Most of us wish we had more hours in a day. Then maybe there would be enough time to get the sleep too many of us are missing. We talked about sleep with Dr. Arnon Rubin, a sleep specialist and pulmonologist at Suburban Pulmonary and Sleep Associates. He treats patients at Adventist Hospitals in Hinsdale, La Grange and Bolingbrook and also at Delnor Hospital in Geneva. Here is an edited transcript:
Q: What makes for a good night's sleep?
A: A lot of it is essentially a good ritual. ... You should have the same type of routine — a wind-down period or relaxation period (before bedtime). The bedroom is for sleep or sex only. If you're doing work or staying up watching TV it's probably not the best thing to do in the bedroom. Get all the cellphones and pagers out of the bedroom and don't have them on. A dark and a quiet room is a good thing. There's no ideal temperature — we say 68 degrees, but that's kind of personal preference.
Q: What are some good things to do to establish that routine?
A: Whatever works for you. Some people take a light snack before bedtime or read a book in another room — activities that are programmed or ritualized. Nothing specific but as long as it's calming activity it's going to be beneficial.
Q: How much sleep should an adult get? Child?
A: Adults need about seven to eight hours of sleep. Dovetailing back, in terms of a good night's sleep, keep a set wake-up time and set bedtime. If we keep the same schedule seven days a week, that's ideal. It's not the best thing to be going back and forth.
For children, it really varies by age. In terms of young kids, a 1-year-old usually needs about 14 hours of sleep. They do one large block and one or two naps. When you look at kids in preschool, 3 to 6 years old, 12 hours a day. Seven- to 12-year-olds need about 10-11 hours a day, and teenagers need about 9 hours a night.
Q: Are you seeing sleep problems among children?
A: The biggest problem in children is sleep deprivation. They're just not getting enough sleep, especially our teenagers. Kids in junior high and high school are up late getting homework done, doing sports and getting up early for school. Obviously it's going to affect their performance in school.
In younger kids with sleep deprivation you start seeing nightmares and night terrors. There are other sleep disorders in children such as sleep apnea. Young kids shouldn't snore. If your child is snoring on a chronic basis you really should let your pediatrician know.
Q: What happens when we regularly cut our sleep time? Does it really affect me beyond just feeling a little tired the next day?
A: It really actually does. Most data that's coming out recently is that sleep deprivation causes you to get insulin resistance and higher blood sugars. When you get sleep deprived, your body doesn't process food effectively, so you eat more and tend to eat sugary foods that are not as healthy for us. There's some data with diabetics that this is a real problem. We know that obesity is a huge problem in our country and there's some information that sleep deprivation is playing a role in this.
Q: If you're off track on sleep, what's the best way to re-establish a healthy sleep pattern?
A: The one thing we can really work on and fix is wake-up time. We can control what time to get out of bed and set the alarm. (So) try to go to bed half an hour earlier — even 15 minutes. Then go to bed another 15 minutes earlier (the next day or a few days later). The body has to get reprogrammed. ... (For) people that are sleep deprived because of work and schedules, sometimes taking a brief nap can make up for some of that sleep deprivation. Getting sleep in one big block at night and a shorter block in the daytime can be really helpful and beneficial.
Q: What are some of the most common sleep disorders and how do you treat them?
A: One of the most common ones is sleep apnea — the airway closing off. The mainstay of therapy is CPAP — continuous positive airway pressure (a machine used to help people with sleep apnea). There are oral appliances or mouthguards that you can wear. Weight loss (helps).
Q: What are some signs that you might have sleep apnea?
A: (If your) snoring is waking (you) up or (you are) gasping for air, that's often a clear-cut sign of sleep apnea. Waking up with unrefreshing sleep, dry mouth and headaches are some other things to look for. Fatigue, cloudiness, difficulty concentrating can also be markers of sleep apnea.
Q: Snoring has got to be the cause of many arguments in families. How can you make sleep time a little more quiet when it comes to snoring?
A: Sleep depravation makes you snore louder and worse. So getting enough sleep (would help). Next is anything that sedates you, like alcohol or sleeping pills, makes it worse. If you have a lot of post nasal drip, that makes it worse. Reflux (and) heartburn can play a role too. Smoking is another reversible risk factor. And then weight can play a big factor in this. Sleeping on your side tends to be better than on your back for snorers. There are also options, such as the CPAP and oral options, to treat snoring.
Q: Do you snore? How many hours of sleep a night do you get? And are you a side sleeper or back sleeper?
A: I probably get about six to seven hours of sleep — again I don't get enough. I'm one of the victims of society and my job. I sleep on my side and not on my back and I'll snore when I'm really tired. My wife always knows when I've had a bad call night because the next night when I go to sleep I'm snoring because I'm exhausted.