Life connected au des while technology evolves by design?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sleep Aids: 3 Sensory, 3 Pharmacological, and 3 Psychological

The goLITE is a light therapy device most commonly used for seasonal affective disorder and jet lag, but the phototherapy device induces such a strong Circadian response that it helps many sleep better at the end of the day1. One customer says it "will probably pay for itself because my coffee bill is way down."2

The Nightwave is a small device which emits a relaxing rhythm of gentle blue light. Typically, patients' breathing begins the match the rhythm with which the device brightens and dims; and such patients fall asleep before the device shuts itself off.

Dr. Jeffrey Thompson developed the Delta Sleep System as the result of eighteen years of research into the effect of sounds on brainwaves and subjective mental states. I heard about it from Leara Bee, a graduate of New Paltz's music therapy program who is working at a senior hospital until she gets her master's degree in the same discipline. She told me she has "always had sleep issues on and off."

After losing her copy of the Delta Sleep System, Leara bought a nutritional supplement called GABA Calm. Although a cursory comparison of product reviews on would make you guess otherwise3, Leara found GABA Calm more effective than the Delta Sleep System - Leara's sleep biochemistry was excellent for demonstrating the supplement's efficacy. She eventually stopped taking the supplement because it was no longer accessible for her, and there were no signs of withdrawal.

In The 4-Hour Body, health enthusiast Timothy Ferriss reports finding, using the personal sleep laboratory he began to acquire once comfortable equipment for measuring qualities of sleep were invented, that "taking 15+ drops of California poppy extract appeared to increase deep-wave sleep by up to %20"4; but herbalists note that lemon balm extract and hops extract are usually more effective sedatives.

Benzodiazepines* are a class of pharmaceuticals defined by their chemical structure. They are mostly tranquilizers, and I'm familiar with two because my ex takes them. The first is Ativan, a medication commonly prescribed for anxiety. The second is Restoril, a medication prescribed specifically as a sleep aid - her psychiatrist's rationale for prescribing it is that it decreases the chance she will have nightmares and that it is the only medication that will make her sleep (and its effect isn't even observable unless she tries to fall asleep).

E(eye)M(ovement)D(esensitization and)R(eprogramming) is a treatment primarily for post-traumatic stress disorder. It is basically a form of hypnosis that psychologists use on patients to temporarily induce a mental state in which they can more easily create coping mechanisms in such patients minds. EMDR helps some people who sleep during the day because of flashbacks or are afraid to sleep at night because of nightmares - nurses have actually woken my ex up because a nightmare was making her heart beat dangerously fast.

A psychologist once told me she fell asleep, her head slamming against the desk, as she tried the helical sense pyramid sleep technique when taught it at a seminar. The helices of the pyramid are each composed of progressively lower numbers of a kind of sense like 'touch' or 'hearing'. So if your helical sense pyramid were an audio-visual double helix, you would think of five visual phenomena in your sleep environment (you don't have to open your eyes - you can visualize them from memory) followed by five things you hear followed by four visual phenomena and so on.

'Sleep hygiene' describes a set of habits that promote good rest at bedtime. The most commonly stated habit of sleep hygiene is to minimize the amount of light in the bedroom to maximize the amount of melatonin secreted. Besides the obvious pharmacological stimulants, audio-visual and mental stimulation are also problematic. What abstract material is stimulating and how long before sleep it should be abstained from varies from person to person, but the effect of pharmacological stimulants are less subjective. Drinking alcohol within an hour of bedtime normally decreases the quality of sleep.5 Caffeine can stay in the body for inducing wakefulness twelve hours.6, and taking acetyl-L-carnitine after 3pm causes misery7. In Wellness Against All Odds, Sherry Rogers MD advises limiting the amount of electromagnetic radiation and flux that penetrate your body from electronics.


See also:

4Ferriss, Timothy. (2010). The 4-hour body. New York: Crown Archetype.
6Somer, Elizabeth. (2009). Eat your way to happiness. Don Mills: Harlequin.
7Colgan, Michael. (2002). Sports nutrition guide. Vancouver: Apple Publishing.

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