Lack of sleep can cause other health problems

UCLA professor says worst mistake people make is stimulating their brains before bed


Chances are you've had a sleepless night or two, whether because you're stressed about work or something going on at home.

In fact, nearly one out of three Americans does not get the recommended amount of sleep.

The lack of sleep could cause problems.

"If you don't get enough sleep, and you get in a chronic state of that, you look just like someone that's had, has early-onset Alzheimer's," said Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD., founder and chief director for the Center for Brain Health, the University of Texas at Dallas.

Chapman said sleep helps the brain clear waste and consolidate memories.

Insomnia is a type of sleep disorder that experts said should be discussed between patients and their doctors.

According to the Mayo Clinic, common causes of insomnia can include stress, anxiety, depression, medical conditions, changes to environment or work schedule, poor sleep habits, medications, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol or even eating too late in the evening.

It can lead to complications including poorer performance on the job, slowed reaction time including while driving, psychiatric problems including depression or anxiety, problems with weight, irritability and increased risk of long-term conditions including high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

Corina Martinez is a nurse who struggles with getting a good night's rest.

"I couldn't sleep, I would just watch TV all night. I would wake up groggy or still wanting to sleep and just tired throughout the day," said Martinez.

Martinez said until recently it could take her up to four hours to fall asleep.

Dr. Alon Avidan, professor of neurology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the worst sleep mistake people make is stimulating the brain with TV watching or computer use.

"All these types of activities, especially before bedtime, lead to sleep difficulties," said Avidan.

Before bed, watching what you eat and drink can help those with trouble sleeping.

Consider trying foods like walnuts that contain their own source of melatonin or honey that slightly raises insulin and allows tryptophan to enter the brain, making you sleepy.

Drink decaffeinated tea and stay away from warm milk, which can cause heartburn, spicy foods, and those with MSG, which may cause a stimulant reaction.

And despite popular belief, Avidan said alcohol doesn't help you fall asleep.

"It actually breaks apart the sleep architecture and it actually worsens our ability to maintain sleep," said Avidan.

Martinez said she cured her insomnia with an unlikely source, videos from Ilse Blansert, the sleep whisperer.   

Blansert's videos are on waterwhispers.com and are made to induce an autonomous sensory meridian response.

"It's basically a fancy name for tingles that a lot of people get when they listen to certain voices or to certain sounds," said Blansert.

Some of the videos feature sights and sounds of simple tasks, like water being poured.

Having over 16 million views, the videos are free on YouTube. Although ASMR hasn't been studied in a medical setting, people like Martinez say it's been a life saver.

"I slept all through the night. I couldn't believe it," Martinez said.