Middle-of-the-Night Waking

Four experts reveal the secrets to getting a good night’s sleep.

By Michael F. Roizen | MD from Reader's Digest | August 2007

The Integrative Specialist When you gradually fall asleep (rather than crashing into bed), noises, light and other disturbances won’t wake you as easily. Dim the lights an hour before bed and use a HEPA filter to improve air quality. Blue-blocking light bulbs encourage production of the sleep hormone melatonin and may help. If you wake, give yourself a chance to fall back asleep before getting stressed. Don’t look at the clock. – Rubin Naiman, PhD Director, Sleep Programs, Miraval Resort, Tucson, Arizona

The Sleep Doctor Figure out the cause: Are you stressed, sick, depressed, on meds? Try compressing your sleep: If you usually sleep from 11 to 7, stay up until midnight and wake up earlier for a few days to squeeze out awakenings. Gradually increase. If you still have trouble, see a doctor. Taken under her guidance, sleeping pills can help. – Neil B. Kavey, MD Director, Sleep Disorders Center, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York

The Sleep Apnea Pro Many people with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) don’t realize they’re waking up. With OSA, there’s less oxygen going to the brain, and it can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Losing weight helps, and treating sinus problems or allergies may prevent OSA. There are many effective medical techniques, so see a specialist if needed. – Jordan S. Josephson, MD sinusreliefnow.com, New York, New York

The Nutritionist If you’ve ruled out OSA, caffeine could be the culprit. Cut back for a month to see if the problem goes away. GERD may also make you wake up coughing or with heartburn; avoid eating a few hours before bed and raise the head of the bed. Ask your doc about taking a magnesium supplement to help you relax. Alcohol interferes with deep sleep. If you drink, do it with dinner, not right before bed. – Dwight McKee, MD Aptos, California

The Bottom Line If you don’t sleep, then you can’t dream, so this natural mood-regulating practice slowly slips into oblivion. Once you rule out a biological ailment that prevents you from sleeping, try turning the lights down in a peaceful environment as you slowly descend into a restful period. At least you will get a running start on sleep.

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