The pilot study included 137 patients who were seen at a sleep clinic between 2017 and 2019 for problems such as obstructive sleep apnea or insomnia. “Having worked in the field of sleep practice for several years, I have noticed many of my patients have problems with insomnia due to their habits,” says Dr. Winegar. Based on patient questionnaires, she analyzed the prevalence of several types of poor coping strategies and how they affect the results of the sleep lab test (polysomnography), providing provides experts with detailed information about sleep patterns.
Consistent with previous insomnia studies, most patients adopted one or more counterproductive strategies to address their sleep problems:
Caffeine. About two-thirds of the patients reported using caffeine. Although commonly used as an energy booster for people who feel sleepy during the day, caffeine can lead to increased sleep problems at night.
Drugs that aid sleep. Nearly half of the patients (47%) took a prescription sleep aid, while another 19% used an over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aid. More than 40% of patients said they had used herbal products, indicating they were “self-medicating” for their sleep problems.
Nap. More than a quarter of patients said they had daily naps, which can contribute to nighttime sleep problems.
These inappropriate coping strategies affected sleep quality in a number of ways. Patients not using a sleep aid entered the critical rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep faster than patients taking prescription sleep aids: 131 minutes versus 167 minutes. Patients using prescription sleeping pills also had fewer REM cycles than patients using OTC sleep aids or no sleep aids.
Data shows a number of beneficial effects of sleeping pills prescribed by medical professionals, including shorter sleep duration (time to fall asleep) and higher sleep efficiency. Median sleep duration was 349 minutes for patients taking OTC sleep aids, compared with 332 minutes for those taking prescription sleeping pills and 292 minutes for those not taking sleep aids. Patients who did not take sleep aids were more often agitated at night, which could be a sign of more fragmented and less restful sleep.
Patients who used caffeine had longer REM sleep – with the exception of those who had more than two servings of caffeine per day. Patients who nap regularly are less sleepy during the day but have a longer sleep latency than those who don’t nap.
“Learning about good sleep hygiene and making some small changes to their routine – going to bed at the same time, turning off the TV and lights while in bed – can help patients sleep better without using sleep aids”, Dr. Wine vinegar.
She advises patients with insomnia or other sleep problems to create a new routine to “prioritize sleep.” Dr. Winegar adds: “Always plan to get eight hours of sleep each night. “No napping. Keep the same sleep hygiene routine and sleep schedule every day.”
Sleep Awareness Week® is the National Sleep Foundation’s national public education campaign that celebrates sleep health and encourages the public to prioritize sleep for improved health and well-being. Recognizing and avoiding the unintended consequences of bad coping strategies will support our mission to learn about the benefits of optimal sleep and how sleep affects health, happiness and safety. .