Thursday, November 24, 2005
Abnormal sleeping patterns may be perfectly normal

By Anthony Policastro
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital,
Medical director

Last week Frank Calio wrote a medical article on obstructive sleep apnea. It was very well done. He left out one of the key symptoms. Sufferers of obstructive sleep apnea develop a compulsion to consistently write article for newspapers that support Democrats and express concern about Republican presidents (just kidding). Sleep apnea is an abnormality of sleep. However, there are some normal patterns of sleep that people think are abnormal. I frequently see these in my pediatric development practice. One of those is related to the length of sleep at night. Many people have a pre-conceived notion of how long a good night's sleep is supposed to be. This is especially true with children. One thing is clear about the length of a good night's sleep. It varies by individual. Some people need more sleep than others. You might have heard the old saying about getting eight hours sleep. Well, no matter what time I go to bed at night, I do not sleep for more than seven hours. If I go to bed at 11 p.m., I am usually awake by 6 a.m. If I stay up until 2 a.m., I am usually up right at 9 a.m. My wife sometimes teases me about this. She will go to bed before me and then look at the clock when I wake up. She can usually tell within minutes what time I went to bed. Another normal sleep pattern that bothers people is the time that individuals go to bed. This too varies by the individual. Some parents will put their child to bed at a certain time and expect them to wake up at a certain time. It doesn't work that way. Some children indeed fit the expected pattern. Others do not. Some children are "larks." They like to go to bed early. They like to wake up early. They will get a full night's sleep when they are allowed to do so. However, if you try to keep them up late, they will get fussy when they get tired. If you expect them to sleep in the next day, it will not happen. They will be up with the other larks at daylight. Other children are "owls." They like to go to bed late. They like to sleep late in the morning. If you try putting them to bed early, they will stay awake. Sometimes this lasts for hours. They will fall asleep later when the owls do. When you try to wake them up early, it is almost impossible to get them going. Both the lark pattern and the owl pattern are normal. They are not what the parents expect, but they are normal. The best way to tell whether you have a lark or an owl is to see what happens on weekends when they do not have school. If they fall asleep early and are still up at the crack of dawn, they are larks. You might want to make their usual bedtime earlier in the night. If they do not get to sleep early and wake up very late the next morning, they are owls. You can expect a hard time changing their inner clock to match your expectations. It is a lot easier to deal with these normal sleep patterns once you know they exist. The one thing I can pretty much guarantee is that it will not affect their political affiliation.

Georgetown meetings to address prescription assistance program

A representative from the Delaware Prescription Assistance Program will be at the CHEER Community Center on Sand Hill Road, Georgetown, to offer education and outreach support to those needing assistance in understanding the new prescription drug program. Mark your calendar for the following dates:

  • Tuesday, Nov. 29, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Dec.13 , and Tuesday, Dec. 27, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Jan. 10, and Tuesday, Jan. 24, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
For more information, call 302-854-9500.