Sleep Well This Summer, Part 3: Keep Your Bedroom Quiet

It’s been a while since my last entry; too much going on this summer!  I hope you all are staying cool; it’s been a scorcher throughout most of the U.S. this month.

In recent entries we tackled how to keep your bedroom dark and cool.  I’m finishing off this summer sleep writing triad today with some tips on how to keep your sleeping environment quiet during these summer months.

Summer presents some challenges to sleeping in a peaceful quiet place.  It’s light out late, it’s vacation time, the kids are out of school, and the heat’s got people a little crazy.  So there are block parties, summer traffic, teenagers out raising a ruckus in their back yards, barbecues that run late . . . you know, all the stuff that’s great fun when you’re in the fun, but not so fun when you’re in your bedroom trying to get some winks.

As I’ve mentioned before, sleeping during the summer months is best achieved if you keep your sleeping environment dark, cool, and quiet.  Here are some suggestions to make for a quiet place in which to sleep.

1.  Fix broken or uneven windows and door and window frames, basically anything that can cause a draft.  Things that leak in unwelcome air will also leak in unwanted noise.  Doing so will probably reduce your energy bills too.

2.  Fortify your windows to insulate them from noise.  Try thicker glass or double-paned glass.  A cheaper and easier alternative would be to place thick, black curtains in front of the windows.

3.  Try a little “white noise,” particularly if you live in an area in which outside noise is unavoidable (train tracks, a busy intersection, or what have you).  A fan works well, because the convective effect of the circulating air cools you down as well.

4.  If you live in an apartment, request a corner apartment farthest away from the street.  And preferably as far away from loud, selfish, obnoxious neighbors as possible.

5.  Sleep in a room closest to the center of your dwelling.  The more drywall that separates you from the outside world, and the fewer windows in the room, the quieter in general your sleeping environment will be.

6.  Sleep in the basement, if you must.  Nothing like surrounding earth to insulate you from the noise and heat in the summertime.

7.  Though earplugs may be helpful, I personally advise against this, simply because you want to be able to hear potential problems around the house:  a crying baby, for example, a fire alarm, etc.

8.  If your bed partner snores substantially, discuss this with your bed partner and consider informing his or her physician.

9.  This is embarrassingly obvious, but turn off whatever beeping, pinging, whirring, droning electronic gadgets you have in your bedroom if you possibly can.

10.  Turn off TV’s, radios, and iPods.  Many people feel like they can’t sleep without background noise from such gadgets, but let me assure you that the reason why this feels this way is because of simply habituation:  your body does not biologically require such noises, but if you’ve had some sounds in the room at night for years, it feels like you need them when you don’t.  Turn off these devices and you should fairly quickly come to enjoy the silence.

11.  Particularly if you work night shifts, have open discussions with your family and loved ones about how to keep the noise of other people from disrupting your sleep.  As with most other situations, it’s always best to communicate openly and honestly about such topics!

Enjoy the rest of our summer, everyone!  I wish you deep, comfortable sleep!

 

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What’s With These Night Sweats?

Many of us have experienced it before, and some of us frequently:  awakening in the middle of the night drenched in sweat.  The bed sheets are soaked through; you feel this strange, uncomfortable sensation of being hot and cold at the same time.  You may need to take a shower to wash off all the mess.  WTH?

 

There are numerous potential reasons why you might sweat substantially at night.

1.  The room’s too hot.  It’s a painfully obvious cause, but a very common cause nonetheless.  Some couples disagree about how warm or cool the bedroom should be at night; you might be surprised by how often this problem occurs, and how bitter the disagreements can become.  In addition, many people simply “run hot” at night and prefer to sleep in a very cool, or even downright cold, environment.

2.  Infections.  A whole host of different viral, bacterial, and fungal organisms, most commonly causing upper respiratory tract infections and the flu, can cause fever and sweating.

3.  An underlying medical disorder.  Conditions that may be associated with night sweats would include certain cancers, thyroid problems and other endocrine abnormalities, a few neurologic disorders, and hypoglycemia related to diabetes medications.  Some medications, such as aspirin, acetaminophen, and some antidepressants, can also be associated with night sweats in and of themselves.

4.  An underlying sleep disorder.  Obstructive sleep apnea often causes “sympathetic overactivation,” triggering constant surges of adrenalin and other hormones in your bloodstream at night, leading to sweating.  The restlessness and physical activity associated with frequent arousals due to the breathing pauses also frequently contribute to the tendency toward night sweats.

5.  You are in or approaching the “change of life.”  Those hot flashes that accompany menopause can be very bothersome at night, potentially leading to substantial sleep disruption and in some cases chronic insomnia in women.

6.  Stress.  Increased sympathetic activity may also be to blame for an association between stress and sweating at night.

7.  You just sweat a lot, and it’s not clear why.  “Idiopathic hyperhydrosis” means that you simply sweat profusely, and diagnostic testing does not reveal a specific underlying medical reason for it.

What to do about the night sweats, then, depends in large part on the underlying cause(s).  Here are some general suggestions, however.

Sleep in a cool, comfortable, dark environment.  Use bedding materials and clothing that are comfortable and that don’t trap moisture.  See your physician if there is the potential for a concern for an underlying medical problem (weight loss, substantial fatigue, and fever, for example, should prompt you to consider medical attention).  Your primary care physician should be alerted to symptoms consistent with menopause.  If you snore loudly, gasp out of sleep, have witnessed breathing pauses during sleep, and feel tired and sleepy during the day, I would recommend seeing a doc like me, someone who specializes in sleep medicine.