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Published on April 16, 2013

Trouble Sleeping? Tips for Better Sleep Month

In Brief:

  • Tips to follow to help sleep better include having a consistent sleep routine, sleeping in a quiet, safe, comfortable room/bed, avoiding alcohol or tobacco, avoiding caffeine after 11 p.m., exercising in the morning, and getting evaluated by a sleep physician if unable to sleep despite the above.
  • Individuals who are obese, use alcohol and/or tobacco, have a neck size greater than 17, and women who are post-menopausal are at a higher risk for sleep apnea.
  • There are two types of sleep apnea, obstructive and central.

Having trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep is very common, especially for individuals “on the go” who feel that life never seems to slow down. One rough night may have immediate effects the following day, but what happens when sleep deprivation becomes frequent, not out of the ordinary, and a regular pattern? May is Better Sleep Month. The average total sleep time has dropped from just shy of eight hours to slightly under seven per night over the past 50 years. Stress, personal issues, some medications and certain medical conditions can heavily interfere with sleep. It’s time see if you have a sleep disorder to tuck it under the covers.   

The two most common sleep disorders are insomnia and sleep apnea. Insomnia is characterized by having difficulty sleeping or staying asleep and consists of two forms – acute (short-term) or chronic (ongoing). Acute insomnia is typically brought on by situations such as stress, pressures in the family or a traumatic event. Chronic insomnia is often caused by side effects of medication or another underlying issue, and can last up to a month or even longer.  

Sleep apnea occurs when an individual has one or more pauses or shallow breaths while asleep. These breathing pauses can last from just a few seconds to minutes and can happen 30 times or more an hour. When breathing begins again, it sometimes starts with a loud snort or choking sound. The result of sleep apnea is poor quality of sleep which causes excessive sleepiness during the day.

Does your partner frequently wake you up in the middle of the night due to snoring? If so, it may not just be a nuisance or inconvenience. Your partner could be suffering from sleep apnea. Even though some may think that it doesn’t matter if someone snores, there is a great deal of evidence which shows that in fact it does. Snoring is caused by turbulent air flow and increased airway resistance in the throat. The range of snoring is quite wide – from very light and occasional to wall-shakingly awful every night. The occasional snore may be brought on after consuming a few drinks, or kicking a cold. However, those who snore all night long and for more than a few seconds are at a high-risk for sleep apnea.  

Michael Weinstein,
M.D.

“Individuals who are obese, use alcohol and/or tobacco, have a neck size greater than 17, and women who are post-menopausal are at a higher risk for sleep apnea. About four percent of men and two percent of women have sleep apnea. However, after menopause, the percentage of women with sleep apnea catches up to men,” says Michael Weinstein, M.D., pulmonologist and medical director of the Crozer-Keystone Sleep Center at Delaware County Memorial Hospital. “Tips to follow to help sleep better include having a consistent sleep routine, sleeping in a quiet, safe, comfortable room/bed, avoiding alcohol or tobacco, avoiding caffeine after 11 a.m., exercising in the morning, and getting evaluated by a sleep physician if unable to sleep despite the above.”

Asad Khan, M.D.

Asad Kahn, M.D.

“Previous studies have shown that men are twice as likely to suffer from sleep apnea than women,” says Asad Khan, M.D., pulmonologist and medical director of the Crozer-Keystone Sleep Center at Brinton Lake. “Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts throughout the night. With obstructive sleep apnea, which is most common, a person snores loudly with breathing pauses, followed by gasping for air.”

Central sleep apnea, the second type, is far less common. Central sleep apnea occurs when your brain fails to pass on signals to your breathing muscles. Those suffering from central sleep apnea often wake up with shortness of breath or have difficulty falling or staying asleep.

Vatsala Ramprasad, M.D.

Vatsala
Ramprasad, M.D.

Typically, when we think of poor sleep, we automatically associate this concern with adults. However, children tend to have issues sleeping as well. “Sleep is different in children, depending on age,” says Vatsala Ramprasad, M.D., pulmonologist and medical director of the Crozer-Keystone Sleep Center at Crozer-Chester Medical Center. “Infants have no set sleep pattern until they are a few months of age, which can last up to 6 months, so a consistent routine is very important. Pre-pubescent children have the best sleep out of any age group, because most of them get a very deep sleep. They can most likely sleep through extreme conditions and sounds. We are seeing sleep apnea and insomnia in children, just as in adults.”

Calvin Stafford, M.D.

Calvin Stafford,
M.D.

“Proper sleep patterns are essential for all of us, regardless of age or gender,” says Calvin Stafford, M.D., neurologist and medical director of the Crozer-Keystone Sleep Center at Taylor Hospital. “Scientific studies have proven that proper rest is fundamental for growth, memory function and the function of our immune systems. Our resources at the Crozer-Keystone Sleep Centers can help people of all ages to achieve the proper night’s sleep.”

Crozer-Keystone’s sleep centers are staffed by neurologists and pulmonologists who are fellowship-trained and board-certified in sleep medicine. For more information about sleep or to make an appointment, visit http://sleepcenters.crozerkeystone.org, call 1-888-SLEEP-03 (1-888-753-3703) or submit an online appointment request form.

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