If you think you might have something wacky going on health-wise, there's nothing like being able to ask an expert about it — and if you can't ask an expert face to face, then asking an expert via the Internet is the next best thing. Sleep specialist Dr. Nitun Verma took to Reddit yesterday, and the resulting AMA has answers to just about every sleep question you could possibly ask. Wel, maybe not every one; he's got suggestions for a good deal of them, though, so read on for more.
Verma went to Tufts for medical school; afterward, he did a sleep fellowship at Stanford and created a sleep center geared towards helping tech professionals get more focused and productive. Then, he started PeerWell, an online community that helps improve health by taking clinically validated medical advice and presenting it in easy-to-understand terms. He knows his stuff, clearly, so if you've got something pressing — he's the guy to ask. Sleep apnea? Got it. Exploding head syndrome? Got that, too. Lucid dreaming? Yep.
However, a warning: Do not attempt to diagnose yourself with a million sleep disorders after reading this AMA. It's a good place to start, but — as Verma himself frequently notes — there's only so much a rando on the Internet can tell you about what might be going on with your body, even if that rando also happens to be a sleep specialist. If you suspect you've got some kind of sleep disorder, go find a doctor in your area and get yourself checked out. Participate in a sleep study if you need to. That's how you figure out what's actually happening. Capiche?
Anyhoo, check out 15 of the answers I found most useful below; head on over to the AMA itself for much, much more.
1. What techniques can I employ to optimize my sleep?
In case you needed more proof that going to bed and waking up at the same time every day was pretty much the best thing you can do for your quality of sleep… well, there you have it. I will still, however, never have the fortitude to do so — although I think it has less to do with the fallacy of “catching up on sleep” and more to do with the fact that I can finally afford to be a tiny bit irresponsible when the weekend comes around. It's a tiny little way of rebelling, even though ultimately I know it would be better for my health if I didn't do it. But hey, I suppose at least there are worse ways I could be getting my rebel ya-yas in, right?
2. What the heck is “exploding head syndrome”?
Think of it like a version of the “kick” in Inception. Related: Exploding Head Syndrome is also the name of my metal prog band that doesn't actually exist yet.
3. What's a common sleep myth that's actually false?
Well, that's horrifying. You think your body has learned to function
with less sleep… but in reality, you're just getting used to
feeling incredibly sleepy all the damn time. Yikes.
4. But what's the deal with Dave Asprey?
Dave Asprey is the bulletproof coffee guy. In his book The Promise of Sleep, he apparently says he once got his sleep needs down to five hours a day for an entire year; however, he also thought he was A-OK getting less than the recommended amount of sleep because he fell into a super deep one every time. Note that I haven't read the book — that's all info I gleaned from the Internet and/or the poster of the question in the AMA — but it seems that even if you sleep deeply for those five hours, you're still not getting enough. Just, y'know… FYI.
5. Even when I'm tired, I'm up until 2 AM with my mind racing, which really sucks if I have to wake up at 6 AM. This has been happening for years. What's going on?
Sometimes I wonder whether I have undiagnosed delayed sleep phase syndrome — it's why I have a whole elaborate going-to-bed ritual. One day maybe I'll finally get myself to a specialist...
6. What can you tell me about restless legs syndrome?
Sometimes if I'm stressed about something, I feel a little antsy when
I'm trying to sleep—but good gravy, restless legs syndrome sounds
awful. Here's the link, for the curious.
7. Is there a neurological reason why someone might act out a dream in real life while they're still asleep? (E.g., dreaming you're kicking someone and then waking up to find you've kicked a wall.)
Huh. The more you know, right? I wonder if this is related to sleep walking?
8. How accurate are sleep tracking apps and wearables?
So I guess the takeaway is that they can be accurate — but they make a lot of assumptions. Ultimately it seems like the technology and software will have to get a lot more sophisticated before we have truly accurate at-home sleep trackers. (And yet I still keep using Sleep Bot every night anyway…)
9. How quickly should you be able to fall asleep?
Clearly I am suffering from an undiagnosed sleep disorder, whether it's DSPS or something else. Awwwwwwesome.
10. Is it normal for adults to have night terrors?
It's not uncommon, but it probably
shouldn't be happening. Here's the link to Sleep Education if you
want to find a sleep specialist in your area.
11. I wake up a few times a night, but fall back asleep pretty quickly. Is that normal?
In a word: Yes.
12. I'm a lucid dreamer and I kind of dig it. What can I do to make my dream phases last longer?
Apparently you can train yourself to lucid dream. Cool, right?
13. What can I do about my awful insomnia?
Also, find a doctor who doesn't just say, “Get better sleep hygiene.” Any doctor worth their salt should know that that's the least helpful thing you can say to an insomniac, even if they're not a sleep specialist.
14. No matter how much I sleep, I'm always tired. What's going on?
According to Apneos, one in five American adults has at least a mild form of sleep apnea. If you're having issues sleeping, it might be worth looking into.
15. How do I stop having episodes of sleep paralysis?
There was recently an AskReddit
thread about sleep paralysis experiences, so if you don't know what
it is (and how scary it can be), head on over there to find out.
Don't say I didn't warn you, though.