Living with Narcolepsy: The Trouble of Staying Awake

Individuals suffering from narcolepsy are all too familiar with the inconveniences this sleep disorder poses, as well as the danger it can bring in certain situations. Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder that results in a person’s brain being unable to regulate normal sleeping patterns, which a surprisingly common irregularity, affecting roughly 1 in every 2,000 Americans. What’s even more troubling is that fact that approximately 25% of these patients go undiagnosed, and therefore do not receive treatment; a danger to themselves and those around them.

People with narcolepsy experience chronic daytime fatigue, in addition to a sudden loss of muscle control. More often than not, narcoleptic episodes are caused by emotional distress, which includes working, exercising, and even more dangerously, driving. This can put a severe strain on the lives of those suffering from this sleep disorder, as nearly every activity they take part in now becomes a possibility to sustain an injury.

Narcolepsy is typically evident at a young age, with some people experiencing it earlier than others. The most common ages to see their first bouts of the disorder are between 10 and 25. Though symptoms can vary from person to person, the most common are, as mentioned before, daytime fatigue, sudden loss of muscle control, hallucinations, and sleep paralysis. It can also result in poor quality of sleep during the night, preventing certain people from entering the REM stage.

The causes of this interesting disorder are still somewhat unknown, but genetic makeup is likely a large reason why some individual’s brain chemistry is “off.” Research has shown that people suffering from narcolepsy have a lower secretion of hypocretin, which is a chemical in the brain that can regulate sleep. While there is no cure for narcolepsy at the moment, there are precautions that patients can take to effectively live a normal lifestyle.

Healthy changes in one’s life can aid in managing symptoms of narcolepsy. Of course, you’ll want to consult your doctor beforehand when seeking forms of treatment, but adding exercise and dieting can be very beneficial. Some other helpful strategies include scheduling periods throughout the day where you can cap for just 10-15 minutes, resisting caffeine or stimulating medications, taking regular breaks when undergoing larger tasks, and managing your emotions through meditation.

Counseling and support groups exist throughout the country for those suffering from this complicated disorder, as it can cause a great amount of emotional turmoil, depression, and overall difficulty in life. Working alongside a psychologist, counselor, or even an individual also suffering from narcolepsy can help you cope.

The Dangers Of Sleeping Pills In Seniors

Many people have advice on things that can be done to improve sleep. Getting exercise, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, and turning off the television are some of the things that are recommended in order to get a good night’s rest. People recommend doing these things because they really work.

However, the problem is many people do not try to fix their sleeping problems on their own. Most people go to their doctor and get a sleeping pill before trying a natural remedy. They do not want to change their lifestyles. They want a quick fix.

Many people do not have realistic expectations about their sleep. An example of this is a 77-year-old patient. He wanted to sleep until 8 a.m., but he kept waking up at 5 a.m. He goes to bed at 8 p.m. because he gets tired around that time. He wants to sleep for 12 hours, but this is not realistic. The average person needs to get seven to eight hours of sleep.

This patient is likely bored or suffering from depression or other mental health issues. He did not need a sleeping pill. It is important to note that some people suffer from sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. Many patients with sleep apnea have had been able to improve their sleep quality and quantity by using other, more proven methods.

Psychiatric disorders can also have a negative impact on sleep. Getting these conditions treated can improve sleep. However, sleeping pills can be dangerous for the elderly to use. They can increase the risk of dementia and falls. They can also slow down the respiratory rate, which can lead to death. Furthermore, it is possible for a person to become psychologically and physically dependent on the substance.

A major problem is that sleeping pills are often promoted as being harmless. The risks of medications are often minimized. You can naturally improve your sleep by learning from our ancestors. They spent the day being active and eating modestly. They did not spend their day in front of the television with little physical activity. If we want to improve our sleep, then we will need to get back down to the basics.

It is easy for healthcare providers to offer the easiest solutions. Doctors and patients alike need to know if they have unrealistic expectations. They also need to know about ways that they can naturally improve their sleep quality and quantity. They have to know that a pill is just a temporary solution that can have detrimental side effects in the long run.

Sleep Apnea and Tooth Extraction: The Root of the Problem

R. Kirk Huntsman

Following a tooth extraction or root canal, so long as the dental professional performing the procedure has done the job correctly, patients typically experience pain that can be managed with standard painkillers. However, in rare cases, there have been recordings of people experiencing sleep disorders and general sleeping complications following a dental extraction.

