Sleepless in Phoenix

The National Institutes of Health has indicated that 70 million Americans are affected by sleep-pattern problems.

by Dr. David Parrish — 

The National Sleep Foundation recently released figures from their 2007 “Sleep in America” poll that most of us would find disturbing. This large, random survey, focusing on the workplace and productivity showed that Americans are working later and sleeping less — a dangerous combination that can cause drowsiness while driving, loss of productivity and reduction in sexual interest. What is particularly troubling is that while most people felt this was a problem, only one-third of those surveyed planned to do anything about it.

Are you sleep deprived?

  • Do you feel irritable or sleepy during the day?
  • Have difficulty staying awake when sitting still, such as when watching television or reading?
  • Fall asleep sometimes while driving?
  • Have difficulty paying attention or concentrating?
  • Have difficulty with your memory?
  • React slowly?
  • Suffer from emotional outbursts?
  • Feel like taking a nap almost every day?
  • Require caffeinated beverages to keep yourself going?

“Economic loss from sleep deprivation or sleep disorders is huge,” said Dr. Samir Fahmy, director of the Sleep Lab at Kings County Hospital in New York City. “It’s not just loss of money for medical care, it’s loss of money for days off the job, accidents, lawyers for accidents, doctors, hospital stays, decreased productivity. It’s like a chain reaction.” And that doesn’t even begin to address quality-of-life issues.

“People [who are sleep deprived] will just not function well cognitively. They’re not going to be as attentive; they’re going to make more mistakes, be more irritable,” said Dr. Nicholas Rummo, director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital Center in Mount Kisco, New York. “More seriously, there are auto accidents that are the result of falling asleep and sleep deprivation, and there are other health implications in terms of heart health and impairment of immune systems.”

The National Institutes of Health has indicated that 70 million Americans are affected by sleep-pattern problems. These are more severe in women and grow worse with age. The National Sleep Foundation study found:

  • Respondents spend an average of 4.5 hours each week doing additional work from home, after an average 9.5-hour workday.
  • 28 percent said that daytime sleepiness interferes with their daily activities at least a few days each month.
  • 29 percent reported falling asleep or being sleepy at work.
  • Respondents got an average of six hours and 40 minutes sleep per night on weekdays.
  • 36 percent had nodded off or fallen asleep while driving; 32 percent were drowsy at least one or two times a month, and 26 percent drove drowsy during the workday.
  • 20 percent had lost interest in sex or had sex less often.
  • 65 percent had a sleep problem, such as difficulty falling asleep or waking up; 44 percent said they had problems nightly.
  • 17 percent got help falling asleep from alcohol or prescription/over-the-counter sleep medications, several nights each week.

Many people who have some sort of sleep disorder will go undiagnosed and will seek over-the-counter sleep aids to gain  relief. Ignoring the underlying causes or masking the symptoms with drugs usually makes the problem worse.

A British sleep study in September 2007 found that people who did not get sufficient sleep are twice as likely to die of heart disease. Fortunately, through proper testing, diagnosis and care, sleep disorders can be managed and overcome.

Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for feeling refreshed and alert during the day. Did you know that the average adult needs eight hours of uninterrupted sleep every night in order to maintain optimal mental and physical health?

Common sleep disorders are insomnia, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea and narcolepsy. Insomnia can be alleviated by reducing caffeine intake, exercising at least two hours prior to bedtime and turning the TV off one hour before bedtime.

Correcting low magnesium levels can be helpful in treating insomnia and restless leg syndrome. Almost 70 percent of the population has low intracellular magnesium levels. Since magnesium is crucial for maintenance of serotonin and for timely release of melatonin early in the sleep cycle, magnesium replacement can be a helpful physiologic intervention.

Magnesium is not well absorbed by the intestinal tract; thus oral replacement can take months. Fortunately magnesium replacement is now available in the form of magnesium oil, extracted from seawater containing important trace minerals. This oil can be sprayed on the feet and lower legs or can be placed in a footbath for 30 minutes. This transdermal delivery method is rapidly absorbed through the skin, facilitating the onset of sleep and reducing disruptive sensations during sleep.

Increased magnesium levels allow the person to stay in stages III and IV of sleep, which are much more restorative than stages I and II. There are other benefits to correcting low intracellular magnesium levels since magnesium is involved in 350 enzyme processes. These include a reduction in blood pressure, increase in DHEA and greater energy from more efficient adenosine triphosphate (ATP) metabolism. If magnesium replacement does not provide significant relief for these sleep disorders within two weeks, consult a healthcare practitioner, therapist or counselor.


David Parrish, M.D., is a board-certified, multi-specialty physician who now does medical research on a full-time basis with Advanced Therapeutics at 480-991-1769.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 27, Number 3, June/July 2008.

, , , , , , , , , ,
Web Analytics