Tag Archives: insomnia

Quiz – Are Your Sleeping Habits on Point?

In this modern age of high-stress careers and over-stimulating technology, we often don’t check in regularly enough about our sleep habits. Bad sleep habits can lead to sleep problems like insomnia if let unchecked. Try the following quiz to see where you fall on the sleep spectrum!

  1. Do you…

    a) Normally sleep between 6-8 hours nightly?
    b) Sleep on average less than 6 hours a night?

  2. Do you…

    a) Go to bed before 11 most nights and wake up fairly early?
    b) Find it hard to go to bed early and/or wake up early?

  3. Do you…

    a) Most often sleep without medication or supplements to help?
    b) Usually need sleeping pills in order to get to sleep?

  4. Do you…

    a) Sleep soundly through most nights?
    b) Do you wake up frequently or wake with the slightest sound?

  5. Do you…

    a) Generally stick to a sleeping and waking routine?
    b) Have random bedtimes and wake up different times each day?

  6. Do you…

    a) Try to get all your work done before a certain hour each day?
    b) Do you pull all-nighters for your job and oversleep on the weekends?

  7. Do you…

    a) Try to avoid caffeine or alcohol in the evening hours?
    b) Indulge in nightcaps frequently?

  8. Do you…

    a) Only use technology with special ‘night time’ screen settings, or try to avoid stimulating sights before bed?
    b) Commonly stare at screes or use technology before bed?

  9. Do you…

    a) Try to clear your mind of worries by meditating or doing a peaceful activity before bed?
    b) Go to bed with a full mind and often get poor sleeps because of anxiety?


If you answered mostly “a” for these questions, your sleep is on point! If you answered any ‘b’s, try to tweak those particular habits to get better sleeps.

If you answered more than a 3 ‘b’s, you need to seriously overhaul your sleeping patterns before you head into insomnia territory!

Thanks for visiting DocChat! We hope you return again soon.

Physical Consequences Of Shift Work

Many studies have been conducted on the topic of how chronic shiftwork impacts the mind and body over time. The research has drawn links to various mental and physical ailments such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and insomnia.

The Trouble With Shiftwork

With nearly 15 million Americans clocking in and out at all hours of the day and night, there has been interest within the scientific community on how much of a toll these strange work hours may be having on people. Because the body naturally shuts down in the night and perks up with daylight, shift worker’s systems never really adapt to their flip-flopping sleep schedules. The majority of shift workers live with varying degrees of insomnia. Whether a person alternates from night and day shifts, works a couple weeks on and week off or works random shifts peppered at all different times, the body’s natural circadian rhythm (internal clock) is constantly being assailed.

Shiftwork and Cardiovascular Disease

While research has been inconclusive on the exact statistics about shiftwork and heart disease, it does point to an adverse effect on heart health. Indirectly, shift work seems to come with increased levels of stress on the body. These increased cortisol levels paired with an upset in natural bodily rhythms can contribute to cardiovascular disease over time. According to WebMD the longer a person works nightshifts, the higher the likelihood they will develop some type of heart disease such as hypertension or stroke.

Wonky Hours Can Cause Stomach Trouble

A study done by Rush University Medical Center in Chicago illustrates a higher instance of stomach disruption among shift workers. The extensive study showed that disruptions of circadian rhythms weakens the intestinal lining. It also studied several patients with Crohn’s disease (a condition marked by inflammatory bowels) who had many more flare-ups with their disorders when working night shifts, and could better regulate their health when working standard 9-5 shifts. This is one of many studies that have shown similar outcomes.

Shiftwork May Add Unwanted Pounds

There is a strong correlation between shift working and obesity. This is likely due to secondary factors such as: poor diet, it may be hard for shift workers to eat healthy during the nighttime or on the run so a quick vending machine snack for energy often suffices; more sedentary lifestyles, many shift workers are perpetually tired and may have limited energy for exercise between shifts (especially those working shifts longer than 10 hours); shift workers have lower levels of leptin, the hormone that helps regulate appetite and prevent overeating. It is largely controlled by sleep duration and deprivation.

Are Some Types of Shift Work Better?

