleep is important for learning and forming memories.

Getting a good night’s sleep can give you more energy, and can increase your productivity and safety throughout the day.

Perhaps most importantly, healthy sleep can greatly reduce the risk of serious health problems such as obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and depression.

Sleep disorders are problems with sleeping, including trouble falling or staying asleep, falling asleep at the wrong times, too much sleep, or abnormal behaviors during sleep.

Shannon Handler, FNP is here to explain the importance of a good nights sleep.



Melanie Cole (Host):  For many of us, sleep is that wonderful time of day when we can recharge, soothe and restore after a long day of work and play but for some people, sleep is elusive or otherwise troubled and it could compromise your immune system and cause other health issues. My guest today is Shannon Handler. She’s a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner at Aspirus Health System. Welcome to the show. Shannon, tell us how important it is that we sleep and what are some of the problems that can arise from either disrupted or a lack of sleep.

Shannon Handler, FNP (Guest):  Hi, Melanie. We see a lot of people who come in to talk to us about sleep. There are a lot of things that the brain and body do during sleep that are really important. Your synapses and your brain reset, so those little electrical impulses that help with your mood and your emotion, your immune system – it’s the time when the brain washes out those metabolites. Other hormones are impacted by sleep and timing of sleep, so we try to make sure that people are aware that they should be trying to get as much sleep as they’re able with exceptions of too much sleep. Usually, the recommended amount for an adult is about 7-8 hours. That kind of keeps people in that healthy range of pretty good mood, pretty good immune system, pretty good metabolism, a little tamp down on the impulsivity because sometimes that actually increases when you’re not getting enough sleep. They have increased risk taking behaviors and cravings for things like sugar and caffeine and other addictions. We see youths need a little bit more sleep and their brains are still growing and they’re still processing, so they’re needing like 8-10 hours of sleep. We’ve even seen some teens that have signs of ADHD where they’re having difficulties with concentration if they’re not getting enough sleep. When they do get enough sleep, those symptoms go away. So, it’s got a huge impact on your day to day life. From a medical side, we really try to do as much as we can to help you get good sleep.

Melanie:  It’s so important what you’re saying. Let’s start with our teens, Shannon, because, boy, they sure don’t get enough sleep. They stay up late,  they’ve got this weird body clock and electronics are involved. What do you tell parents about trying to get their teens to maintain some semblance of a routine bedtime?

Shannon:  That routine is definitely part of the equation because of our Circadian rhythms are set, sometimes by sunlight, but sometimes by our behaviors. So, teens that like to stay up late have a harder time when they want to go to bed a little bit earlier during the week. Trying to have a routine bedtime that’s within reason so that they can also make that bedtime during the week is important because you can’t just reset your clocks on the weekend. If you’re sleeping in more than two hours on the weekend, it’s usually a sign that you’re sleep deprived. So, those teens that like to sleep until noon?  Usually that’s a sign they need more sleep during the week. One of the things that we talk about is trying to reduce the amount of screen time that kids get, especially during the evening hours and night hours because the backlight in the screen has been shown to increase electrical activity in the brain. Just turning on that screen will light up on a MRI, different parts of the brain that are impacted in keeping yourself awake and alert. So, it’s a little bit harder to try to get yourself to fall asleep if you’re spending too much time with that backlight going.

Melanie:  Well, let’s talk about that sleep hygiene just a little bit because the routine and the things people do at night is what can contribute to that--barring things like sleep apnea or true insomnia where people are actually having real issues that they want to get medically supervised and checked out. If you’re just somebody who has trouble falling asleep or sleep hygiene, what is that, Shannon?  Tell people how to kind of start their night so that they can ready themselves for that rest.

