Sleep Deprivation

Behavioral Sleep Medicine Clinic at Johns Hopkins

Sleep Deprivation | Johns Hopkins Medicine

The Behavioral Sleep Medicine Clinic is a multidisciplinary outpatient clinic dedicated to the behavioral treatment of sleep disorders and their consequences. Our expert staff consists of psychologists, physicians, and related health professionals who are experienced and knowledgeable in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of sleep disorders.

We know that behavioral therapies for insomnia and many other sleep disorders produce longer lasting effects than sleeping pills.

Therefore we seek to idenitify the root causes of an individual’s sleep disorder and then implement behavioral and lifestyle changes to address these causes and bring relief.

 We work closely with the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorder Center to provide our patients with the best integrative care possible.

Our Patients

Typically, patients first visit the clinic for one or more of the following four reasons:

  • they experience difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep at night (insomnia)
  • they fall asleep and/or wake up too late or too early (circadian rhythm disorders)
  • they are tired of taking sleeping pills and want to stop, or they need help with sleep medication management
  • they are frustrated with trying to adjust to Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP) treatment for obstructive sleep apnea.

Services Offered

All patients of the Johns Hopkins Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program receive a thorough assessment, diagnosis, and therapy to address the presenting problem(s). During the assessment phase, you and your provider will work together to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that will identify the goals for treatment.

Depending upon the presenting problem, treatment often consists of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a form of brief psychotherapy that has extensive scientific support as an effective way to help people with insomnia, circadian rhythm disorders, and difficulty adjusting to Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy for obstructive sleep apnea.

The National Institutes of Health recommend CBT as a first-line treatment for insomnia and other sleep disorders.

The goals of CBT are to help you learn about the factors influencing your sleep and to make specific, lasting changes to improve your condition.

As part of the treatment process, you will be asked to monitor your behavior and you and your therapist will set daily goals to help you improve your sleep experience.

You will then meet approximately once per week for up to 50 minutes, to work toward these goals. Signficant improvement if often achieved in 2-6 sessions depending on the causes of your sleep disturbance.

Other treatments may include:

  • Medication management
  • Light therapy
  • Sleep hygiene
  • Sleep pattern monitoring
  • Standardized assessment of how sleep may impact your mood and function

Fees and Insurances

The Department of Psychiatry participates in some, but not all insurance plans. Please call the clinic for more information.

Even if the department does not participate in your particular insurance plan, most plans will cover some percentage of the fee. Some insurance plans require prior authorization.

Medicare patients do not need to obtain authorization and will only be required to pay their standard copay amount.

How to Schedule an Appointment

For more information and to schedule an appointment call 410-550-6337, between 9:00AM and 4:00PM, Monday through Friday.


Behavioral Sleep Medicine Clinic
Psychiatric Outpatient ClinicAlpha Commons Building, 4th FloorJohns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center5300 Alpha Commons DriveBaltimore, MD 21224Phone: 410-550-6337

Fax: 410-550-5992

Directions to The Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center

Before Your First Visit

Before your initial evaluation, we will mail you a packet of information that includes directions to the clinic as well as several brief questionnaires about your health history and sleep patterns.

You should complete these forms and bring them with you to your appointment, so that you and your treatment provider can review the information together. Your responses will help guide the personalized treatment plan that you and your provider develop.

If you already had a sleep study at another hospital, please fax us a copy of the report before your visit at 410-550-5992.

What to Expect During Our First Visit

Your first visit will consist of an assessment session and will last approximately an hour and half to two hours. Please arrive 20 minutes before your scheduled appointment time in order to complete your clinic registration. Once your registration is complete, you will meet with a clinic therapist, who will begin your evaluation.


Oversleeping: Bad for Your Health?

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Most people know thatskimping on sleepcan be bad for you. Regularly getting too little sleep is linked to anumber of chronic diseases, not to mention irritability and sluggishnessduring the day. 