To begin, it’s important to know exactly why tooth extractions are performed. Depending on just how crooked an individual’s teeth are, either braces or extractions are necessary for straightening. However, if someone has a decaying, damaged, or infected tooth, that calls for an immediate extraction, so long as the damage is extensive enough to bar repair.

The argument afterwards then becomes whether or not this standard procedure is capable of disrupting one’s sleep. To many people, it may seem unlikely that oral health and sleeping patterns are so closely connected. But, the two are very much related. Extractions specifically, on the other hand, are widely debated as to whether or not they are contributors to sleep disorders.

According to, roughly 80% of Americans suffering from sleep apnea are undiagnosed. This poses a problem for professionals wishing to study this specific case, as the results may be heavily skewed one way or the other. For now, researchers must pay attention to why the subject has even been brought to light.

Following a tooth extraction, it is possible for an individual to experience a decreased size in airways; something that is known to worsen sleep apnea. A study conducted in 2016 found that adults between the ages of 25 and 65 had an increased chance of developing obstructive sleep apnea by 2% with every tooth lost. Though a small, find this is another possible factor for the development of sleep apnea post extraction.

A common symptom experienced after having wisdom teeth removed is looser facial muscles. Patients may experience an increase in drooling throughout the night because of this, and, when lying on one’s back, sleep apnea. With the relaxed muscles pushing the tongue further back into the throat, the partially blocked airways can cause snoring, and constant periods of stopped breathing altogether.

While any study has yet to yield concrete evidence that tooth extraction does indeed cause sleep apnea, there are numerous findings that suggest this. Many dentists may agree that the fewer extractions an individual endures, the better. Again, this is not to say that the more teeth removed one has, the higher chances they have of sleep apnea, but the subtle clues pointing toward this do suggest that it is a possibility. For now, anyone suffering from this sleep disorder should work closely with their doctor, sleep specialist, or dentist for insight as to why they may have developed it.

Why Pregnant Women Are Prone to Insomnia


The many stages of pregnancy are often coupled with difficulty sleeping. Insomnia is not uncommon in pregnant women, but it’s important to understand its potential effects that are, more often than not, completely harmless.

Roughly 8 out of 10 women whom are with child suffer from insomnia and other sleep disorders throughout their pregnancies. These can range from difficulty falling asleep, to waking up frequently throughout the night, and everything in between. The symptoms don’t have to manifest themselves as serious, but a significant lack of sleep in any form can be considered insomnia.

There are a variety of reasons why pregnant women are more susceptible to insomnia in sleep disorders, the most common being hormonal changes and discomfort due to the size and weight of the abdomen. Standard pregnancy pains can also contribute greatly to a lack of sleep, like back pain, heartburn, persistent urination, and general anxiety.

Remedying this lack of sleep can be difficult, and results can vary from person to person. Many medical professional often recommend changing up your sleeping positions, and changing your sleeping environment for optimal comfort. This can be done by adjusting your thermostat to a relaxing temperature, and utilizing sound soothers to create an ambience throughout the room. Before bed, taking a warm bath or practicing yoga techniques you may have learned in a maternity class can help greatly as well.

If you are continuously having trouble staying asleep throughout the night, rather than fighting it, some may suggest getting out of bed and grabbing a small snack or drink, or reading a book. Taking part in a relaxing activity when you are struggling to stay asleep can promote drowsiness. Similarly, taking naps throughout the day is crucial for pregnant women, though the shorter the better in order to best avoid affecting your normal sleep schedule.

It is important to note that sleeping pills and over-the-counter sleep medication can be potentially dangerous to your unborn child, though some are safer than others. These are typically the safest during the early stages of your pregnancy, and doses no higher than the recommended amount are best. Taking too many sleeping pills of any kind can be very dangerous for your health, and your baby’s health.

Insomnia is most common in pregnant women during their first trimester. Often times, it will pass after a few weeks. If you have been struggling with insomnia or other sleep disorders throughout your pregnancy, talk to your doctor about possible solutions, and try any of the strategies mentioned above.

