People may develop mild cases of insomnia as a result of stress, pain, everyday life challenges, including: college studies, parenting, financial strain, and normal sleep requirements based on age and activity levels.

What is sleep? A condition of body and mind such as that which typically recurs for several hours every night, in which the nervous system is relatively inactive, the eyes closed, the postural muscles relaxed, and consciousness practically suspended. Both REM (25% of sleep cycle) and NREM (75% of sleep cycle) are required to achieve

NREM (75% of night): As we begin to fall asleep, we enter NREM sleep, which is composed of stages 1-4

Stage 1

* Between being awake and falling asleep
* Light sleep

Stage 2

* Onset of sleep
* Becoming disengaged from surroundings
* Breathing and heart rate are regular
* Body temperature drops (so sleeping in a cool room is helpful)

Stages 3 and 4

* Deepest and most restorative sleep
* Blood pressure drops
* Breathing becomes slower
* Muscles are relaxed
* Blood supply to muscles increases
* Tissue growth and repair occurs
* Energy is restored
* Hormones are released, such as: Growth hormone, essential for growth and development, including muscle development

 (25% of night): First occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep and recurs about every 90 minutes, getting longer later in the night

* Provides energy to brain and body
* Supports daytime performance
* Brain is active and dreams occur
* Eyes dart back and forth
* Body becomes immobile and relaxed, as muscles are turned off

Sleep Aids

Tens of millions of Americans take prescription sleep aids daily to obtain sleep. Often people initially seek sleep aids because of their inability to sleep or stay asleep. Often leading to the chronic use of these medications. Over time patients may become tolerant and dependent on these medications, requiring a change of sleepers or an increase in dosing.

The cycle:

* patients may be experiencing an inability to fall or stay asleep
* minimal amounts of sleep aids are used to address short term insomnia
* initially the sleep aids work
* then they need more to fall or stay asleep
* the dependency cycle begins

Obtaining REM and NREM

In order to obtain the appropriate levels of REM and NREM sleep patients may want to consider the following, before taking a prescription:

* avoidance of caffeine after noon
* don’t nap during the day
* exercise daily
* evaluate your room environment, including: temperature, brightness, sleep partners snoring, mattress, pillows, blankets – you need to be comfortable!
* use room darkening curtains, sleep masks, ear plugs, white noise machines
* stick to the same bed time and wake up times
* turn the TV off!
* seek natural sleep remedies, including chamomile teas, melatonin, relaxation techniques, including: breathing and soft music

There are some cases where short term use of sleep aids may be indicated, however, the chronic use of sleep aids should be discouraged to avoid dependency.

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