Dr. Nate Watson here. I am a sleep specialist, past president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), professor of neurology at the University of Washington and co-director of the University of Washington Medicine Sleep Center. Recently, the AASM launched an online calculator to help you find your customized ideal bedtime and improve sleep habits. I am here to help you sleep better to improve your life! (This is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.)

Proof: https://ibb.co/kL1smk, http://bit.ly/2wlnwPt, http://www.aasmnet.org/articles.aspx?id=4339

Link to online sleep calculator: http://www.sleepeducation.org/healthysleep/Make-Time-2-Sleep-Bedtime-Calculator

EDIT: Hi everyone - I have to sign off now, but thanks so much for all your excellent questions. I will do my best to answer some of them later. In the meantime, make sure you check out www.sleepeducation.org for numerous helpful resources.

Comments: 195 • Responses: 71  • Date: 

BiggishBanana16 karma

Why is that when I'm home I have to be laying down & comfortable to fall asleep & sometimes it still takes a while, but at work I can fall asleep sitting up in a chair with background noise all around? Lack of sleep at night isn't an issue

SleepDocWatson20 karma

Sleeping better outside of your typical home environment may indicate a problem with your home sleep environment. Check out this page for a lot of info that may help: http://www.sleepeducation.org/healthysleep/Make-Time-2-Sleep-Bedtime-Calculator

rdrake0513 karma

I have had issues falling asleep since i was 6. My brain wont quiet down. I am constantly thinking about something. Any tips?

SleepDocWatson26 karma

I suggest that you start a worry journal in the evening, set aside 15 minutes before you go to bed - write down your negative thoughts and then close the book, allowing you to go to bed with those thoughts on the page, not in your head.

luthermcdonald12 karma

Hello Dr. Nate Watson, my wife and I feel like we needed something like this and I woke up early on Australia's east coast to participate, thank you.
Our two year old has always had difficulty sleeping, and has not once slept the whole night. We were able to have intensive sleep training through Tresillian at 1 year, and reduce his wake ups to twice or once per night. Since his sibling was born 10 weeks ago, however, the situation has deteriorated and he is waking five or six times a night, bellowing for his mother and he will not self-soothe or settle on his own. Between breast-feeding our infant and tending to our toddler, we are both having to get up at least four to five times a night each.
Possibly relevant: I am a rotating shift worker (4 on, 4 off) and my wife takes the children to her parent's house when I am working my shifts. My mother-in-law has always coddled my toddler to sleep. He also receives constant stimulation (large Italian family with other babies, television always on, very long dinner periods, etc).
My wife is insistent on sleep training, but we don't have enough consistency in our own lives to create a daily routine.
Our infant also shows signs of needing significantly less sleep than would be typical, and we're concerned that we may go slightly mad during these formative years. Would you have any cursory advice for us please?

SleepDocWatson3 karma

Talk to your doctor about any lingering sleep problems, but also try developing a relaxing, consistent bedtime routine for everyone. Allow at least 30 minutes to wind down after a busy day or stimulation. A bedtime routine also helps get your family ready to fall asleep. Here are some options to consider: Tips for Parents of Infants -Give your baby a warm bath. -Follow the bath with a gentle massage. -Briefly cuddle or sing a lullaby. -Turn the lights out at bedtime. Tips for young children -Shut off all electronic devices 1 hour before bedtime. -Take a warm bath and brush teeth. -Read a book or sing a song. -Turn the lights out at bedtime http://sleepeducation.org/news/2017/08/14/make-time-2-sleep-with-online-bedtime-calculator

malcontented8 karma

Why do we sleep?

SleepDocWatson16 karma

Much of that is yet to be determined. We do know that the spaces in the brain expand to allow clearing out of the days thoughts - like a garbage man for the brain.

glow47 karma

Why are some humans more nocturnal and others more diurnal?

SleepDocWatson11 karma

Chronotype is the notion that some people are "morning larks" while others are "night owls". Much of this is genetically determined.

dickfromaccounting6 karma

what are some exercises (if any) you can do to improve R.E.M. sleep or deep sleep in general?

