Importance of healthy sleeping habits

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 13, 2013

An occasional sleep problem is usually nothing to worry about. In fact, nearly everyone experiences a poor night’s sleep at one time or another. But, if the problem continues, it’s probably a good idea to take steps to find out why.
There are several things people can do to build healthy sleeping habits into their daily routines. The National Sleep Foundation suggests the following tips for sleeping smarter:
• Establish a regular bed and wake time
• Avoid nicotine altogether, and avoid caffeine close to bedtime
• Avoid alcohol
• Exercise regularly (but complete the workout at least three hours before bedtime)
• Establish a consistent re  laxing “wind-down” bedtime routine
• Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet and comfortable
• Discuss the appropriate way to take any sleep aid with a healthcare professional
“Many people do not realize the importance of healthy sleeping habits to their overall wellness,” said Dr. Bogdan Nowakowski, a board certified pulmonologist who is also board certified in sleep medicine. “Most adults need at least seven to nine hours of sleep per night to maintain good health. In addition, there are several common sleeping disorders that, if left untreated, can be even very damaging to a person’s health.”
Along with feeling tired, poor sleeping habits or untreated sleeping disorders can cause high blood pressure, increased stress, weight gain, depression, loss of motor skills and heart damage. In addition, lack of sleep makes it extremely dangerous to operate motor vehicles or other machinery.
The following four sleep disorders are common in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
Insomnia – Symp toms of insomnia include the inability to initiate or maintain sleep, early morning awakening and excessive sleepiness throughout the day. Insomnia can impair a person’s daily functions, cause mood swings or depression and affect heart health and weight gain. The National Sleep Foundation reports that 48 percent of Americans experience insomnia occasionally and 22 percent experience insomnia every night.
Narcolepsy – Narco lepsy is most often characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness combined with sudden muscle weakness. The sudden muscle weakness with narcolepsy experience often occurs in “attacks” that are triggered by strong emotion or surprise, and can happen at any time, even during physical activity. This is particularly dangerous while driving. Fortunately, this is a rare disease.
Restless Leg Syn drome –The hallmark sign of RLS is an unpleasant feeling in the lower legs, often accompanied by aches and pains. People who experience RLS typically have difficulty falling asleep and try to relieve their discomfort by walking or kicking their legs.
Sleep Apnea – Excessive snoring periodically interrupted by gasping or snorting noises is a key characteristic of sleep apnea. Left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to excessive tiredness during the day, high blood pressure, heart attack, congestive heart failure, cardiac arrhythmia, stroke or depression.
“If you are experiencing symptoms of sleep disorders, contact a healthcare provider to determine the best treatment for you,” Nowakowski said.
Nowakowski performs sleep studies at River Par ishes Hospital’s certified Sleep Lab, which is located inside of the hospital. Sleep studies are available seven days a week in the evenings from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
“River Parishes Hospital’s sleep study rooms are beautifully decorated to make patients feel as if they are in their own bedrooms at home,” said Ann LeBlanc, director of the River Parishes Hospital Sleep Lab. “Plus, each bed has a Posturepedic mattress to ensure patient comfort during the study.”
During a sleep study, patients stay the night in one of the private sleep study rooms. Patients are evaluated while asleep by a technologist in an adjacent room who monitors brain waves, muscle tone, eye movements, heart rate, heart rhythm, respiration, oxygen levels and leg movements during sleep. The results of the study provide data to assist the physician in diagnosing a sleep disorder and recommending treatment options.
Sleep disorders can often be treated with prescription medications, behavioral interventions or in the case of sleep apnea, continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, devices. There are over-the-counter medications, as well, but Nowakowski recommends consulting a doctor or pharmacist before taking these.
Sleep disorders are recognized as medical conditions. Most insurances cover sleep studies and treatment. All major insurance plans are accepted, and a physician’s order is required to schedule a sleep order.
For more information about the importance of healthy sleeping habits, visit or
To schedule a study at River Parishes Hospital, call 985-653-1699.