Sleep FAQs


Q: Is snoring harmful?
Q: Is it ok to get fewer hours of sleep during the week and make up for it on the weekends?
Q: Are teenagers who fall asleep in class just lazy?
Q: What is insomnia?
Q: Is my health directly related to the amount and quality of my sleep?
Q: Do older people need less sleep?
Q: Does my brain go to sleep at night too?
Q: If I wake up in the middle of the night should I get up or lie there until I fall back to sleep?
Q: Should I take naps if I’m tired during the day?
Q: How can I enjoy a night of uninterrupted sleep?
Is snoring harmful?

Snoring isn’t harmful to most people.  However, it can be a symptom of a life threatening sleep disorder called sleep apnea, especially if it’s also accompanied by severe daytime sleepiness.  Sleep apnea is marked by pauses in breathing while the person is asleep.  People suffering from it generally wake up frequently during the night gasping for air.  The pauses in breathing can strain the heart and cardiovascular system, and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease because it reduces the blood oxygen levels.

Snoring on a regular basis has also been associated with hypertension.  Obesity and a large neck can contribute to sleep apnea.  It can be treated so if you’re a man or a woman who snores loudly and frequently and if you or your partner notice pauses in your breathing while you’re asleep, you should consult your physician.

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Is it ok to get fewer hours of sleep during the week and make up for it on the weekends? 

No.  Sleep experts say most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night for optimum performance, health and safety.  When we cut a few hours of sleep out of our routine, we accumulate sleep debt that we need to "pay back."  You should, however make up for lost sleep but do it by adding a couple of hours of sleep each day until you have made up for lost sleep and try to do it by going to bed earlier rather than sleeping later so you’re still able to wake up at the same time.  If you’re paying back your sleep debt by napping, take a nap every day and don’t nap too long.

Remember that sleep deprivation has been linked to other problems such as obesity, high blood pressure, moodiness, decreased productivity, as well as safety issues it can cause the individual and others.  Make sure you’re getting enough uninterrupted sleep each night by paying attention to your mattress.  It should feel comfortable to you and provide proper support.  6 hours of uninterrupted sleep is better than 8 hours of fragmented sleep.

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Are teenagers who fall asleep in class just lazy?

No.  According to sleep experts, teens need 8 ½ - 9 ¼ hours of sleep each night.  Also, their biological clocks naturally keep them awake later into the evening and keep them sleeping later into the morning.  As a result, many teens come to school sleepy because they’re body is telling them they should be sleeping, and not because they’re lazy.

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What is insomnia?

Insomnia is characterized by a number of symptoms.  Difficulty falling asleep is one symptom associated with insomnia.  Others may include waking up too early and not being able to fall back asleep, frequent awakenings in the middle of the night, and waking up feeling tired or unrefreshed.  It can also be associated with a medical or psychological/psychiatric problem and can often be treated.  If you experience symptoms of insomnia more than a few times a week and it impacts your daytime functions, you should discuss the symptoms with your physician.

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Is my health directly related to the amount and quality of my sleep?

Yes.  Studies have found a relationship between the quantity and quality of one’s sleep and many health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and depression.  For example, insufficient sleep affects growth hormone secretion that is linked to obesity; as the amount of hormone secretion decreases, the chance for weight gain increases.  Blood pressure usually falls during the sleep cycle, however, interrupted sleep can adversely affect this normal decline, leading to hypertension and cardiovascular problems.  Research has also shown that insufficient sleep impairs the body’s ability to use insulin, which can lead to the onset of diabetes.  More and more scientific studies are showing correlations between poor and insufficient sleep and disease.

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Do older people need less sleep?

No.  Sleep experts recommend 7-9 hours of sleep for all adults, including seniors.  While our sleeping patterns change as we age, the amount of sleep we need does not.  To help get adequate sleep, seniors should try to stay active both mentally and physically and keep a regular sleep schedule, waking and going to bed at the same time each day.  Naps are recommended for daytime drowsiness, but they should be limited to 30 minutes.