SleepDocWatson7 karma

A hot bath before bed has been shown to increase deep non-REM sleep. Some medications can reduced REM sleep (anti-depressants)

AndromedaFire5 karma

I'm 28, my whole life (literally remember from childhood) it feels like my body clock is 3-4 hours out of sync with the world. I have trouble falling asleep before 1-2 am and have trouble waking before 10am. I hit peak mental and physical ability around 6-7 pm each day or at least that's how it feels.

I've worked many shift jobs to work around it but 9-5 ends up sucking fast. I've done months of nights and then tried to train myself to match everyone else but within a few weeks I know it's bedtime but I'm just rolling around and then can't wake up in the morning.

Any advice?

SleepDocWatson12 karma

You likely have a delayed sleep phase, with a preference for a later bedtime and waketime. This is only a problem when society forces you on an earlier schedule. I suggest you find work that allows you to sleep later in the morning

sleepyzeer03 karma

Reposting from your post yesterday, thanks for doing this!

My almost two year old is bad at sleeping solo. We had to hold her for ALL naps until she was eleven months, lay next to her till she was 18 months. Now, at nap time and bed time, she nurses and cuddles to sleep. I sneak out and go to bed a few hours later, bed share, she nurses on/off all night.

Since as long as she has been alive, the absolute longest she's slept alone was 2 hours. That was seven months ago. She's up every 45 minutes. Not just saying "mama," crying. We are mostly against sleep training, preferring to let her brain mature and grow out of it. But is that actually a known possibility? Neurologically speaking. I keep hoping she's just "wired" differently, but I'd like to hear your thoughts.

SleepDocWatson2 karma

Talk to your doctor about any lingering sleep problems, they may refer you to an accredited sleep center.

But also try developing a relaxing, consistent bedtime routine. Allow at least 30 minutes to wind down after stimulation. A bedtime routine also could help. Make sure you shut off all electronic devices 1 hour before bedtime, take a warm bath and brush teeth, read a book or sing a song and then turn the lights out at bedtime http://sleepeducation.org/news/2017/08/14/make-time-2-sleep-with-online-bedtime-calculator

Theilebj3 karma

What can you do help an overtired 3 yr old that still needs to nap, but won't? "I'm not tired" When we finally get her to sleep at night she wakes up multiple times kicking and screaming angry. We've done all of the suggested routines, and trying quiet time.nothing seems to work. Any new suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated! Thank you! 

SleepDocWatson7 karma

Consistency is key - if you continue to do what you are doing, it should eventually pay dividends. You can slowly reduce the number of times you respond to the kicking and screaming until she eventually self-soothes and goes back to sleep. More tips to try here: http://www.sleepeducation.org/healthysleep/Make-Time-2-Sleep-Bedtime-Calculator

rozasaurusrex3 karma

Thanks so much for your time in doing this. Is there any advice for restless legs? It's not that I'm just a bit twitchy, my whole leg will cramp until I HAVE to shake it out and can last for hours. It's torture!

SleepDocWatson5 karma

RLS does not typically involve cramping. Talk to your primary care doctor about medications and dietary changes to address cramping.

rozasaurusrex1 karma

Apologies- I'm probably better to describe as spasms? I call it the leg bugs!

SleepDocWatson5 karma

Make sure you have enough iron in your body, your doctor can check these levels. There are a number of very good medications for RLS that your doctor can prescribe for you to tackle this problem. Massaging your legs before bed can help, and doing activities that are mentally engrossing can also reduce RLS symptoms, but this is typically not what we recommend right before bedtime!

SleepDocWatson3 karma

Hi everyone - I have to sign off now, but thanks so much for all your excellent questions. I will do my best to answer some of them later. In the meantime, make sure you check out www.sleepeducation.org for numerous helpful resources -- and try our personal bedtime calculator: http://www.sleepeducation.org/healthysleep/Make-Time-2-Sleep-Bedtime-Calculator

ftslpfsb2 karma

Did it ever happen to you that you were dreaming and you suddenly fall out of nowhere in your dream then wake up in panic thinking you just fell? What that all about?

SleepDocWatson1 karma

That's called a "hypnic jerk" and it is normal.

grizzlyunicorn2 karma

I was recently diagnosed with severe obstructive sleep apnea , I was told severe is stopping breathing 30 times an hour and my tests show I stopped breathing 74 times within an hour, I can in no way afford the machine but I'm always dreadfully tired, I'm used to it tho, however can this cause any serious issues in the future ? Or is tiredness the extent of it?

