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Week 17. HS = Hour of Sleep

HS, hour of sleep, aka bedtime--a beautiful word to hardworking, sleep-deprived people all around the world. The primary function of sleep is unclear, though it clearly contributes to physiological and psychological restoration. Humans spend a full third of their lives in slumber.

Circadian rhythms regulated by sleep are cyclical, as are sleep cycles. Rapid-eye-movement periods bring the most vivid and curious dreams, including lucid ones. If one recognizes a discrepancy or missing logic in one's surroundings and realizes this is a dream, one becomes suddenly lucid, holding the potential to control an entire dream world, along with the people in it.

When sleep goes wrong, insomnias (difficulty sleeping), hypersomnias (e.g. narcolepsy), and parasomnias (e.g. sleepwalking) occur.

A sedative at a low dose becomes a hypnotic at high dose. Sometimes a paradoxical response occurs; instead of feeling sedated, one develops insomnia, euphoria, anxiety, or rage.

Benzos: Diazepam, Lorazepam, Temazepam, any Pam. They can lead to physical dependence, sleep driving, sleep eating, and anterograde amnesia (you're going to forget everything starting...now.) Do not mix with alcohol.

The less-addictive Z-drugs have sonorous brand names like Ambien (Zolpidem), Sonata (Zaleplon), and Lunesta (Eszopiclone). Zaleplon fades quickly, hence isn't recommended for those having trouble staying asleep. Alternatively, Zolpidem and Eszopiclone have longer durations, but may lead to sleep-hangovers.

Antidepressants and barbiturates also aid sleep, and may be prescribed if one is depressed and not at risk for respiratory depression.

The above drugs require doctor's orders and carry higher potential for addiction and toxicity. They also hit one like a truck. Safer, over-the-counter options can be purchased at one's local CVS or Rite Aid: diphenhydramine (antihistamine), dextromethorphan (cough suppressant), and melatonin are most common. Alternative treatment: valerian root, chamomile, passionflower, lemon balm, lavender, L-tryptophan.

Also try: ear plugs, soft pillows, warm bedding, cozy socks, cuddles, and a bedtime story.

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