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The ABCs of ZZZs

The ABCs of ZZZs

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