Thanks Doc !

SleepDocWatson3 karma

Yes there are cardiovascular consequences of obstructive sleep apnea and I would do everything you can to get this treated.

jmattlucas2 karma

Why don't I dream? Or rather why don't I remember my dreams?

SleepDocWatson3 karma

You for sure are dreaming. You only remember them if you wake from the dream. Not waking from REM sleep is good and indicates you likely have healthy sleep.

AmiMizuno272 karma

My son's pediatrician prescribed melatonin at night because he wouldn't get tired until around midnight or later every night. Is that safe for him?

SleepDocWatson6 karma

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone, but has never been FDA approved. That being said, it is frequently used by pediatricians and appears to be safe.

CXDFlames2 karma

Is it possible to mentally rest while still awake?

SleepDocWatson3 karma

Yes, but the regenerative aspects of sleep require the EEG of the brain to show characteristics of sleep. Naps can be very helpful, best if brier (around 10-15 min).

TimeMachineToaster2 karma

Why do so many people have similar experiences during sleep paralysis? I've personally dealt with it and there seems to be a trend of a "visitor" in the room with them or on top of them throughout those that have been affected by it. I'm not saying it's real or anything, I'm just interested in why our brain comes up with similar situations.

SleepDocWatson2 karma

Paralysis and dreamlike imagery are likely REM sleep-related phenomenon occurring during wakefulness.

mscott80882 karma

I can fall asleep alright but I have trouble staying asleep for more than an hour. I've tried sleeping on both sides, my back, and stomach but nothing held. Any advice?

SleepDocWatson6 karma

Everyone wakes up a handful of times each night - but it's a problem when you can't fall back asleep. Definitely do not look at the clock if you wake up during the night - leads to unproductive thinking.

Talk to your doctor about this sleep problem. He or she may refer you to a board-certified sleep medicine physician at an accredited sleep center for help. Effective treatment of sleep disease, like sleep apnea, improves quality of life by restoring healthy sleep, improving daytime alertness and concentration, increasing physical energy and reducing feelings of depression. Treatment may also decrease the risk for other serious medical problems such as high blood pressure and heart attack.

glow42 karma

Do you think in the future we'll be able to sleep less hours but our brains will get the same amount of rest as they do now when we're told we should get at least 8 hours of sleep?

SleepDocWatson6 karma

We don't know what the future holds - at this point there is no substitute for sleep, though. As tech gets more advanced, there may be opportunities for implantable electronics to amplify the benefits of sleep - but that is purely speculative.

CHOCOLATEJ3SU52 karma

I have diagnosed sleep apnea but hate the machine (can never sleep comfortably with it).

Any advice ?

SleepDocWatson7 karma

1) Make sure you are of optimal weight 2) Avoid sleeping on your back to keep nasal passages clear. These are conservative measures.

Other options are oral appliances custom fabricated by a dentist. There are also surgical options from ear, nose and throat specialists. We always recommend seeing a board-certified sleep specialist to sort this out for you.

SeaBearPA1 karma

How come when I drink 2 cups of coffee in the morning I have trouble sleeping that night but when I drink 5-6 throughout the day I fall asleep fine? Seems counter intuitive

SleepDocWatson2 karma

You might want to look into the caffeine content of the types of coffee you are drinking.

Zebid1 karma

Can I train my body to need less sleep?

SleepDocWatson3 karma

Sorry, no.

bisjac1 karma

why is it i can function day to day on 5 hours of sleep my entire life. even working long hours. but for some reason others need a solid 8 a night, and on the weekend lay in bed for 12 hours "catching up" im not in any great shape or diet or anything. but i dont feel tired like others. (i dont caffeine)?

SleepDocWatson2 karma

There is wide variability to sleep need. Sounds like you are one of the very rare "short sleepers" that are out there. Generally speaking, adults need 7 or more hours on a regular basis.

Lost-Skagboy1 karma

I seem to sleep fine but hell am I tired constantly, what's that all about?

I can nap then need a nap to fix how tired I am after my nap.

