Snoring can be a troubling problem for couples. The person who snores often is unaware of it, but their spouse is forced to deal with a noisy saw night after night. Sometimes it is a small saw, and sometimes it sounds like a chainsaw. Once the spouse is awake they will often try to do something to wake up the snorer, such as making loud noises, shaking the bed or even kicking their partner. Pretty soon both people are lying awake, angry with each other. It can be a vicious cycle.
40% of adults snore, and it is more common among men than women (although post-menopausal women snore almost as much as men). It is also more common among those who are overweight.
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As a treatment for insomnia, sleep restriction therapy falls under the “behavioral treatment methods”. It also falls under the paradoxical concept of “less is more”. That may sound contradictory to you at first.
A paradox is, in fact, something that seems contradictory on the surface, but once you delve into the subject a bit you find that it makes sense.
Less is More
For example, I’ve been training for a marathon over the last several months. For a period of about six weeks I found that I was getting tireder and tireder, and my legs were aching all the time. I decided I was pushing too hard, so I backed off of my mileage and intensity. Instead of trying to run 70+ mile weeks I was only running 50 or so.
The result? After two weeks the pain went away, my energy picked up and I was able to slowly build the mileage back up to 60/week, and I was running faster. In my case, less running = more benefit.
The reason “less is more” is often true is because we have limited bodies and minds. We are designed to handle excesses for periods of time, but then we must have time to recover. If we eat too much for a few days we will gain weight if we don’t back off and return to a normal diet. If we exercise too long and too hard our bodies will begin to break down, until we back off and allow time to recover.
Similarly, our sleep can become disrupted because of a variety of issues, and the solution may be to back off. Sleep restriction therapy is a way of backing off temporarily and then slowly building back up to a normal level.
How Sleep Restriction Works
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Sleep apnea afflicts millions of adults. The word ‘apnea’ comes from the Greek apnoia a – “no” or “not”, and pneo/pnein – “air” or “breathing”. It literally means ‘no air’ or ‘not breathing’. The term is used to describe a medical condition wherein the afflicted person stops breathing for a brief period of time. Sleep apnea is simply the specific condition of apnea that occurs while sleeping.
There are two forms of sleep apnea – obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA). Of the two, OSA is much more common. It was once believed to be a rare occurrence, but the ability to test for it has uncovered the truth. Approximately 18 million adults in the United States are currently suffering from OSA today.
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If you add regular exercise to your life you can expect to see an improvement in your sleep in a number of ways.
- You will fall asleep faster
- A greater percentage of your sleep will be in the deep sleep stages
- You will wake up less frequently during the night
Exercise is particularly valuable for older people, as the benefits all counteract the negative effects of aging on sleep. Physically fit older men fall asleep in less than half the time of their sedentary counterparts.
A study at the University of Washington found that even those who already sleep normally benefit from adding exercise. Test subjects saw an increase in the amount of time spent in deep sleep when they added aerobic exercise a few times a week.
Why Does Exercise Benefit Sleep?
No one is really sure of the exact reasons why exercise has such a significant impact on sleep. There are probably a number of factors, which include:
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