But did you know that sleeping too much could also be problematic? Oversleeping is associated with many health problems, including:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Greater risk of dying from a medical condition

Does that mean sleeping too much will make you sick? Not necessarily, says Vsevolod Polotsky, M.D., Ph.D. , a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “We don’t exactly know the cause and effect,” he says. “It probably works the other way, that when you are sick, it leads to more sleep time.”

Does sleeping too much actually contribute to illness, or is it a sign of an existing condition? Either way, if you find yourself always nodding off or looking for the next nap, it might be time to see your doctor.

How Much Sleep Is Too Much?

Sleep needs can vary from person to person, but in general, experts recommend that healthy adults get an average of 7 to 9 hours per night of shuteye.

If you regularly need more than 8 or 9 hours of sleep per night to feel rested, it might be a sign of an underlying problem, Polotsky says.

What’s Making You So Tired?

A number of conditions can disrupt sleep or interfere with the quality of your slumber, leading you to feel tired and sluggish even after spending 8 hours in bed, says Polotsky. Those conditions include:

  • Sleep apnea, a breathing disorder that causes brief pauses in breathing during sleep
  • Restless legs syndrome, a brain disorder that causes an unpleasant and sometimes overwhelming urge to move your legs when you’re at rest
  • Bruxism, in which you grind or clench your teeth during sleep
  • Chronic pain
  • Certain medications

Then there are conditions that don’t significantly impair the quality of your sleep, but increase the amount of sleep you need. Those include:

  • Narcolepsy, a brain disorder that interferes with the body’s sleep-wake cycles
  • Delayed sleep phase syndrome, a disorder in which your circadian rhythm, or biological clock, keeps you up into the wee hours, making it hard to wake in the morning
  • Idiopathic hypersomnia, a disorder that causes excessive sleepiness for unknown reasons

Fortunately, there are treatments for many of these conditions, which can help improve the quality of your sleep.

Having a Sleep Study

Many people find themselves sleeping more as they get older, and assume it’s a normal part of aging, Polotsky adds. But getting older shouldn’t change your sleep needs dramatically.

If you’ve ruled out those conditions and are still hitting the snooze button after 9 hours under the covers, it might be a clue that you have an underlying medical condition such as heart disease, diabetes or depression.

If you’re an oversleeper, Polotsky recommends checking in with your doctor. He or she might recommend a sleep study to rule out sleep disorders. “You should seek professional help from a sleep center,” he says.

Sleep needs vary somewhat from person to person. The National SleepFoundation recommends these targets for making sure you log enough sleepeach day:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours (including naps and nighttime)
  • Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours (including naps and nighttime)
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours (including naps and nighttime)
  • Preschoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours (including naps and nighttime)
  • School age children (6-13): 9-11 hours
  • Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours
  • Adults (18-64): 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): 7-8 hours


Natural Sleep Aids: Home Remedies to Help You Sleep

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Are you having trouble drifting into a peaceful, nourishing slumber? You’renot sitting up at night alone:More than 60 million Americanssuffer from poor sleep quality. 

Disturbed sleep is more than an inconvenience that leaves you dragging the next day: it can affect your emotional and physical health. It negatively affects your memory, concentration and mood, and it boosts your risk for depression, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Happily, there are easy, natural fixes that can improve your sleep, says Charlene Gamaldo, M.D. , medical director of Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep at Howard County General Hospital.

“It’s not always necessary to get a prescription for a sleep aid,” she says. “There are natural ways to make adjustments to your sleeping habits.”

Five tips for better sleep

Drink up. No, not alcohol, which can interfere with sleep. Gamaldo recommends warm milk, chamomile tea and tart cherry juice for patients with sleep trouble.

Though there isn’t much scientific proof that any of these nighttime drinks work to improve your slumber, there’s no harm in trying them, Gamaldo says. She recommends them to patients who want treatment without side effects or drug interactions.