SleepDocWatson2 karma

There are medical causes for fatigue that you should have checked out by your doctor. This could also be an indication of a sleep disorder. Sleep and sleep disease, such as obstructive sleep apnea and insomnia, are increasingly recognized as vital to a wide variety of public health and chronic disease concerns, including obesity, hypertension and cancer.

Definitely make sure you getting at least 7 hours, too. http://www.sleepeducation.org/healthysleep/Make-Time-2-Sleep-Bedtime-Calculator

rachie2421 karma

How do you feel about taking melatonin before sleep? Sometimes when I take melatonin I will wake up at 5 or 6 in the morning no matter what time I go to sleep why is this?

SleepDocWatson1 karma

Melatonin is not a "sleeping pill" per se and has never been FDA approved. If you take it, then take it at least 3 hours before your intended bedtime, if not sooner, to notice any effect.

HezaNormandy1 karma

Every night when I fall asleep I get cold so I bundle up, but even though I feel that I'm still freezing I sweat, which only makes me colder. I get no restful sleep and wake up exhausted, freezing, and shaking. Help!

I've recently had a physical and labs, all normal. I will be having a sleep study in February, but until then do you have any thoughts?

EDIT: Just thought to add, I've been exhausted all my life. It takes me no time at all to fall asleep, no matter what is going on. This is the first time ever anything has stopped me from sleeping deeply.

SleepDocWatson2 karma

Sweating can indicate sleep apnea. Sounds like you are on the right track to get this taken care of.

SLDGHMMR1 karma

Hello, thanks for your time ! Is there really such thing as an ideal number of hours to sleep at night ?

Also, is that true that hours slept before midnight tend to provide a better rest than hours after midnight ? If so, why is that ?

SleepDocWatson2 karma

Yes, there is and it varies for each person. To find out how much you need, try to go to bed when you are tired and wake up spontaneously when refreshed for a while - that will help determine your needs. This could also serve as a guide: http://www.sleepeducation.org/healthysleep/Make-Time-2-Sleep-Bedtime-Calculator

Shadowspider6661 karma

Why is it that after im tired and I don't go to sleep, I finally try to sleep but im no longer tired?

SleepDocWatson1 karma

In order to stay awake at the end of the day, your circadian alerting signal is active. This is why some people feel more "awake" at night.

RepentHarlequin731 karma

Thank you for this AmA. What is the current consensus regarding treatment of Restless Leg Syndrome? Probable causes, effective medication, lifestyle changes?

SleepDocWatson1 karma

There is a lot going on in this question! It is a good one, though - check this out http://sleepeducation.org/essentials-in-sleep/restless-legs-syndrome

NannyOggSquad1 karma

What's going on when i wake up at 3.30am every day?

SleepDocWatson1 karma

Everyone wakes up a handful of times each night - but it's a problem when you can't fall back asleep. Definitely do not look at the clock if you wake up during the night. If you find you can't fall back asleep regularly, consider talking to your doctor.

KilledByVen1 karma

Why is it easier to fall asleep in a chair like a recliner rather than lying down flat? And is it safe to have a normal sleep cycle of 4 hours every 2 days? I don't feel tired or sick, merely I just only sleep once every 2 days.

SleepDocWatson2 karma

When you are flat, gravity pulls your tongue base into your airway - sitting in a recliner doesn't encourage that much. You may be prone to sleep apnea due to this preference and you might want to see a doctor.

The bottom line is that very few people are able to succeed and be healthy on less than 7 hours of sleep per night. Insufficient sleep – due to inadequate or mistimed sleep – contributes to the risk for several of today’s public health epidemics, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. Simply missing one night of sleep can lead to decreased cognitive function, trouble concentrating, headaches and general moodiness. Sleep deficiency can lead to trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling emotions and behavior, and coping with change – as well as distractions and mistakes. Sleep loss increases the risk of accidents caused by human error.Sleep deprivation impairment is comparable to being legally drunk. Those in relationships who consistently experience poor sleep are more likely to engage in conflict with their partners. Sleep loss decreases levels of empathy.

[deleted]1 karma

[deleted]

SleepDocWatson1 karma

Talk to the current residents, if they seem happy and rested you are good, if not, avoid.

Ididthisonpurpose1 karma

Hi there, thanks for the AMA!