The consensus seems to be that when it comes to shift work, steady night shifts are the best option because the body can become at least somewhat used to the schedule. Doctors suggest little fixes such as exposing yourself to bright lights during night shifts to trick the body into thinking it is daytime so you ‘should be awake’, then wearing dark shades on the drive home so as not to perk up with the sight of daylight before going to sleep.

What About Rotational Workers?

Unfortunately, as the body never really copes to ever-changing work schedules, there isn’t much to do except to try and stick to a routine when at all possible and get as much sleep as you can. Some people find sleeping pills helpful when it is time to rest, and mild stimulants such as caffeine helps them stay awake during shifts. Be careful to limit caffeine intake, and use sleeping pills only as advised by a doctor. Making the effort to eat healthy when working is also a good idea for shift workers so as to avoid obesity or other health problems. It can’t hurt to talk to your doctor, or one of our skilled physicians at DocChat about some of your shift working concerns. Thanks for reading!


Sleep Disturbance Facts

Over 70 million Americans suffer some kind of sleep disorder. Many of which are by-products of other mental health conditions such as anxiety, physical conditions (especially pain-related ones), or biological changes such as menopause, however some sleep conditions appear have no underlying causes. Here are some curious facts about sleep disturbances:

  1. Snoring disrupts the sleep of approximately 37 million Americans on a regular basis, causing chronic sleep deprivation if left untreated.
  2. Sleep paralysis, a terrifying condition where you feel awake but completely paralyzed during sleep, has been the origin of many legends in different parts of the world. The most recurrent tale is that the paralysis is because of an old ghostly woman holding you down in your sleep or sitting on your chest. This frightening mythical woman is known as the “old hag” in Maritime Canada, and the “night hag” in other parts of the world.
  3. Chronic Bruxism (excessive teeth grinding) is a common cause of sleep disturbance, and often leads to uncomfortable physical symptoms such as wearing down of teeth enamel, trismus (lockjaw) and temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ).
  4. Sleep apnea afflicts nearly 15 million Americans. Chronic snoring and abrupt waking can be symptoms of this disorder.
  5. An interesting disorder called Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder is marked by a person who gradually goes to sleep later and later until they completely flip their sleep schedules. Blind people often experience this sleep affliction.
  6. The opposite of insomnia is hypersomnia. As you may have guessed it constitutes a disrupting excess of sleep and sleepiness, especially during the daytime.
  7. Sleep clinics offer such (painless) procedures as a multiple sleep latency test (MSLT), maintenance of wakefulness test (MWT) and polysomnogram (PSG) to help diagnose and monitor sleep disorders.
  8. Insomnia is more prevalent among those who are divorced or widowed.
  9. Children and adolescents often don’t get the proper amount of sleep (approximately 9 hours). Especially in this smartphone generation, as many adolescents are being kept awake on a regular basis by messaging, gaming and other technology.
  10. Do you have a partner who seems to dance or perform karate katas in their sleep? They may have an excuse – Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD)!

Hope you enjoyed reading the interesting tidbits we’ve compiled about sleep problems. If you suspect you have an undiagnosed sleep disorder, talk to your doctor, or one of our certified DocChat physicians today with your concerns!

Sleep Characteristics That Could Indicate Illness

Sometimes dreams are just dreams, but new and unusual dreams or nighttime habits can also be symptomatic of larger, potentially serious illnesses. Sleep characteristics that have shown some correlation with health issues include:

Stress Spilling Over Into Dreamland

Uncharacteristically vivid dreams can be an indication that you are highly stressed and that your stress is overflowing into your dreams. You may need to evaluate your stress level and talk to your doctor about ways to help bring it down. Routinely intense dreams have also been linked to bipolar disorder when combined with frequent several-day bouts of sleeplessness.

Dreams Can Signify Cognitive Decline

Frequent dreams of being attacked can be associated with conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in the elderly. Of course the occasional assault dream doesn’t mean you may be headed toward such illnesses, but frequent ones can be a precursor worth looking out for. In addition, many people in the early stages of cognitive decline will sleep-wander or show signs of violence or irritability during sleep.

Depression Can Alter Sleep Habits

Nearly 90% of people suffering from moderate-to-severe depression have insomnia. Depression can also cause chronic early waking and fitful sleep. Also, according to HelpGuide, “Laboratory studies have shown that people who are depressed spend less time in slow-wave sleep and may enter REM sleep more quickly at the beginning of the night.