“Warm milk has long been believed to be associated with chemicals that simulate the effects of tryptophan on the brain. This is a chemical building block for the substance serotonin, which is involved in the sleep-wake transition,” Gamaldo says.

Chamomile tea can also be helpful. “It’s believed to have flavonoids that may interact with benzodiazepine receptors in the brain that are also involved with the sleep-wake transition,” she says.

Plus, chamomile tea doesn’t have caffeine, un green tea or Earl Grey. Finally, tart cherry juice might support melatonin production and support a healthy sleep cycle.

Exercise . Physical activity can improve sleep, though researchers aren’t completely sure why. It’s known that moderate aerobic exercise boosts the amount of nourishing slow wave (deep) sleep you get. 

But you have to time it right: Gamaldo says that aerobic exercise releases endorphins, chemicals that keep people awake. (This is why you feel so energized after a run.)

It can also raise core body temperature; this spike signals the body that it’s time to get up and get going. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try to avoid working out within two hours of bedtime.

Use melatonin supplements . “Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally released in the brain four hours before we feel a sense of sleepiness,” Gamaldo says. It’s triggered by the body’s response to reduced light exposure, which should naturally happen at night.

  These days, though, lights abound after it’s dark outside—whether it’s from your phone, laptop or TV. This exposure to unnatural light prevents melatonin release, which can make it hard to fall asleep.

Luckily, melatonin is available in pill form at your local pharmacy as an over-the-counter supplement. 

Just make sure that you consistently buy the same brand. “Because melatonin supplements are unregulated by the FDA, the per-pill dosages and ingredients may differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. Stick with one brand, and don’t buy it online from an unknown source,” Gamaldo cautions.

Keep cool. “The ideal temperature for your thermostat is between 65 and 72 degrees,” Gamaldo says. Women who are going through menopause and experiencing hot flashes should keep the room as cool as possible and wear cotton or breathable fabrics to bed.

Go dark. It’s known that the light from a smartphone interferes with sleep. But what about your bathroom light? If you have the urge to go at night, don’t flick on the lights.

“The latest recommendation is to use a flashlight if you need to get up at night,” Gamaldo says, because it offers less visual disruption.

And remember: If you do wake up for a bathroom break, it might take up to 30 minutes to drift back off. This is completely normal, she says.

Try It

“Sleep in layers, so you can adjust your bedtime temperature as needed,”Gamaldo says.


Sleep Deprivation

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Sleep deprivation means you’re not getting enough sleep. For most adults, the amount of sleep needed for best health is 7 to 8 hours each night.

When you get less sleep than that, as many people do, it can eventually lead to a whole host of health problems. These can include forgetfulness, being less able to fight off infections, and even mood swings and depression.

What causes sleep deprivation?

Sleep deprivation is not a specific disease. It is usually the result of other illnesses or due to life circumstances.

Sleep deprivation is becoming more common. Many people try to adjust their schedule to get as much done as possible, and sleep is sacrificed.

Sleep deprivation also becomes a greater problem as people grow older. Although older adults probably need as much sleep as younger adults, they typically sleep more lightly and for shorter time spans than younger people. It’s estimated that half of all people older than 65 have frequent sleeping problems.

Sleep deprivation can occur for a number of reasons:

  • Sleep disorder. These include insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and restless legs syndrome.
  • Aging. People older than 65 have trouble sleeping because of aging, medicine they’re taking, or medical problems they’re experiencing.
  • Illness. Sleep deprivation is common with depression, schizophrenia, chronic pain syndrome, cancer, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Other factors. Many people have occasional sleep deprivation for other reasons, including stress, a change in schedule, or a new baby disrupting their sleep schedule.

What are the symptoms of sleep deprivation?

At first, sleep deprivation may cause minor symptoms, but over time, these symptoms can become more serious.