What are some good ways to improve sleep, when suffering from restless leg syndrome?

SleepDocWatson2 karma

Make sure you have enough iron in your body, your doctor can check these levels. There are a number of very good medications for RLS that your doctor can prescribe for you to tackle this problem. Massaging your legs before bed can help, and doing activities that are mentally engrossing can also reduce RLS symptoms, but this is typically not what we recommend right before bedtime!

sulfatenboble1 karma

Is there anyway that I could control wether I have dreams or not? When I dream, it feels like I'm living a second life in my dream. I'm consciously aware of the life I'm living in my dream. And I feel like it drains me when I wake up I feel like I haven't rested but yet I can sleep over six hours. (No I don't take drugs) Thank you Dr

Edit: even though I'm conscious in my dream I can't tell it's a dream and live everything in my dream as if it's real

SleepDocWatson3 karma

You are on the brink of being a lucid dreamer. Some medications (anti-depressants) can reduce REM sleep, which is the stage we mostly dream in. But we don't prescribe them for that. If you are sleep deprived you will have increased REM sleep when you finally sleep.

itsimaginary1 karma

A few nights ago I woke up in the middle of the night on my back, head against my pillow and squashed forward towards my chest. After a few seconds I felt a click in my neck, my head jerked further towards my chest and I could not breathe at all (not restricted from being squashed, completely closed airway) I straighten my neck and a few seconds later it happened again. I turned on my side and fell back asleep. Ever since then I've been anxious about falling asleep, wondering if that's happening when I'm asleep and not aware, should see a doctor?

SleepDocWatson1 karma

Flexing your neck likely reduced the size of your airway. You may be prone to sleep apnea, I suggest talking to your doctor.

PerplexedLabrat1 karma

Hey doc, why is it that even when I sleep for a good 7 hours (non-disturbed, non-disruptive) sleep, I feel yawn-y in the morning?

SleepDocWatson3 karma

Adults need 7 or more hours, but each person is unique. You may need 9 hours a night to feel rested. Take 3 weeks and get 9 hours a night and see if you wake refreshed.

JohnH5501 karma

Why do some people enjoy "white noise" while they sleep?

Also, why are some people back/belly/side sleepers?

SleepDocWatson5 karma

For people who can't sleep on their back, this may be an indication of sleep apnea. The others are likely just personal preference.

SleepDocWatson3 karma

There is also some thought that white noise might replicate the sounds you heard in the womb - making it soothing for children and adults.

Ms-Anthrop1 karma

I can't seem to sleep more 6 or 7 hours a night. If I go to bed early before 9pm I'm up at 4am. If I stay up till 11 I am still up at 4 or 5. How does one deal with early rise insomnia?

SleepDocWatson1 karma

If you think you may have insomnia, ask yourself the following questions: 1)Does it take you more than 30 minutes to fall asleep, or do you wake up during the night and have trouble returning to sleep, or do you wake up earlier than desired? 2)Do you have daytime symptoms such as fatigue, moodiness, sleepiness or reduced energy? 3) Do you give yourself enough time in bed to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night? 4) Do you go to bed in a safe, dark and quiet environment that should allow you to sleep well?

If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, then you may have insomnia. http://www.sleepeducation.org/essentials-in-sleep/insomnia/diagnosis-self-tests

Also, are you using a good bedtime routine?http://www.sleepeducation.org/news/2017/08/14/make-time-2-sleep-with-online-bedtime-calculator

jncc1 karma

Is there any reason to get a periodic sleep test if you already have a CPAP and feel like you are sleeping well?

SleepDocWatson3 karma

No, if you are sleeping well and the downloads from your machine indicate it is working properly, no need for another sleep study.

tfaboo1 karma

My son has absence seizures that are controlled with medicine and also adhd symptoms. He has woken up in the past few weeks several times for hours at a time and it's been nearly impossible to get him to go back to sleep. Sometimes he sounds like he's snoring or breathing shallow, and I'll try to reposition him in his bed. Does this sound like a sleep disorder?

