Neurologist’s advice: Don’t take sleep for granted


How is your relationship with your bed? It may sound like a strange question but it plays a part in how well you sleep.

Catching some Zs is not to be taken for granted, experts say.

Guam joins the National Sleep Foundation in observing its annual Sleep Awareness Week, from March 10 to 16, with this year’s theme “Begin with Sleep.” Celebrating the bedtime, according to the foundation, highlights the importance of good sleep health for individuals to best achieve their personal, family and professional goals.

And coming up is World Sleep Day.

“I encountered some patients who have kind of this bad relationship with their bed,” Dr. Justine Hale, a neurologist at the Guam Regional Medical City, said on K57’s Mornings with Patti Arroyo.

“It’s a place where they think of all the bad things that happened throughout the day and they are fearful of going to the bed— perhaps, they have nightmares. They’re lying in bed saying, ‘oh I am never going to fall asleep and I have work tomorrow and it’s just a bad situation,” Hale said.

It’s called psycho-physiological insomnia. Insomnia is a condition where you either find it too difficult to fall asleep, or you wake up too frequently during the night, or you wake up too early.

All of these characteristics are the different manifestations of insomnia. Insomnia is more commonly also called sleep disorder. Insomnia can affect you in varying degrees, and it largely depends on some root causes, like stress and anxiety.

Psychophysiological Insomnia is the most common form of primary insomnia affecting up to 10 percent of the adult population.

You will be surprised to know that this type of insomnia is in fact associated with excessive worrying about sleep itself.

Hale said you need to have a good relationship with your bed as it is recommended that everyone get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night.

“We really do live in a 24/7 365 society and a lot of my patients are doing shift work, which is really horrible,” Hale said.

He said the World health Organization has determined shift work to be “a probable carcinogen.” Hale cited a study which indicated “an elevated risk of cancer” for nurses who work overnight —all because of a lack of sleep.

But what if you sleep during the day?

“Essentially when you are sleeping during the day you are sleeping out of sync with your natural rhythm,” Hale said. “Basically, your sleep is on clock and every 24 hours your brain is ready to go to sleep or should be. That’s signaled by a burst in the release of melatonin in your brain.”

Melatonin is a natural hormone made every night on a 24 hour cycle. He said if you are not really ready to go to sleep then you’re missing the train.

He noted that everyone is on a different clock but the release of melatonin is related to exposure to light.

So what can you do to ensure you are getting enough sleep?

“Well, exercise is a good start, not only does it help to get rid of extra energy but it also helps to release stress,” Hale said. “But the bottom line is leaving your problems at the door and turning your bed into a safe haven.”