Shannon:  The very first part of your night should be finding out if you really like to sleep and do you love to sleep? What about it do you not love because you should love to sleep, really. Your environment should be cool and quiet and calm. It shouldn’t be a stimulating or too hot or too cold. You should have some food in your belly but you shouldn’t be too full. You should have some exercise during the day but you shouldn’t have exercise right before bed because your body and mind both have to be ready to sleep. When you talk about sleep hygiene, we start with the mind. How ready are you?  Do you like to sleep?  If you don’t, what is it about sleep that you don’t like?  Is there a way that you can work on that?  First of all, do you like to sleep?  Hopefully, the answer is “yes”. Second of all, do you have a calm, cool environment that’s relaxing and peaceful. You don’t have pets going in and out of the room all night or lights going off during the night or tv going off while you’re trying to sleep. All of those things will actually take you out of a deep sleep and even if you’re not waking all the way up you may be coming up a few levels of your sleep, so you’re not getting quite the restful sleep that you’re hoping for. You should feel very refreshed when you wake up in the morning. Some people will come and say, “You know, I’m having a lot of trouble sleeping and I’m not getting as much activity in the winter, for example, as I do in the summer and I don’t sleep as well.”  It’s pretty easy to see that the body has to be also ready to sleep so that the brain can be ready to sleep. Another thing that some people have trouble with is that their mind starts to race. They have something going on where they’re really focused, they’re needing to be on top of things, their needing to be ready and their mind, when they are trying to sleep, is focused on the these things they’re trying to fulfill and to do. So, if you’ve got something outstanding you are going to have a harder time sleeping and that’s actually an adaptive mechanism. You don’t feel safe--you don’t feel like you’re ready to rest. So, if there’s any way you can get rid of your checklist right before bed, get rid of your major planning right before bed – you shouldn’t be making any major decisions, discussing your finances that hour . Some people only need 20 minutes but it’s usually an hour before bed. It should be a calm, cool and relaxing time with lower lighting, trying to stimulate your body to say, “Now it’s nighttime. Now it’s time for me to start resting. I’m in a comfortable place and a safe environment and now I’m ready to sleep.”

Melanie:  So, if people have sleep issues, Shannon, and they maybe go see a doctor, what can they expect?  I mean, they hear about sleep clinics. I don’t know how anybody gets a decent night’s sleep in a clinic to see if you have apnea of insomnia or some of these problems restless leg, whatever it is. Tell us a little bit about a sleep disorder center.

Shannon:  If you’re going to have a sleep evaluation, there might be a few reasons that you’d have that evaluation. You might be not feeling rested when you wake up in the morning. There could be some things causing that. You could have trouble with sleep apnea. You could have trouble with restless legs. You could have a different type of para insomnia. Those are all things that would be diagnosed by a sleep doctor and how they would find out those things is to actually have you go through a sleep study. In some instances, it’s sort of a simple thing that you take home an oxygen monitor and you wear that on your finger while you are sleeping in your own bed. They could actually see your oxygen content overnight and they could tell if you’re losing oxygen or having sleep apnea problems. In some instances, they may have you come in to the center and they actually try to have you a little bit sleep deprived from the night before and then, in some places, they’ll give you a sleep aid. So, you’ll be able to sleep in the sleep center. It’s kind of like a hotel room. It’s a different environment and you might not feel safe and ready to rest. They do help you along a little bit with that. They try to get as much information as they can. How much movement that you have during the night, what’s your breathing, what’s your respiratory rate, what kind of REM sleep are you going into so they can actually see your different levels of brain waves. So, they would be able to tell what kind of sleep and how much time you’re spending in each level. That can be helpful for some depression diagnoses that people that spend too much time in REM sleep might be having symptoms of depression.

Melanie:  That’s such important information and really good. People need to understand those health benefits and getting a good night’s sleep. So, wrap it up for us, Shannon. Give your best advice for getting a good night’s sleep.

Shannon:  Do your best to control your actions at night so you’re in a nice, calm, quiet environment. Get your exercise and activity during the day so your body and mind are ready to sleep. Pay attention to the light. If you need it a little bit darker, you can get some darkening shades and some lower level lighting. Don’t go to bed hungry or too full either because your sleep won’t be quite as good that way.

Melanie:  Thank you so much. That’s great, great information. You’re listening to Aspirus Health Talk. For more information, you can go to aspirus.org. That’s aspirus.org. This is Melanie Cole. Thanks so much for listening.