SleepDocWatson1 karma

This could be an indication of sleep-disordered breathing. I would recommend seeking out a sleep specialist if you haven't already: http://sleepeducation.org/find-a-facility

Grumpy-Moogle1 karma

Any advice for someone who has trouble STAYING asleep? I'm a super light sleeper and feel like I wake up multiple times every sleep cycle. Earplugs have not helped.

SleepDocWatson2 karma

If you sleep in a noisy environment (earplugs), a white noise machine may be helpful. I'd also recommend talking to your doctor about any sleep problems.

stralerman1 karma

I'm a very heavy sleeper but I sweat like anything. I wake up with my bed just wet from sweating sometimes. Do you have any idea of what to do about this?

SleepDocWatson5 karma

Sweating during sleep could be an indication of obstructive sleep apnea. Talk to your doctor about any sleep problems, he or she may may refer you to a board-certified sleep medicine physician at an accredited sleep center for help. Effective treatment of sleep disease, like sleep apnea, improves quality of life by restoring healthy sleep, improving daytime alertness and concentration, increasing physical energy and reducing feelings of depression. Treatment may also decrease the risk for other serious medical problems such as high blood pressure and heart attack.

ffejJrey1 karma

For me, when I sleep for 6 hours I feel refreshed and more energized than when I sleep 10 hours+. Any reasoning that, that could happen?

SleepDocWatson4 karma

Daytime alertness is a combination of adequate sleep and circadian factors. It's likely that circadian alerting factors are at play when you're feeling good on 6 hours, you still may be sleep deprived. While most adults need 7 or more hours of sleep each night, a small percentage of people function well on less sleep. If you feel refreshed when you wake up and remain alert throughout the day without needing to take a nap, then you may be getting enough sleep. But the problem is that we tend to be poor judges of our alertness level, and we underestimate how we are affected by insufficient sleep. In addition, there is a ton of data to support that not getting enough sleep puts you at greater risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and more. Try sleeping 7+ hours for a week, and I think you’ll notice a more energetic, productive version of yourself that you didn’t know existed.

Zoidberg_DC1 karma

Can sleep apnea really be improved with exercises to increase tone of throat muscles or is that hokum?

SleepDocWatson3 karma

There are studies that show that throat exercises - even playing the didgeridoo - can lead to modest improvements.

glow41 karma

Are there any long term negative effects for people that work 24h shifts?

SleepDocWatson3 karma

That kind of work could impair your driving performance similar to being legally drunk. Insufficient sleep overall – due to inadequate or mistimed sleep – contributes to several health epidemics, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. Simply missing one night of sleep can lead to decreased cognitive function, trouble concentrating, headaches and general moodiness. Sleep deficiency can lead to trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling emotions and behavior, and coping with change – as well as distractions and mistakes.

candrie1 karma

Hi Dr. Watson,

Oh So many questions but I will try and keep it to one (and thank you for doing this).

I have had issues with feeling rested as long as I can remember. I live PST but work CST so I am up every day by 5/530 am. I have tried going to be anywhere between 7 and 930 PM but it does not help. I switched to a light alarm clock, blackout curtains, bed upgrade all of which have helped a bit but I just cant seem to feel rested.

I recently got tested and diagnosed with moderate Sleep Apnea 18.5 (came here from /r/SleepApnea actually) and I have been doing CPAP therapy for a couple months now but still no improvement (other than sleeping through the night). My Fitbit does a ruff tracking and I never seem to get into deep sleep.

No matter what I try 530 just has me a zombie all day. If I sleep just a couple hours later I feel so much better (even if I goto bed that much later so it is the same hours of sleep). I am hoping you might have some tips to finally get me over this last threshold of poor sleep so I am waking up refreshed!

Do you have any tips or suggestions to help me get quality sleep that I havent already tried?

Thank you so much for your time!

SleepDocWatson1 karma

5:30 simply just might be too early for your personal circadian rhythm. It would benefit you to try to get additional sleep in one way or another. This might be a good start: http://www.sleepeducation.org/healthysleep/Make-Time-2-Sleep-Bedtime-Calculator

ManuCW1 karma

I tend to wake up 2, 3 or more times every night and my days start with me feeling really tired.

I have gone to the doctor and have done blood tests, but it seems that's nothing wrong with me. I tried several sleep medications (which my doctors prescribed), but none of them helped me solve the problem. Any advice?