REM Movement And Neurodegeneration

Kicking, punching or violently acting out dreams during the REM (deep) stage of the sleep cycle is often an indicator of Parkinson’s or other neurodegenerative diseases because healthy bodies are paralyzed during REM sleep.

Screaming The Screams Of Fever Dreams?

If you are having extremely bizarre dreams and waking disoriented and sweaty, your body may be trying to tell you that you’re sick. Untreated underlying and infections can cause these ‘fever dreams’ and freaky sleeps, so pay attention to your temperature and physical health if you’ve been having a few successive peculiar sleeps.

Sleep Disruptions Caused By Pregnancy

It is no wonder that moms-to-be often have fitful sleeps. From anxiety and excitement keeping them awake, to a mini foot in the ribs jerking them from slumber, or strange dreams causing uneasy sleeps. One factor that may explain pregnancy dreams and nightmares is that biological and hormonal changes in the body often cause increased and unusual dream activity. We all know there are no shortages of bodily changes happening during pregnancy! One study done on pregnant women showed a correlation between higher instances of nightmares and decreased odds of post partum depression. So maybe those prenatal nightmares aren’t such a bad thing!

Increased Nightmares Could Have You Clutching Your Chest

According to the American Grandparents Association, a 2003 Swedish study of elderly people study found that those experiencing increased nightmare activity had underlying cardiac problems. Their tests showed irregular heartbeats and chest pain corresponding with the nightmares. This was especially frequent during the REM stage of sleep when heartrate accelerates, sometimes causing them to wake with a gasp. That doesn’t mean everyone with a surplus of nightmares has heart problems. Nightmares could indicate other health issues or none at all, but in some cases it could be a sign of an arrhythmia or other cardiovascular condition. Similarly, studies have shown that taking beta blockers can also cause increase nightmares.

Diabetic Dreamers

People who suffer from Diabetes may experience some strange nighttime symptoms as well such as unpleasant or unsettling dreams (sometimes due to hypoglycemia), night sweats, or a frequent need to urination in the night. Severe diabetics may be frequently startled awake by nerve pain. Some of these symptoms can be remedied by medication adjustments.

Are You Frequently Suffocating in Dreams?

Studies have found that many people with sleep apnea (a condition where sleep breathing becomes shallow and uneven or stops) regularly experience dreams of drowning, suffocating or losing their breath. These are often correlated with actual stops or pauses in their breathing as they sleep. If you have frequent dreams of losing breath or wake gasping, it is important to check this out. The vast majority of sleep apnea patients experience symptom relief with forced air machines.

Check In If You Are Concerned

If you are experiencing any of these sleep aberrations – don’t panic! More than likely your sleep strangeness is just that, but it may be a good idea to mention your nighttime symptoms to your doctor, or one of our highly qualified DocChat physicians if you are concerned. It is always better to be safe than sorry!



Insomnia – How To Get More Sleep

Sleeping couple

If you, or someone close to you has chronic sleeping problems, you certainly know the toll an absence of slumber can have on staying healthy, happy, and sometimes merely functioning. We need sleep to fuel our bodies. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institution (NHLBI) says, “During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health.” Let’s take a look at what constitutes insomnia, as well as some techniques to help catch some zzz’s!

Mind Over Mattress

Chronic insomnia, is classified as a sleep problem under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5 (DSM-V) as a mental health condition. It often springs from an over-active mind, or a surplus of anxiety. It can also be caused by certain medications or physical distress, such as illness or chronic pain. Many people think that 6 hours of sleep every night is enough, but according to The National Sleep Foundation most people need between 7-9 hours of sleep to function efficiently.

Being Sleepy Kills

Now, this is a bench mark. Some people need more, perhaps 10 hours to be their best selves, and some are perfectly used to just 5 or 6. However, getting a minimal amount of sleep will slowly chip away at your wellbeing over time. Not only will you be sluggish and zombie-esque, but Sleep.org states that chronic sleep deprivation is responsible for 100,000 traffic accidents, 76,000 injuries, and 1,500 deaths a year! These stats should wake us all up to just how important getting adequate sleep can be.

