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Sleep Habits: Do they matter?

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Kelly Baron, PhD

I have a PhD in Clinical/Health Psychology. My current position is faculty at Northwestern University and associate director of the Comprehensive Insomnia Clinic at Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation

I came across this great blog entry today from the NY Times titled "When good sleep habits just aren't enough"

In this blog- the person who writes in says that the common recommendations for sleeplessness were not helpful for many people with chronic insomnia.

This is a common statement I hear in the clinic from people with insomnia just about every day- "I gave up caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes and I still can't sleep"
The truth is- research has shown that just changing your sleep habits alone will rarely cure insomnia.

I can't think of any patients where we got done with the evaluation and I said, "Eureka! You would sleep just fine if you gave up the 12 large Frappuccinos you drank each day"

Also- all of us know a handful of people with absolutely terrible sleep habits who sleep just fine (take long naps, keep irregular sleep hours, alcohol and caffeine)

On the other hand, if you are having sleep problems, drinking caffeine in the late afternoon and evening, watching TV in bed, are all habits that probably aren't helping you sleep, even if they aren't the cause.

I had the opportunity to meet Peter Hauri, Ph.D. and author of the book "No More Sleepless Nights", a sleep psychologist who popularized many of these sleep rules. A charming guy, he said with a smile and glimmer in his eye "I looked around for the evidence that these things work, and I didn't find a lot, but something told me they would work"
 
And I would agree- this is all the stuff my mother preached (who was a nurse BTW). It does seem intuitive that these habits would help sleep. On the other hand, it may take more significant intervention, such as medications or cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) to get a handle on chronic insomnia.

Read the blog post here:
http://consults.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/02/when-good-sleep-habits-arent-enough/

Read more about the rules to sleep hygiene on the website sleepeducation.com

http://www.sleepeducation.com/Hygiene.aspx

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