How to Stop Grinding Your Teeth in Your Sleep

Monitoring your physical movements while you sleep is obviously not something that can be done easily without the help of a sleep specialist. Whether you talk in your sleep, sleep walk, or move spastically throughout the night, your overnight activity can potentially lead to further health problems.

One of the most detrimental subconscious sleeping habits is bruxism, otherwise known as teeth grinding. Most individuals experiencing bruxism are unaware that they are even doing it. Whether the teeth are being grinded, clenched, or gnashed, it’s vital to understand the serious side effects that come with this bad habit.

Bruxism is typically caused by stress, anxiety, and other emotional complications, and can occur more or less frequently depending on age. It has been reported more in children, though adults can develop this over time as well. While this habit can be done while the individual is awake, it most often occurs during sleep.

Grinding your teeth throughout the night can lead to sleep disorders like snoring and sleep apnea, and the pain can persist for the duration of the entire day following. Many sufferers have reported having jaw pain, headaches, and, unsurprisingly, damaged teeth after days of experiencing bruxism. It can also increase the sensitivity of one’s teeth, and even loosen them from the gums.

Work closely with your dentist to discuss your sleeping habits, daily routine, and any medication you may be taking to best diagnose if you are suffering from bruxism. Though children experiencing this complication commonly outgrow it, adults who grind their teeth in their sleep must undergo treatment to improve their dental health, and prevent them from continuing this habit in the future.

One form of treatment involves dental appliances like splints or mouth guards. These are to be worn while the individual is sleeping, which keeps their teeth separated so they are unable to grind or clench them. Should there be severe damage already done to the teeth, a dentist will almost always suggest repair through crowns or reshaping.

If a dental approach doesn’t seem to be alleviating the problem, other forms of treatment involve therapy and medications. Seeing as stress and anxiety is a common cause of bruxism, behavioral management classes can do wonders for those who can’t seem to stop grinding their teeth. Medications such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety pills may help as well. In some cases, dentists may suggest muscle relaxers before going to sleep to allow the cheek and jaw muscles to loosen, which can lessen the chances of teeth grinding throughout the night.

Bruxism can be extremely detrimental to your dental health, as well as your sleeping habits, so it is best to address this issue as early on as possible. Be sure to properly manage any stress you may be experiencing in your life, develop healthy sleeping habits, and visit your dentist regularly to stay up to date with your oral health, and aware of your overnight activity.

The Best Medication for Sleep Disorders

R. Kirk Huntsman

Individuals suffering from sleep disorders are all too familiar with the countless forms of treatment available. Certain treatment may work for some and fail for others, including specific devices, apps, alternative treatment, and, of course, medication. There are many medications available, so it can be difficult to determine which work best for you. Sleeping pills in general often have varying side effects, risks, and benefits, so speak with your doctor beforehand to choose the sleeping pill best suited for your health and lifestyle.

Products like Valium and Xanax are two of the most well known sleeping pills on the market. These are both benzodiazepines which directly affect the chemicals within your brain that could possibly be unbalanced, leading to anxiety. Both of these medications are commonly prescribed to ease anxiety and panic disorders, but can be beneficial for those with sleep disorders as well. However, because of their molecular components, they have a variety of side effects. These include decreased time spent in certain stages of sleep throughout the night (i.e. less time spent in REM, and the deepest stages of sleep), and even mild hangovers because of how long these medications stay in your body.

Ambien and Lunesta are both sedatives specifically engineered to help those with insomnia and general sleep disorders. The advantages these medications have over Valium and Xanax include no grogginess or hangovers felt the next morning, and a much lower chance of developing an addiction to these pills. These are both newer products compared to the aforementioned benzodiazepines, and are therefore more in tune with the brain’s chemical makeup. Rather than taking a pill that has a general effect on multiple brain receptors, both Ambien and Lunesta affect specific parts of the brain that involve sleep.

Rozerem is another sedative that acts specifically on the body’s melatonin production within the area of the brain focused on sleep. This directly affects the circadian rhythm of your body, providing users with a much more natural sleep aid. An added bonus is that very few side effects have been found when taking Rozerem, the only ones being drowsiness, nausea, and unusual thoughts.

While medication has its benefits, it’s important to note that not everyone will react the same way to certain types. As mentioned, talk to your doctor if you are suffering from sleep disorders, and discuss what medications could help you the most depending on your lifestyle and medical history.