Tired and Tubby

Even though insomnia has mental health roots, it also affects, or can be affected by the physical. The NHLBI states that chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to such significant health issues as heart problems, kidney disease, blood pressure, stroke, and obesity. “Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don’t get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up and your level of leptin goes down.” The NHLIB also asserts that sleep deprivation affects how your body metabolizes insulin, which can eventually contribute to diabetes as well.

A Coy Midnight Caller

When Sir Slumber is being aloof, what can you do to beckon him back for a visit? Aside from sleeping pills, there have been all kinds of things discovered and developed over the years to help insomnia. Some of which include relaxation and meditative techniques, natural oils, sleepy-time teas, specialized sound effects or visuals, and melatonin, among many others. Experts also say that keeping your room cool during the night, while keeping your socks on during the night can help induce a long, comfy sleep.

Pop a Melatonin

My partner, Mark has been an insomniac since he was very young. He has tried every kind of sleeping pill on the market to no avail, but has recently had significant success with a nightly dose of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone excreted by the body’s pineal gland which facilitates sleep, and the pill Melatonin is a synthetic replication of said hormone. Its effectiveness is debated in the medical community, but it does seem to provide many with much needed night-time peace.

A Sleepy Routine

Mark also finds keeping on a bedtime routine beneficial. The experts at Helpguide, a non-profit mental health wellness organization, advise “Support your biological clock by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, including weekends.” Mark also finds that calming mind activities help invite sleep, such as coming up with a band name for each letter or the alphabet, or saying the alphabet backwards and frontwards in his mind until he falls asleep midway through.

Sunny and Sleepy

According to Helpguide, some other techniques that have been proven to help coax sleep include: avoiding caffeine in the evening or heavy eating before bed, getting regular exercise, and unplugging a couple hours before bedtime. Possibly chief among these tactics is exposing yourself to enough sunlight daily to help the body’s sleep-wake cycle. According to Dr. Mercola, Osteopathic Physician and best-selling wellness author, “One of the key foundational components of sleeping well is maintaining a natural rhythm of exposure to sunlight during the day and darkness at night.”  Having a warm bath infused with lavender right before bed is another must-try technique for insomniacs.

We hope the information above helps you rest better! Thanks for stopping by DocChat – we always love to have you.

OTC Sleeping Aids – the Eye-Opening Facts Behind Them

otc sleep

It is fairly common for people who have chronic insomnia to find trouble sleeping. Such individuals often seek the aid of sleeping pills in order to get a good night’s sleep. These sleeping aids are easily available over the counter (OTC) without having to show a doctor’s prescription, however not all of these should be consumed unless prescribed.

While these OTC sleeping drugs can potentially be effective in the short-run, they are not necessarily good in the long-run. Rather, according to a study, OTC sleeping aids can increase the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Here, let’s take a look at what the study has found.

Higher Risk of Dementia From Taking Anticholinergics

Many anticholinergics like Nytol, Sleepinal, antidepressants like Sinequan and anti-allergy drugs including Benadryl and Piriton are found to cause a high risk of dementia among patients. These drugs are said to have blocking effects on the nervous system including the brain. Their use increases the likelihood of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s like symptoms if taken for a long period of time i.e. amounting to several years.

Risk of Dementia Remains Long After You Stop Taking the Drugs

While these anticholinergic type drugs have always been seen to have side effects like drowsiness, dizziness, restlessness, urinary problems, and breathing problems – this study proved that these drugs can have far more severe effects like dementia and brain damage. Even if you stop taking these OTC sleeping aids, the risk of dementia remains for quite some time.

Higher the Cumulative Dose, Higher the Risk of Dementia

Once you start taking OTC sleeping pills regularly, the dose tolerance builds up and increases. As a result, people often double and triple their dose. While, this may effectively sort out your insomnia, you are in fact playing Russian roulette with your life. This is because according to the findings of the study, the more drugs you take, the more exposed you are to them which leads to a higher risk of developing dementia.

Regardless of the findings of the study, it does not mean that you should stop your therapy. Rather, you should make an appointment with your health care providers and discuss with them the OTC drugs you are taking so that they can see for themselves if you really need anticholinergic drugs and thereby properly guide you on the ideal dose. The good thing is that you do not even have to go out to have a conversation with an expert as help is available in the form of telemedicine. So get in touch with us today!