SleepDocWatson1 karma

I would definitely be more concerned with the amount of time you are asleep overall as opposed to the amount of times you wake up.

SkankyNun1 karma

It usually takes me about 15-30 minutes to fall asleep even when I'm exhausted, but my wife falls asleep at the drop of a hat. Do you know why people are different in this aspect?

Thank you for doing this AMA, by the way.

SleepDocWatson2 karma

How quickly you fall asleep depends on how long you have been awake previously. It is also determined to some extent by genetics. Also, people sometimes can actually be asleep but think you are awake - all these factors may be in play.

LivingInTheVoid1 karma

Have there been any breakthroughs in understanding why we dream?

SleepDocWatson4 karma

REM sleep appears to be important for memory consolidation. It may have impacts on emotional health as well - perhaps allowing the brain to process disturbing thoughts in a way that they no longer cause emotional problems.

LivingInTheVoid1 karma

Have you studied lucid dreaming at all?

SleepDocWatson6 karma

It is something that you can teach yourself and it can be an exhilarating experience. Stephen Laberge has produced some excellent teaching materials. Check them out!

INBREEDCLOWN1 karma

I was diagnosed with night terrors when I was younger after I was out of The service they got really bad for awhile. What's causes the night terrors and how can I control them a bit better?

crossdtherubicon1 karma

Hello,

How can a person determine how much sleep they actually need?

What is the optimal amount of hours to stop eating before sleeping? In other words, is it best not eat within 4 hours of sleeping? Or 2?

Thank you!

SleepDocWatson2 karma

While most adults need 7 or more hours of sleep each night, a small percentage of people function well on less sleep. If you feel refreshed when you wake up and remain alert throughout the day without needing to take a nap, then you may be getting enough sleep. But the problem is that we tend to be poor judges of our alertness level, and we underestimate how we are affected by insufficient sleep. In addition, there is a ton of data to support that not getting enough sleep puts you at greater risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and more. Try sleeping 7+ hours for a week, and I think you’ll notice a more energetic, productive version of yourself that you didn’t know existed.

SleepDocWatson2 karma

Adults need 7 or more hours, but each person is unique. You may need 9 hours a night to feel rested. Take 3 weeks to fall asleep when you are tired and wake up refreshed without an alarm. That should determine how much sleep you need personally.

lambs_ear1 karma

hello doctor and thank you for this AMA!

i'm curious about the length of sleep and why it can have differing results in people, such as, when a person gets relatively little sleep (say 4-6hrs) and feel okay, but that same person getting too much sleep (say 10-12hrs) can make them feel awful. does length of sleep have more of an affect on a person than the actual quality of it? at what point does quality and length even out? and lastly, does this length of sleep needed to feel rested differ from person to person or do we all collectively need exactly 8hrs as many are told from youth?

SleepDocWatson2 karma

While most adults need 7 or more hours of sleep each night, a small percentage of people function well on less sleep. If you feel refreshed when you wake up and remain alert throughout the day without needing to take a nap, then you may be getting enough sleep. But the problem is that we tend to be poor judges of our alertness level, and we underestimate how we are affected by insufficient sleep. In addition, there is a ton of data to support that not getting enough sleep puts you at greater risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and more. Try sleeping 7+ hours for a week, and I think you’ll notice a more energetic, productive version of yourself that you didn’t know existed.

SleepDocWatson2 karma

The bottom line is that very few people are able to succeed and be healthy on less than 7 hours of sleep per night. Many who claim to get little sleep are probably exaggerating – and if they’re not, I suspect that they would be even more successful, and much healthier in the long term, if their brains and bodies were fully charged with sleep. We tend to be poor judges of our alertness level, and we underestimate how we are affected by insufficient sleep. In addition, there is a ton of data to support that not getting enough sleep puts you at greater risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and more.

letmepetyourdogs1 karma

I was diagnosed with narcolepsy about two years ago and I struggle with it daily. Is there any advice you can give to fight it? The medications that I take for it are not my favorite and I wish there was something I could do naturally. I have tried melatonin and I have a "healthy sleep regime" where I try to go to bed at the same time, not eat too late, etc. I also have nightmares every single night. This has been the case since I was young. Do you believe the two are related in any way? Thank you for your time!

