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  • Thomas Edison's Impact on Sleep

    The biological drive to wake and sleep based upon the rising and setting of the sun each day has been in place in humans since time began. The evolutionary message that runs our lives even in these modern times was influenced by our survival needs as people living in caves, and its influences on almost every aspect of our lives remains just as strong. Scientific experiments done in the last several years have indicated that the body’s response to light is not limited to what we experience through our eyes: even exposing a small patch of skin on the back of our knees can create changes in our circadian rhythm. Other experiments have shown that in addition to exposure to light, changing the body’s chemical composition by adjusting the amount of melatonin present in the blood stream can change our schedules, as  can exercise.   Continue reading

  • The Brain Waves of Sleep

    Brain waves are a measure of electrical changes that take place in our brain. They are measured with a monitoring machine called an EEG, or electroencephalograph. An EEG is a completely non-invasive test: it is not painful or uncomfortable, and involves sensors known as electrodes being placed along key points along the scalp. The electrodes relay the information that they gather about brain activity to a pen moving along a moving sheet of paper. The end result is very similar to what we have seen in crime dramas when a suspect is given a polygraph – or lie detector – test: lines that move up and down in varying heights and rhythms that sleep scientists are able to read and interpret. These lines reflect our brain’s activity level, and are called brain waves. Continue reading

  • Antidepressants as Sleeping Pills

    Traditionally, when patients needed more help falling asleep than they were able to get from over the counter medications or home remedies, physicians turned to antidepressants. Just as antihistamines began to be used as hypnotics because they had a profound and marked side effect of making patients drowsy, the same was true for antidepressants.  In addition to having a sedative effect, they also had the benefit of reducing anxiety, which also helped patients fall asleep more easily. Continue reading

  • Over the Counter and Natural Sleeping Remedies

    The need for sleep – and the frustration over not being able to get it – have been with us for a long time… probably back to caveman days.  With hundreds of drugs and remedies available it is important to understand how each type works so that we can make an informed decision.

     Over the Counter Sleeping Aids

    Sleeping pills of all types are known as “hypnotics,” and some work better than others for different types of sleep problems. The drugs that are available without a prescription are known as over the counter, or OTC drugs.  They are generally thought of as being safe, and that is why they can be easily purchased at your local drug store or supermarket.  The most popular of these are antihistamines, though a couple of mild painkillers are also sometimes used. Continue reading

  • Women, Menopause and Sleep

    Women generally suffer from insomnia more frequently then men do, and at no time is this more true than during menopause and the period immediately preceding menopause, which is known as perimenopause. During menopause a woman’s hormonal balance goes through tremendous shifts.  During the day, these shifts manifest emotionally and psychologically as extreme irritability and mood shifts, memory loss and an inability to concentrate. Physically women are exhausted and experience hot flashes, periods of extreme heat that are characterized by a flushing of the skin and sweating. All of these daytime events are physically and emotionally exhausting, yet women going through menopause are often beset by insomnia. Continue reading

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