The strong voice of a great community
November, 2012

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  What’s New About Sleep?

 Dr. George Traitses  

An old Chinese proverb states, “Only when one cannot

sleep does one know how long the night is.” Almost

everyone can relate to those words at some point in

life. In younger people, stress and worry commonly

cause insomnia. Older people suffer from a natural

decrease in melatonin—a sleep inducing hormone.

Pressures from job and family, illness, side effects of

some medications, and aches and pains caused by

uncomfortable beds or pillows can also rob us of


Television and computers may also contribute to sleep

problems. Computer use, especially in the workplace,

has been associated with all types of insomnia in

adults—more so than stress, which affects only difficulty

falling asleep and early morning arousal. Studies

have found that unlimited TV, computer, and Internet

use cause sleep deprivation in children—they go to

bed later, sleep fewer hours, and feel more tired.

Extensive television viewing in adolescence may result

in adult sleep problems. Playing computer games may

affect adults, as well. A Japanese study found that

performing exciting tasks on computers with bright

monitors at night affects melatonin concentration and

the human biological clock, interfering with sleep.

Overall, 40 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep

disorders each year, and an additional 20 million have

occasional sleeping problems.6 Deep sleep helps

children grow and improves their learning ability. Lack

of sleep affects the immune and nervous systems,

memory, judgment, attention, patience, and thinking

and reading abilities. It can be especially dangerous for

those who drive. The National Highway Traffic Safety

Administration estimates that sleep deprivation is

responsible for 100,000 vehicle accidents a year,

resulting in 1,500 deaths and 71,000 injuries.

Sleeping problems are common in people with most

mental disorders, Alzheimer’s, stroke, cancer, and head

injury. In hospitalized patients, sleep deprivation may

be worsened by treatment schedules and routines.

Insomnia contributes to the patients’ confusion, frustration,

or depression. They become more sensitive to

pain and may request increased pain medications.

Recent research shows that the old advice of sleeping

in a comfortable bed in a cool bedroom, eating an

early dinner, going to bed at the same time each night,

and avoiding caffeine and alcohol before sleep may

not work for everyone. Sleep medications are not

suitable for long-term use. So, what can we do when

all the known remedies have been tried, but sleep is

nowhere to be found?

Sleep experts recommend the following:

• On weekends, go to bed at the same time as

on weekdays.

• If you exercise in the evening, do so at least 3

hours before bedtime. Also, stay away from

evening brain-stimulating or stressful activities,

such as balancing checkbooks, reading

thrillers, and playing computer games.

• Develop a sleep ritual that will help you to relax

and unwind, such as a warm bath.

• Try listening to relaxing music before going to

sleep. Soothing music may improve sleep quality

in children, older adults, and critically ill


• Limit your child’s exposure to TV or video

games to less than 1 hour a day. Long hours

spent in front of the TV may lead to not only

sleep problems, but also headache, back pain,

and eye symptoms. Make sure there is no television

set in your child’s bedroom.

• Be sure your children go to bed early and get

enough sleep. Children between 3 and 6 years

of age should get 11-13 hours of sleep at

night. Children from 1st to 5th grade should

sleep 10-11 hours.19 Late bedtimes and short

sleeping hours have been strongly associated

with childhood obesity.

• Older people should take 30-minute afternoon

naps to reduce sleepiness and fatigue and

improve mood and performance.

• Sleep on a comfortable, supportive mattress

and pillow. Talk to your doctor of chiropractic

about choosing the bed and pillow that are

right for you.

Researchers are looking into several possible alternative

sleeping aids. Although they have not been widely

researched, sleep experts agree—it can’t hurt to try


• Acupuncture has been proven effective for

some sleep disorders and anxiety.

• Therapeutic touch and relaxing back massage

are useful for promoting sleep in critically ill

patients.Traditional chiropractic care may

also help those with spasms, pain, and joint

dysfunction of the neck and back.



For more information on health and safety visit the Ontario Chiropractic Association

Web site at or call 1877-327-2273.

Dr. George Traitses, 416-499-5656,






Indications of insomnia

• Taking more than 30 to 45 min. to fall


• Waking up many times each night

• Waking up early and being unable to get

back to sleep

• Waking up feeling tired.

Potentially Helpful Supplements

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) may be more appropriate

for longterm use than sleep medications.

Although sleeping medications impair vigilance

the morning after use, valerian does not. More

studies are needed, however, to assess valerian’s

effectiveness and establish the optimum dose.

German chamomile, hops, lavender, lemon

balm, passionflower, and wild lettuce have been

said to have mild sedative properties, but need

more scientific investigation

Melatonin supplements may be useful for treating

some insomniacs. They appear to be safe

when used for days or weeks—but the long-term

use safety is not clear.

Note: Pregnant or nursing women, children under

3 years of age, and people who use alcohol or

sedative drugs, should check with their doctor

before taking any of these supplements.






Dr. George I. Traitses

D.C., B.Sc.(Hon.), M.Sc., C.H.N., C.N.M., A.C.R.B. 3, C.R.A.