By Dr. Chris Winter
Sleep issues are among the most common complaints individuals have about their health. There are a variety of problems people often struggle with, from not being able to fall asleep to struggling to stay asleep through the night. And as a result, struggling to stay awake at work or while they drive their cars every day.
Help for these problems typically comes in the form of short bits of information, usually in the form of a small print article or a video sound bite. The average media sound bite has been calculated to be under 10 seconds. This may work really well for a sports score or a severe weather bulletin, but it is very problematic when it comes to sleep.
Sleep is a complex phenomenon. The underlying reasons people struggle with sleep are varied and unique to that individual, which unfortunately makes helping people achieve satisfactory sleep difficult. Because of these challenges, media tends to focus on simple solutions and advice. These are real articles pulled from the internet:
Sleep amount: “Why You Need 7 To 8 Hours of Sleep”
Inability to sleep: “Why Americans Can’t Sleep”
Sleep hygiene: “The Sleep and Exercise Connection That Could Change Your Life”
These are all valid topics that help many people improve their sleep, but they often convey incomplete messages and do not allow patients to step back and truly understand the full nature of their sleep disturbance. Changing your car’s oil is an important aspect of car maintenance, but not every issue related to your car’s performance can be fixed with a simple oil change!
A great example of our lack of sleep education can found in the common sleep complaint, “I can’t sleep.” What exactly does a person mean when they say this? Do they truly feel like they are walking this Earth day after day with no sleep? Do they feel like their sleep is not restorative? Do they sleep but maintain a sense of awareness during the night? Diving deeper than “I can’t sleep” can help an individual find a real solution for their sleep problem rather than simply using pills as a solution.
I am a neurologist and I have treated sleep patients exclusively for over twelve years and I started doing sleep research nearly 25 years ago. I’ve seen the issues patients deal with and the complete lack of accessible information available to them firsthand. For this reason, I started writing The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How To Fix It as a tool for my patients to empower themselves to help understand and fix their own sleep issues. I wanted the book to use real research and examples from my practice and still be fun to read. I wanted readers to understand what products helped with sleep and when they were appropriate to use. Can putting a ChiliPad on your bed help with your issues regarding shift work or quiet a snoring spouse? No, but it can really help some individuals sleep more comfortably if they are temperature sensitive, if they sweat at night, if they have hot flashes or if their partner insists on a warmer environment than they would prefer.
I work with a variety of professional sports organizations to help them with their sleep. My comment to them is always this, “Your athletes need to understand their own sleep before they can fix any problems.” Your sleep is no different. I wrote The Sleep Solution to be a constant companion for anyone looking to achieve amazing sleep.