Chasing Sleep: Part Two

By: Kari Huston
By: Kari Huston

Robbing yourself of sleep can be like overdrawing your bank account. With every hour you are awake your body is drawing off the energy that you've stored up from sleep the night before. When you get only a few hours of sleep you aren't depositing enough energy into your body, and you accumulate a sleep debt. That’s when your memory, job productivity and personal life pay the price.

“Most of us just need to work on our sleep habits and take our sleep as seriously as we take our wakefulness,” suggests sleep expert, Dr. Yatin Patel. Patel is medical director of the Goshen Health System Center for Sleep Studies, and he says only a small percentage of the population should take prescription sleep aids. “Only when you have explored alternatives first,” says Patel.

The best medicine for chronic fatigue is addressing the cause of it. The Center for Sleep Studies offered me the chance to spend the night.

With wires attached to every limb and sensors measuring every movement, I settled in for the night. Patients are monitored throughout the night with inferred cameras. Some find they have serious disorders like Sleep Apnea, or Narcolepsy. The diagnosis was simple for me: bad sleep habits. “Your brain activity is nice and regular. This is your air flow, beautiful,” Dr. Patel says. “Your brain was asleep for about 91 percent of the time. 90 or more is normal. Still, you woke up more than you should have during stages four and five, the most recuperative sleep stages. This is probably the result of too much caffeine or stress.” Doctor Patel says we can all catch more ZZZ's if we make some simple lifestyle changes.

  • Go to bed and get up at the same time everyday (even on weekends)

  • Avoid caffeine within six hours of bedtime

  • Minimize the light, noise and extreme temperature in your bedroom

  • Exercise daily, but not before bed

  • Designate quiet time to help clear your mind of anxiety and stress just before bed.

    There is no simple solution for chronic fatigue, but Dr. Patel says making these lifestyle changes can lead to a long-term difference in your sleep quality. Sleeping pills, on the other hand, will only mask the symptoms.

    “Alertness is life,” says Dr. Patel. “If you are alert you can maximize your life your personal, professional family life. If you are drowsy you can not do those things.”

    If you're tired of living life in a daze a little bit of discipline could make all the difference when you're chasing sleep.

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