Healthy Sleep in Modern Times.
Article Type: Book review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Duff, Katherine
Pub Date: 04/01/2012
Publication: Name: Townsend Letter Publisher: The Townsend Letter Group Audience: General; Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2012 The Townsend Letter Group ISSN: 1940-5464
Issue: Date: April, 2012 Source Issue: 345
Topic: NamedWork: Sleep-Powered Wellness: Better Bedrooms for Turbocharged Zzzz's (Nonfiction work)
Persons: Reviewee: Hobbs, Angela
Accession Number: 286257226
Full Text: Sleep-Powered Wellness: Better Bedrooms for Turbocharged Zzzz's by Angela Hobbs Bold World Books;

[c]2011; $24.95; 1 74 pp.

If you are not having problems with sleep, surely you know someone else who is trying to find relief from this vexing and serious problem. There is no shortage of recommendations for people suffering from poor-quality sleep, but rarely does anyone consider the possibility that their home and bedroom environment could be sabotaging their most diligent efforts. Angela Hobbs attempts to rectify that omission in her book Sleep-Powered Wellness: Better Bedrooms for Turbocharged Zzzz's.

Our understanding of sleep has come a long way from the belief that it is just a time of nothingness. Hobbs takes us through the history of research that has brought us to the current knowledge that sleep is a time of brain activity necessary for health and restoration of the body. This restoration is accomplished through five stages of sleep that a healthy person will cycle through about five times a night. Integral to managing the proper sleep cycles are the hormones melatonin and Cortisol.

Our circadian rhythm is managed by melatonin and Cortisol. Melatonin levels rise in the evening, allowing us to grow tired, peak early in the night, and maintain high levels until early morning. Cortisol levels drop in the late afternoon and begin to rise again in the early morning, peaking around midday. If one is experiencing a healthy sleep cycle, these hormones rise and fall in opposition at dawn and dusk. This interplay allows the sleep cycles to accomplish such diverse tasks as managing pain and inflammation, prevent diabetes, avert disease, fight cancer, maintain blood pressure, heighten intelligence, and more. When the sleep cycles are interrupted or malfunctioning, these important tasks are compromised. We learn it is possible now to correlate symptoms with hormone disruptions that are occurring during the various stages of sleep.

The author has identified six factors in our environment that can disrupt the activity of melatonin and Cortisol. They are noise, light, microwaves, electricity, contact chemicals, and air pollutants. We already know that loud noises can awaken us from sleep, but what we may not know is that noise boosts the Cortisol level and subsequently throws the Cortisol out of its proper rhythm. Light, on the other hand, reduces the level of melatonin, which may keep a person in an alert state well beyond bedtime. Hobbs notes that even a low level of white light can reduce the melatonin level by half in 39 minutes. Red light and moonlight will have no effect.

As the author explains the effect of the six environmental factors, we can see that as humans we are not armored, self-contained bodies moving through our environment, but rather part of our environment and interacting at all times - even when we are asleep. One factor that may not seem obvious but is growing in importance is our exposure to microwaves.

The microwaves that the author discusses are not from microwave ovens, which are nominal in exposures, but the growing sources of artificially produced wavelengths and radio frequency waves that increase Cortisol levels. We can find these sources in an ever-increasing line of consumer products, such as cordless phones, remote-controlled equipment, wireless computers and games, and remote-controlled systems. These products do not even need to be in your own home, as the signals travel through building structures from neighbors who have them as well. Outside the home, we can find additional sources in cell towers, broadcasting transmitters, and airports.

The author provides steps to avoid exposures for each of the six factors. In the case of microwaves, we learn that many of the products are sending signals 24/7 whether we are using them or not. To reduce the exposures, remove as many items as possible from the bedroom or turn off the devices. A cell phone can be deactivated by changing the setting to "airplane mode." Other methods could include shielding the source with special products made from ground metals that will weaken the beam. Another solution may be to use a spectrum analyzer to identify the hot spots in the bedroom and move the bed accordingly.

Lest a person feel overwhelmed by the many sources that are disrupting the melatonin and Cortisol rhythm, the author offers a boost in getting the problem solved. She has devised a "Mistake Meter Work Sheet" that, when filled out, will guide our investigation. From there the reader can refer to numerous solutions offered to resolve the exposure issues.

Angela Hobbs has written a highly informative and entertaining book. Judging by the number of people suffering from sleep problems - about one-third of the population-she has written an important book. Physicians will appreciate that this is a well-referenced book, with relevant research noted chronologically. The reader suffering sleep issues will find the information easy to follow. And for all, the author ends the book on a philosophical note: It is long past time to quit dismissing environment-triggered illnesses and look seriously at their causes.

"Sleep is not optional."

review by Katherine Duff
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.