Alternative Forms of Treatment for Sleep Disorders

Treating sleep disorders is a serious matter that is usually best handled by sleep specialists or medical professionals skilled in this area, but depending on the severity of one’s complications, at-home remedies may suffice.

Alternative medicine is somewhat of a controversial topic, with some individuals within the medical field questioning their actual abilities, and others swearing by them. When treating sleep disorders however, many different forms of secondary treatment have been found to be effective, though it is recommended that these strategies be paired alongside traditional methods. When CPAP masks for sleep apnea or ambien for insomnia fail to do their jobs effectively, “complementary therapy” could help.

Essential Oils

There are countless oils on in stores today that market themselves as sleep remedies or aids in relaxation, and surprisingly, most can actually back up these claims. Moderate sleep disorders can be eased to an extent with certain oils. Marjoram essential oil for example, can help relax one’s muscles, relieving tension throughout the body. Lavender is another popular oil that has a scent capable of inducing calmness, and reducing insomnia and sleep apnea. Plant-based oils like thyme and peppermint are great for clearing airways, and helping those with respiratory issues.

Herbal Remedies

One of the most “natural” forms of sleep remedies is the use of herbal supplements. Valerian is a root that has a great amount of sedative ingredients which can create a calming effect in patients suffering from sleep disorders. Chamomile is another herb that was originally used to reduce swelling and treat stomach cramps, but has been found to effectively treat insomnia. Surprisingly, not to go against the numerous studies conducted stating that alcohol can worsen sleeping patterns, a moderate amount of hops have been found to have sedative effects, helping individuals fall asleep faster. Aside from beer, making a tea out of these supplements is highly suggested for those interested.


Some people may be hesitant to the idea of having fine needles inserted in various parts of their bodies, but the practice of acupuncture can actually help treat insomnia and other sleep disorders that involve muscular tension. The practice has been linked to increased levels of melatonin being released, allowing patients to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Some acupuncturists combine the powers of herbal remedies, burning these supplements on the ends of the needles for added effect. The goal is to promote the function of whatever part of the body the needles are in, like the back, neck, knees, and feet. Though it has not been absolutely proven to be a sound treatment for sleep disorders, acupuncture can, and has shown signs of improving sleeping patterns in patients.

How to Manage Sleep When Working the Night Shift


Working 9 hours a day, regardless of the time of day, can make getting a sufficient amount of rest difficult. Shift work sleep disorders are a real and pervasive issue among those who work night shifts or during obscure hours of the day, and regulating this complication can be extremely burdensome.

These types of sleeping disorders can cause all the health complications that come with the others, those being sleep apnea, insomnia, and more. However, this lack of sleep before going to work can lead to much more danger, as fatigue is likely to cause an increase in human error.

There may be an increased number of work-related accidents, and a general decrease in overall performance. Should you be in a career field that requires these difficult hours, there are a number of steps you can take in order to receive a sufficient amount of sleep, and maintain the safety of yourself and those around you while at work.

If possible, avoid working several night shifts in a row. Take time off if you have to, but 3 or 4 shifts at work during nighttime hours can lead to increased sleep deprivation. During daytime hours in which you are not working, be sure to maintain a regular sleep schedule, and avoid as much light as you can. You’ll want to replicate the night in order to essentially trick your body into thinking it is time to go to bed. When leaving work, be sure to avoid bright lighting as much as you can. Dark sunglasses are great for people who may have longer commutes the following morning.

Upon waking up, expose yourself to as much light as possible for a similar effect to avoiding light when leaving. If your day begins between the hours of 12:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m., you may want to consider investing in a device designed to aid your wake-up routine. These can be anything from light therapy boxes, to scheduled coffee makers. The trick is to replicate your typical morning in order to energize your body and mind.

Though it may seem counterintuitive, limit your caffeine intake when working a night shift. While it is encouraged to have a cup of coffee or two upon waking up, consuming caffeine throughout your workday can negatively affect your sleeping patterns later. The effects of caffeine usually last anywhere from 4 to 6 hours, so plan accordingly.

Shift work sleep disorders are difficult complications, but are common. The more you age, the more difficulty you may have with managing these sleeping issues, but the strategies mentioned above are just a few that could potentially make a great impact in improving your nightly (or daytime) rituals.

