Experts Offer Solutions to Sleep Habits

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    By Adam Denison

    For some, being a college student is synonymous with getting a lack of sleep, but failing to sleep enough or properly may do more harm than good.

    “Sleep habits of students are pretty bad,” said Kim Christensen, nursing director at the BYU Student Health Center.

    Most people need approximately seven to eight hours of sleep each night, with seven hours being the absolute minimum, said Dr. Joseph Miner, executive secretary for the Utah Health Department.

    Many people feel that they can survive on only four to five hours of sleep a night, but doing so can be very detrimental to one”s health, Miner said.

    In addition to getting enough sleep, Miner also recommended sticking to a specific sleep schedule.

    “All living things love very ritualistic schedules,” he said.

    Maintaining “good sleep hygiene” is key to getting enough quality sleep, said Nicole Nelson, office manager at Intermountain Sleep Disorders Center at LDS Hospital.

    Good sleep hygiene covers a wide variety of practices that will lead to better sleeping patterns. Nelson recommended using one”s bedroom only for sleeping and not as an extra TV room.

    It is not healthy to become accustomed to sleeping anywhere other than the bedroom, she said. Caffeine should be avoided about four hours before bedtime, she said.

    Napping, a common practice for college students during class, should be avoided or at least limited to no more than one hour during the day.

    Regular exercise helps promote a good night”s rest, according to both Miner and Nelson, but strenuous exercise should be avoided four hours before bedtime.

    Certain mental health disorders, such as anxiety or depression, may be the cause of some sleep disorders, but may also be the result of unhealthy sleep habits.

    Professional help should be sought if one experiences insomnia, or sleeplessness, for more than four to six weeks, Nelson said. The Intermountain Sleep Disorders Center tries to get to the root of the problem behind the insomnia for each patient.

    A variety of methods are used to help individuals suffering from sleep disorders.

    “It”s very patient-specific,” Nelson said.

    There are some medications that can be prescribed to help individuals sleep better, but Miner warned that these medications are usually very habit-forming and should not be used for more than a week. Over-the-counter medications, such as Tylenol PM, do not cause physical dependence, but may led to psychological dependence, Miner said.

    (For comments, e-mail Adam Denison at )

    Side Bar:

    The Three Most Common Sleep Disorders:

    1. Insomnia

    Those most at risk: Anyone. Almost everyone experiences some form of insomnia at some point in life.

    Symptoms: Inability to fall asleep or inability to stay asleep.

    Possible causes: Depression, anxiety, or stress

    Treatment: Adopting a regular sleeping schedule, regular exercise

    2. Sleep Apnea

    Those most at risk: Mainly those who suffer from obesity, but some underweight individuals can experience it too.

    Symptoms: Intense snoring, waking up not rested, headaches, tired all day

    Causes: An obstruction in the airway prevents breathing

    Treatment: Small apparatus to be worn while sleeping that forces air into the nasal passages

    3. Narcolepsy

    Those most at risk: Anyone, but most often begins between the ages of 15 and 25

    Symptoms: Excessive daytime sleepiness, hallucinations, sleep paralysis

    Possible causes: No known causes, but some scientist believe it may be brought on by lack of hypocretin, a chemical in the brain.

    Treatment: Certain medications, lifestyle changes.

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