Initial sleep deprivation symptoms may include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Impaired memory
  • Reduced physical strength
  • Diminished ability to fight off infections

Sleep deprivation complications over time may include:

  • Increased risk for depression and mental illness
  • Increased risk for stroke and asthma attack
  • Increased risk for potentially life-threatening complications, such as car accidents, and untreated sleep disorders insomnia, sleep apnea, and narcolepsy
  • Hallucinations
  • Severe mood swings

How is sleep deprivation diagnosed?

Sleep specialists say that one of the telltale signs of sleep deprivation is feeling drowsy during the day. In fact, even if a task is boring, you should stay alert during it if you are not sleep-deprived.

Also, if you frequently fall asleep within 5 minutes of lying down, then you ly have severe sleep deprivation. People with sleep deprivation also experience “microsleeps,” which are brief periods of sleep during waking time.

In many cases, sleep deprived people may not even be aware that they are experiencing these microsleeps.

If you have any of these warning signs or the symptoms listed above, see your doctor or ask for a referral to a sleep specialist. Your doctor will ask you detailed questions to get a better sense of the nature of your sleeping problems.

In some instances, if a more serious and possibly life-threatening sleep disorder, such sleep apnea, is suspected, then the sleep specialist may conduct a test called a polysomnography, or a sleep study.

This test actually monitors your breathing, heart rate, and other vital signs during an entire night of sleep.

It gives the sleep specialist useful information to help diagnose and treat your underlying disorder.

How is sleep deprivation treated?

Treatments for sleep deprivation vary how severe it is. In some cases, your doctor may want you to try self-care strategies before turning to medicine.

Your doctor may prescribe sleeping pills, but keep in mind that they tend to lose effectiveness after a few weeks and can then actually disrupt your sleep.

For more serious insomnia, your doctor may have you try light therapy, which can help your body’s internal clock readjust and allow you to sleep more restfully.

If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, your doctor may prescribe a special breathing machine you’ll use while you sleep called CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure). This machine provides a continuous flow of air to help keep your airway open.

Can sleep deprivation be prevented?

If your sleep deprivation is mild, these simple strategies may help you to get a better night’s sleep:

  • Exercise at least 20 to 30 minutes each day, at least 5 to 6 hours before going to bed. This will make you more ly to fall asleep later in the day.
  • Avoid substances that contain caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, all of which can disrupt your regular sleep patterns. Quitting smoking is always a good idea.

How to manage sleep deprivation

Creating a relaxing bedtime routine often helps to conquer sleep deprivation and get a good night’s sleep. This can include taking a warm bath, reading, or meditating and allowing your mind to drift peacefully to sleep.

Another step that may help you to get a good night’s sleep is sticking to a consistent schedule, meaning that you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. If possible, waking up with the sun is a good way to reset your body’s clock more naturally.

Also, keep your bedroom at a reasonable temperature. A bedroom that is too hot or too cold can disrupt sleep.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, try doing something else reading a book for a few minutes. The anxiety of not being able to fall asleep can actually make sleep deprivation worse for some people.

Finally, be sure to see a doctor if your problems with sleep deprivation continue. Don’t let sleep problems linger.

Key points about sleep deprivation

Sleep deprivation is not a specific disease. It is usually the result of other illnesses or life circumstances.

  • Sleep deprivation can become a greater problem as people grow older.
  • One of the telltale signs of sleep deprivation is feeling drowsy during the day.
  • Treatments for sleep deprivation vary how severe it is.
  • Creating a relaxing bedtime routine often helps to conquer sleep deprivation and get a good night’s sleep.
  • The anxiety of not being able to fall asleep can actually make sleep deprivation worse for some people.


Depression and Sleep: Understanding the Connection

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Linkedin Pinterest Age-Related Depression, Mood and Stress Health Risks of Poor Sleep Aging and Sleep

Depression and sleep problems are closely linked. People withinsomnia, for example, may have a tenfold higher risk of developing depression thanpeople who get a good night’s sleep. And among people with depression, 75percent have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. 

