Family responsibilities and work demands are priorities for most of us,
and getting a good night’s sleep can often drop to the bottom of
our to-do lists. “Sleep shouldn’t be an afterthought,”
says Kojo Nyarko, clinical manager of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine-accredited
Sleep Center based at Winchester Medical Center. “The quality of
your sleep impacts your health and well-being in a variety of ways,”
he says. Here are answers to frequently asked questions about sleep.
Q: Why do some people have problems falling asleep?
A: Although there are medical conditions that impact how we sleep, lifestyle
is a major factor. Adults and children need routines that “tell”
their bodies it’s time to wind down. Try to do the same things every
night such as brush your teeth, or read or meditate for a few minutes.
Sleeping in a quiet, dark room and daily exercise can help, as can avoiding
eating right before bedtime. Finally, turn off your TV, computer and phone;
games, email and the lighting on electronics stimulate your brain. Parents
will do themselves and their children a favor if they create consistent
routines to ensure their kids develop good habits.
Q: What’s the harm in not getting enough sleep?
A: Lack of sleep impacts your thinking, decreases reaction time and contributes
to poor memory.
Driving or operating heavy equipment while drowsy can be hazardous to
you and those around you.
Q: What are the most common sleep disorders?
A: Snoring, the sound made when one breathes through partially obstructed
airways, is the most common. Of more concern are hypopnea and apnea, which
occur when the airways are more occluded or when breathing stops completely,
resulting in oxygen deprivation. When this happens, the heart rate increases
to compensate for the lack of oxygen, which can damage the heart over
time. It also contributes to high blood pressure and increases the risk
of stroke. These underlying sleep disorders can be diagnosed—and
treated—at Valley Health’s Sleep Centers.
Q: Is a sleep study right for me?
A: “It’s normal to have a restless night periodically, but if
you have nonrefreshing sleep three to four nights each week, or if your
spouse complains about your snoring or that you stop breathing, you should
consider testing for a sleep disorder,” says Jeffrey Lessar, MD,
pulmonologist and medical director of the Valley Health Sleep Center.
“Some patients are referred for study by their physician if they
have health issues, like hypertension, diabetes or obesity, so you should
talk with your doctor if you have concerns.”
There are sleep labs at all six Valley Health hospitals. To learn more, visit