SleepDocWatson1 karma

If possible, schedule short 20-minute naps throughout the day, and try to exercise regularly.

Kat-xith1 karma

A lot of the time as I'm falling asleep my body jerks. Its pretty pronounced and obvious to my partner. Typically I don't wake up, but every now and then I've experienced this as a dream of falling and I've jerked awake. When this happens this very shortly after falling asleep. Why does this happen? Is it anything significant or does it happen to lots of people?

SleepDocWatson1 karma

That's called a "hypnic jerk" and it is normal.

r0wt1 karma

Do you have any tips for napping? I don't know how long it will take me to get to sleep, so how do I know when to set an alarm?

SleepDocWatson1 karma

Just set your alarm for 10-15 min. from when you lay down so you don't wake from a deeper stage of sleep and be groggy.

alanjames171 karma

My girlfriend has night terrors. What can be the cause? She is also a very light sleeper and wakes up at the smallest sound.

bonaroo1 karma

Do you have any experience with exploding head syndrome? It's very annoying, but mainly happens when I am more sleep deprived. For several nights in a row I'm constantly woken up by imaginary gunshots, door slams, and people yelling my name, until I fully fall asleep.

SleepDocWatson3 karma

This is a rare parasomnia. Avoid sleep deprivation and it should get better. Not usually necessary to treat with medications.

defartknight1 karma

Hi Dr. Watson! First, thank you for taking time out of you're extremely busy schedule to answer some questions! I work 3p-3a in a busy Emergency Room. Neurology put me on 10mg Ambien because I wasn't falling asleep till 7-8am in the morning and only getting 5-6 hours of sleep wasn't cutting it. I really don't like the Ambien "hangover" and Melatonin is just to help me try and stay regular...is there a better research basef alternative for 3rd shift workers?

SleepDocWatson1 karma

Melatonin is not a "sleeping pill" per se and has never been FDA approved. If you take it, then take it at least 3 hours before your intended bedtime, if not sooner, to notice any effect.

coryrenton1 karma

Are there any ethical restrictions against conducting studies to see how long people can go without sleep beyond a certain point, and what is the cutoff, if there is one?

SleepDocWatson3 karma

Rats die after about 3 weeks of total sleep deprivation. This is how we know sleep is essential to life. I have seen studies of 24-36 hours of sleep deprivation, but not much longer than that.

crum15151 karma

Whenever I am dreaming and I realize it, which I believe is termed lucid dreaming, as I "do what I want to" I feel myself waking up, every time, and have to actively focus on staying asleep. I also wake up due to sounds that aren't really there. My SO will be awake reading and I will jolt up asking if she heard the loud bang or door slam and she looks at me like I'm crazy. Is there possibly something wrong with me I should be concerned about?

SleepDocWatson2 karma

Sounds like you have an occasional "hypnagogic hallucination." This alone is not reason for concern.

jeffthetree1 karma

Hello, I've had a real bad cold for the last few days and my sleep has gotten super weird. Instead of just falling asleep I keep waking up every few hours with really weird dreams. Why does that happen?

SleepDocWatson1 karma

Probably infection related immune mediators influencing your sleep.

Salkha7861 karma

Sorry for not asking this in my earlier post.

There are odd occassion where I am not fully asleep but I make noises. I am not fully awake either to make out the words I am trying to say. Why could that be?

ortusdux1 karma

How is it that I wake up almost exactly one hour before my alarm goes off?

SleepDocWatson1 karma

You are probably thinking about this before you go to bed - this could be a self-fulfilling prophecy and I recommend not looking at the clock.

Salkha7861 karma

Is sleeping on your stomach bad for you? Is there anything such as a good sleeping position that keeps pressure of certain organs?

SleepDocWatson1 karma

Sleeping position is mostly personal preference, but if you can't sleep comfortably on your back it may be a sign of sleep apnea.

r0wt1 karma

Since the doctor told me to reduce stress I take a siesta and it has made a huge difference. I set a timer for 25mins, then when I wake up I have a coffee and set the timer for another 10mins. Is this good or could I improve on it?

SleepDocWatson1 karma

Short naps (10-15 minutes) are best so as to not wake from a deeper stage of sleep and be groggy.