Which comes first? “Either one can be the starting point,” says Johns Hopkins sleep researcher Patrick H. Finan, Ph.D.

 “Poor sleep may create difficulties regulating emotions that, in turn, may leave you more vulnerable to depression in the future—months or even years from now.

And depression itself is associated with sleep difficulties such as shortening the amount of restorative slow-wave sleep a person gets each night.”

If you have depression , daily stresses—such as financial worries, an argument with your spouse, or a jam-packed evening commute—could also lead to more nighttime wake-ups and more trouble getting back to sleep than someone without depression would experience.

Understanding the relationship between insomnia and depression can help you spot risks early, get the right help, and recover more fully if you are experiencing both. You’ll feel healthy, well-rested, and able to enjoy life again. Here’s what you need to know about depression and sleep:

Take sleep problems seriously.

You should tell your doctor if you:

  • have trouble falling or staying asleep
  • feel tired during the day
  • have physical pain, discomfort or other complaints (for instance, signs of obstructive sleep apnea or pauses in breathing at night) that prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep

Treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices for apnea can restore good sleep, helping you sidestep related conditions depression. (People with sleep apnea have a fivefold higher risk of depression.)

Stay alert for signs of depression.

These include feeling hopeless, helpless or sad; trouble concentrating and remembering things; loss of energy; daytime sleepiness; loss of interest in activities that once gave you pleasure; or thoughts of suicide or death. Tell your doctor if you have any of these. (Call 911 if you have thoughts of suicide.)

This is especially important if you’re discussing insomnia with your doctor. “Insomnia may be a separate condition or it may be a symptom of depression,” Finan explains. “Your doctor needs to know as much as possible to treat the right problem.”

Get help for both depression and sleep.

If you have insomnia and depression, don’t assume that medical treatment for one will automatically cure the other. Treatments for depression, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and other medications, may improve your mood and outlook, but they may not be enough to improve your sleep.

There’s some evidence that lingering sleep problems in people undergoing depression treatment increase the risk of a slide back into depression. The good news: There’s also some early evidence that CBT-I (cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia), along with depression treatment, improves sleep in people with depression and may increase the chances of a remission of depression.

In a recent Johns Hopkins study, healthy women and men whose sleep wasinterrupted throughout the night had a 31 percent reduction in positivemoods the next day.

“Sleep interruptions interfere with deep, restorativeslow-wave sleep,” explains lead researcher Patrick Finan, Ph.D.

 Ongoing insomnia could increase a person’s risk of depression, he says, byweakening their emotional resilience—the buffer of positive emotions thathelps people deal with stress and challenges of life.


Rest Up: Sleep Powers Your Social Life

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Between our jobs, our social lives, exercising and family obligations, it’sall too easy to sacrifice sleep to accommodate our overbooked schedules. 

The problem with that strategy is that sleep provides the energy you need to power back up for another busy day.

You can’t perform at your best unless you give your body time to rejuvenate during sleep, says Rachel Salas, M.D. , an associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

The Restorative Power of Sleep

Scientists are still figuring out everything that happens in our brains and bodies while we catch our nightly ZZZs, says Salas.

But it’s clear that sleep is important for locking in memories and pruning unnecessary details that can clutter your thinking.

“We believe that when you’re sleeping, your brain is getting rid of information you no longer need,” Salas explains – freeing up brainpower for the memories and details that matter.

Sleep also gives your body a chance to refresh itself, Salas adds. “Sleep is a time when the systems in the body wind down and rest.”

Sleep deprivation can impact your health and wellness in a number of ways. Regularly skipping sleep can:

  • Negatively affect your immune system. “If you’re sleep deprived, it can decrease your ability to fight infection,” Salas says.
  • Alter appetite hormones and cause weight gain
  • Ruin your mood and make you irritable. “That can spill over and impact your relationships,” Salas says.
  • Interfere with memory and productivity
  • Increase the risk of medical problems such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease

How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?