Sleeping Positions for All Kinds of Conditions

There’s nothing that ruins your whole day quite like getting a poor night’s sleep. The time we spend asleep each night is the time that our body uses to restore its energy and rejuvenate itself so that we’re ready to begin the next day. In fact, sleeping is so important for your overall health that chronic lack of sleep has been linked to an increase in an individual’s risk for heart diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and kidney diseases.

Under ideal conditions, it shouldn’t be difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep on any given night. Unfortunately, whether it’s due to illness, pain, or the stress of everyday life, most nights we aren’t faced with ideal conditions, so we have to improvise in order to get the rest we need. Get a good night’s rest despite whatever’s ailing you with these sleeping positions to help you sleep easily no matter what you’re dealing with.

  • Sinus Pressure/Problems
    • If you’re experiencing problems with your sinuses, especially congestion due to a cold or illness, you know how difficult it can be to breathe let alone sleep well while you’re suffering. To combat the pressure and help relieve some of the pain in the morning, sleep at night on your back with your head elevated. This will allow your sinuses to drain and eliminate some of the pressure.
  • Indigestion/GI Problems
    • If you’re suffering from indigestion, you could end up tossing and turning all night trying to find some relief. Believe it or not, the side of your body that you sleep on can actually impact the discomfort you’re experiencing. Studies have shown that sleeping on your right side can actually exacerbate problems like heartburn while sleeping on your left side will help to soothe them.
  • High Blood Pressure
    • If you’re in the 29% of the population that experiences high blood pressure, then you’re one of the 75 million Americans who likely has problems sleeping when your blood pressure gets too high. If it’s difficult to catch some shuteye when your blood pressure is too high, try sleeping on your stomach. Studies have shown a consistent decrease in blood pressure when participants sleep on their stomachs versus sleeping on their sides or backs.
  • Headaches
    • Headaches can range in severity from mildly irritating to downright debilitating depending on the person and on the day. If you find that you can’t get to sleep at night because you have a headache, or you’re waking up each morning with one, adjusting the way you sleep can help reduce the number and intensity of the headaches you experience. Since they can be caused by tension in your neck, find a pillow that will give your head and neck support. You can also consider supporting your head on all sides with pillows to keep your head from moving too much.

3 Ways You Can Prevent Jet Lag


What may be surprising to some is that jet lag is typically considered a temporary sleep disorder, which occurs when traveling from one time zone to another in quick succession. Because of the human body’s internal clock that tells you when to go to sleep and when to wake up, also known as the circadian rhythm, traveling to a different time zone can be disorienting due to your body still being synced to the original time zone that you had just left. The symptoms can worsen the farther you go as well.

These symptoms can range from daytime fatigue to gastrointestinal problems, and every general symptom of sleep deprivation in between. Fortunately, jet lag is a temporary disorder, and there are several ways in which you can prevent falling victim to it.

  1. Plan Ahead

Though planning ahead is an obvious must when traveling anywhere in the world, for those visiting destinations that are in drastically different time zones, you’ll want to plan ahead in a different sense. Gradually adjust your sleeping patterns in preparation for the new times you’ll need to go to sleep and wake up. For example, if you are traveling east, go to sleep an hour earlier than you normally would for a few days, eventually upping that to two hours earlier. The opposite goes for those heading west.

  1. Maintain Your Health

Everyone understands the benefits that come with a proper diet, exercise, and good night’s sleep. The trick is actually implementing those habits within your daily routine. In terms of jet lag prevention, they can be even more beneficial. Some studies have shown that a better overall sense of wellness can increase your body’s adjustment to the new time zone. When on the plane or upon arrival, try to avoid developing the “vacation diet,” in which you have very little limitations with what you eat and drink. Overeating, alcohol, and caffeine all directly affect your sleeping patterns, and can worsen the symptoms of jet lag.

  1. Don’t Force Sleep

A common mistake many travelers make when entering a new time zone is giving in to their bodies’ circadian rhythm, and going to sleep regardless of the local time. If you arrive at your destination at 10:00 a.m., no matter what time your body thinks it is, go about your day accordingly. Don’t force yourself to sleep during earlier times. Set an itinerary beforehand, and set out to accomplish all that you can in that first day. If napping is a necessity, try not to go over 20 or 30 minutes.