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Does my brain go to sleep at night too?

No.   The body rests during sleep, however the brain remains active, "recharges" itself and continues to control many body functions while we’re asleep, including breathing.  When we sleep, we tend to drift between two sleep states, REM (rapid eye movement) ad non-REM, in 90-minute cycles.  Non-REM sleep has four stages, each with distinct features.  The stages range from drowsiness, to "deep sleep", to stages three and four where awakenings are more difficult and where the most positive and restorative effects of sleep occur.  Even in the deepest non-REM sleep stage, our minds can still process information.  REM sleep is an active sleep where dreams occur, breathing and heart rate increase and become irregular, muscles relax and eyes move back and forth under the eyelids.

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If I wake up in the middle of the night should I get up or lie there until I fall back to sleep? 

Waking up in the night and not being able to fall back to sleep is a symptom of insomnia.  Peaceful thoughts may help to induce sleep more than the old adage of counting sheep, which some research suggests may actually be more distracting than relaxing.  Whatever technique you use, experts say you should get up go to another room and engage in another relaxing activity if you don’t fall back to sleep in 15-20 minutes.  Reading or listening to music is recommended.  Return to your bed when you feel sleepy again.

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Should I take naps if I’m tired during the day?

Yes and no.  If you experience difficulty falling asleep at night, you should probably avoid naps during the day.  However, if you’re having trouble getting enough sleep at night, naps are a good idea.  People in many cultures nap during the day sometime between 1:00 and 4:00 in the afternoon and studies have shown that naps are helpful in a variety of ways.  For example, Europeans and Latin Americans, most of whom nap regularly, score better on stress tests than Americans.  Studies have shown that the risk of heart disease can be decreased by regular thirty-minute naps.  Naps can enhance your ability to pay attention to details and to make decisions.  Something else to know about naps, is that those taken about eight hours after you wake are better than adding that time to already adequate nocturnal sleep.  Naps improve mood and alertness.   Naps aren’t just for kids!

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How can I enjoy a night of uninterrupted sleep?

Sometimes sleep interruptions are unavoidable, such as having a newborn to attend to or if you’re experiencing a period of physical pain or other medical reasons which may be temporary or need the assistance from a physician.

Most of us, however, can do things to experience, refreshing, rejuvenating sleep by modifying a few things.  There are 5 main reasons for interrupted sleep:

  • Sleep Environment
  • Mental Stress
  • Diet and Exercise
  • Tossing and Turning
  • Physical Stress

Creating a bedroom environment conducive to sleep (dark, cool and quiet), and limiting your time in bed to what you need, and no longer, will help you deepen sleep and avoid awakening during the night. Your mattress set should be comfortable and provide proper support.  If it’s sagging or worn or more than 10 years old, you should begin to shop for a new set.

Keeping a regular bedtime schedule and avoiding long naps during the day will also help you achieve deeper and longer nocturnal sleep. Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly are also important, and will help with relaxing and reducing mental stress.   If you’re tossing and turning, it may be due to your mattress or your partner’s tossing and turning.  If your mattress isn’t comfortable to you, you will constantly be trying to get comfortable, disrupting your sleep throughout the night.  You may also be interrupting your partner’s sleep when you toss and turn.  Many mattresses transfer the motion from your partner to you, increasing the chances of interrupting your sleep even further. 

Medical conditions can also affect the quantity and quality of your sleep.  If you have a medical condition or sleep disorder, you should consult a medical professional. However, just leading an active lifestyle can sometimes lead to aches and pains--many people suffer from chronic back pain or sore muscles. The type of mattress you sleep on can play an important role in your body's recovery from an active day. Consider visiting Mattress Discounters to check out our lineup of products, which are designed to help support the natural shape of your spine while you sleep or our Sealy Posturepedic range, which also provide proper support while you sleep.

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