Most healthy adults should aim to sleep 7 to 9 hours every night. Think you can get by with less? You might be fooling yourself.

“A lot of professionals believe that they’re short sleepers who need 6 hours or less. The truth is, that’s not very common,” Salas says. Often people who think they need less sleep are just good at compensating for the effects of sleep deprivation – for now. Chances are, though, that their sleep deficit will catch up with them eventually, she says.

You might be wondering if you can shortchange your sleep during the busy week and catch up on weekends. “Many sleep specialists believe you can never truly make up for chronic lost sleep,” Salas says.

While getting in some extra sleep can help you recuperate after an occasional sleepless night, it’s not a wise strategy in the long term. Sleeping in or taking naps on days off can increase the odds of developing insomnia and can lead to problems with the natural circadian rhythms that drive your sleep patterns, Salas says.

Make Sleep a Priority

Want to find ways to fit more sleep into your life? Here are some tools to try:

  • Start small: Try going to bed just 10 to 15 minutes earlier. If you’re still feeling sleepy during the day, push your bedtime back another 15 minutes.
  • Limit naps: To protect the quantity and quality of your nighttime sleep, cap daytime naps at 20 to 30 minutes, and don’t nap later than 3 p.m.
  • Avoid caffeine: Limit caffeine in the late afternoon so you’re sleepy when bedtime rolls around.
  • Exercise: Regular physical activity can help improve sleep.
  • Make it a habit: Establish a relaxing bedtime routine, and try to go to sleep and wake up at the same times each day.

“A lot of people see sleep as a luxury. But the bottom line is, sleep matters,” Salas says. “Only you can make sleep a priority.”

Exercise is important for a healthy body and mind, and staying active canalso improve your sleep quality. But could exercising too close to bedtimewind you up and impair your slumber? Probably not.

Research and survey data suggest that in most people, nighttime exercisedoesn’t negatively affect sleep quality. If the evening is the best time tofit in your workout, give it a try. If you find you’re still wide-eyed atbedtime, you might want to exercise earlier in the evening. But evidencesuggests that most people sleep better when they exercise, no matter whattime of day they do it.


Exercising for Better Sleep

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Working out is great for your body and mind – and it can also help you geta good night’s sleep. But, for some people, exercising too late in the daycan interfere with how well they rest at night.

available studies, “We have solid evidence that exercise does, in fact, help you fall asleep more quickly and improves sleep quality,” says Charlene Gamaldo, M.D.

 , medical director of Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep at Howard County General Hospital. “But there’s still some debate as to what time of day you should exercise.

I encourage people to listen to their bodies to see how well they sleep in response to when they work out,” she adds.

How Exercise May Help You Sleep

Researchers don’t completely understand how physical activity improves sleep. “We may never be able to pinpoint the mechanism that explains how the two are related,” she says. 

However, we do know that moderate aerobic exercise increases the amount of slow wave sleep you get. Slow wave sleep refers to deep sleep, where the brain and body have a chance to rejuvenate. Exercise can also help to stabilize your mood and decompress the mind, “a cognitive process that is important for naturally transitioning to sleep,” says Gamaldo.

The Timing of Exercise May Matter

Some people may find that exercising close to bedtime seems to keep them up at night, says Gamaldo. How does working out affect the mind?

  • Aerobic exercise causes the body to release endorphins. These chemicals can create a level of activity in the brain that keeps some people awake. These individuals should exercise at least 1 to 2 hours before going to bed, giving endorphin levels time to wash out and “the brain time to wind down,” she says.
  • Exercise also raises your core body temperature. “The effect of exercise in some people is taking a hot shower that wakes you up in the morning,” says Gamaldo. Elevation in core body temperature signals the body clock that it’s time to be awake. After about 30 to 90 minutes, the core body temperature starts to fall. The decline helps to facilitate sleepiness.

