Frequently Asked Questions:

Women and Sleep

How do I know if I have a sleep disorder?

If you are aware that you seem sleepy a lot, and that getting more sleep doesn’t seem to make any difference, you need to see a specialist. If you have been observed to do anything peculiar in your sleep, particularly if it seems unhealthy (like not breathing) or strange (thrashing about periodically in the night), you have a defined sleep disorder and it should be addressed by a specialist. If you seem to “never” sleep or sleep only in brief spurts and in between go a long time without sleeping, an expert can help you. If you have ever had an accident or a near-miss in which there was a temporary lapse of consciousness, your sleep needs to be evaluated.

If I have sleep apnea, will I automatically need to use a mask?

There are at least 4 ways to address sleep apnea, and only one is through use of a cannula or mask. Even though you may have heard bad things about the mask choice, the technology has been made much easier to use, quieter, and more adaptible in the past two years.

Are sleeping pills harmful if taken for a year or more?

Many people take sleeping pills for prolonged periods and remain healthy. There are reasons to check to make certain you are one of those who can continue on them , and your doctor can do this for you. Also, you should know that there are alternative treatments that can be begun instead of pills, after an adjustment period. A sleep specialist can help you with this.

What is the normal amount of sleep I need?

Everyone has a particular daily requirement for sleep. For some, the typical 8 hours a night is appropriate and for others it is too little or more than needed. Also, one may have a need for 7 hours a night now and in a few years the number can change with health or daily activity changes. We tend to allow society or family needs to determine how much sleep is “normal” for us. If you are constantly hitting the snooze button, the alarm is being used to trim your sleep time but you actually need more sleep than you are getting.
You can tell how much sleep you need by conducting a simple experiment using a sleep log to record your week’s sleep time. If you can sleep alone for that week, or can go on a vacation where there are no bedroom environment disturbances, you can have your own biologic clock tell you when it is time to go to bed and arise rather than to use the TV or your job hours to help you decide. Allow yourself to awaken naturally rather than by an alarm clock or somebody else’s schedule. Record the approximate time you go to bed and get up each night, add in minutes for any naps that you take during that week, then take the total sleep minutes in the week and divide by 7. This is a fairly good measure of your biologic sleep need.

Snoring is not harmful—right?

Actually, snoring isn’t exactly harmful but it can keep unhealthy bedfellows. Often, those who snore also have sleep apnea because the same anatomic problem causing snoring can cause sleep apnea. If the apnea is frequent, lengthy, and associated with a drop in your blood oxygen supply, it can be quite harmful. Snoring can also cause sleep arousals that break sleep continuity so that a person’s sleep may be less satisfying even though that person is not at all aware of the disturbance.

Will I die if I don’t have enough sleep?

Many people with insomnia have the notion that they do not sleep at all in one or more nights. While it is possible to not sleep at all, often there have been brief periods of sleep that escape notice of the insomniac. Even if there is no sleep at all, it is not likely to cause serious injury to the body if the lack of sleep is over a few days.
Chronic insomnia can be harmful, however, in lowering body immunity and causing significant mood alteration. It is better to seek professional guidance to address chronic lack of sleep.

Is there anything wrong with taking alcohol to sleep better?

It is commonly believed that wine or a hard drink at bedtime is conducive to good sleep. Actually, alcohol may indeed assist a person to fall asleep but a few hours later alcohol is transformed in the body and becomes stimulating. It causes louder snoring initially, then more movement of the body and even wakenings in the second half of the night. Chronic alcohol use at bedtime can result in insomnia very difficult to treat.