Despite these biological responses to exercise, other people find that the time of day they exercise doesn’t make a difference. “Whether it’s in the early morning or close to bedtime, they’ll see a benefit to their sleep,” says Gamaldo. 

“Know your body and know yourself,” she says. “Doctors definitely want you to exercise, but when you do it is not scripted.”

How Much Exercise You Need for Better Sleep

Patients often ask Gamaldo how much exercise they need for better sleep, and how many weeks, months or years it will take to experience this benefit.

  The good news: People who engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise may see a difference in sleep quality that same night. “It’s generally not going to take months or years to see a benefit,” says Gamaldo.

“And patients don’t need to feel they have to train for the Boston Marathon to become a better sleeper.”  Moreover, while many studies focus on aerobic activity and sleep, Gamaldo says picking an exercise you will help you stick with it.

For example, power lifting or an active yoga class can elevate your heart rate, helping to create the biological processes in the brain and body that contribute to better quality sleep, she says. 

“We really want to encourage people to exercise, just be mindful of timing and whether it seems to affect your ability to get optimal sleep quality,” she says.

Research Shows

Recent research indicates that exercise decreases sleep complaints and insomnia in patients. The effects of aerobic exercise on sleep appear to be similar to those of sleeping pills. However, more research is needed to compare physical exercise to medical treatments for insomnia.


Lack of Sleep and Cancer: Is There a Connection?

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Long-term sleep disruptions may raise the risk of some cancers. But sleepand cancer are intertwined in other ways too. Getting a good night’s sleepis difficult during cancer treatment and can be a lifelong challenge forsurvivors. 

“In our research, nearly one in four survivors of childhood cancer had difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep,” says cancer expert Kathryn Ruble, M.S.N., Ph.D. , of the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center . “Helping cancer survivors improve their sleep might help them perform at school, on the job, and throughout their lives.”

How do sleep and cancer influence each other, and what can you do about a lack of sleep? Here’s what researchers have learned.

Long stretches of shift work may increase cancer risk

Disruptions in the body’s “biological clock,” which controls sleep and thousands of other functions, may raise the odds of cancers of the breast, colon, ovaries and prostate. Exposure to light while working overnight shifts for several years may reduce levels of melatonin, encouraging cancer to grow.

What you can do: “It’s important to keep up with recommended cancer screenings including mammograms , screening tests for colorectal cancer, and prostate checks recommended by your doctor,” Ruble says.

Cancer therapy side effects and emotions can disrupt sleep

During cancer treatment, anxiety , depression , deep fatigue, digestive-system problems, breathing problems, hot flashes, night sweats and pain can all keep you from falling asleep and staying asleep.

What you can do: Tell your doctor about your lack of sleep. Ask if you can be interrupted less often during sleep if you’re in the hospital. Relaxation techniques and cognitive behavioral therapy can help. Stick to a regular bedtime and wake-up time. Also, try to limit caffeine and reset your body clock by getting outdoors or sitting by a sunny window during the day.

Insomnia can bother cancer survivors for years and even decades

“Lack of sleep has a huge impact on anyone’s ability to function in school or on the job,” Ruble says. “We are finding sleep problems in young survivors and want to know if they help explain the academic challenges they face.”

What you can do: Ruble says the long-term side effects of treatment may explain survivors’ sleep problems, but activities that interfere with good sleep may also play a role. “Staying up late to play video games or watch TV and a lack of exercise can get in the way too,” she says.

From loud snores to pauses in breathing during slumber, sleep-disorderedbreathing affected 19 percent of childhood cancer survivors in a recentJohns Hopkins study.

That’s nearly five times higher than the rate inhealthy children. And sleep problems are ly to persist into adulthood.

“As more and more people live for decades beyond cancer, helping survivorssleep better is an important health issue,” says lead researcher Kathryn Ruble, M.S.N., Ph.D.