Q&A With Sleep Expert Dr. Carl Bazil

Mar 17, 2016

New York

dr bazil

Carl Bazil, MD, PhD is the director of the Epilepsy and Sleep Division at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center

  1. Q: How can those who work overnights or odd hours optimize sleep?
    Dr. Bazil: The most important aspect is consistency, as much as possible, trying to maintain a similar schedule even when not working. Also, doing your best to optimize sleeping during the day, which is not always easy in a noisy city!
  2. Q: What are some ways to improve the quality of sleep?
    Dr. Bazil: There’s no magic way to make sleep perfect, but most people don’t pay enough attention to obvious factors like optimizing the environment, such as powering down electronics and silencing your phone, and maybe even more important, preparing for sleep by doing relaxing things like meditation.
  3. Q: Can you make up for sleep lost throughout the week?
    Dr. Bazil: You can make up for lost sleep, although it usually takes longer than most people realize. Staying awake for 72 hours for example means you will need several days of 10-12 hours of sleep to catch up.
  4. Q: Is it normal to twitch right before falling asleep or just as one is falling asleep?
    Dr. Bazil: It's totally normal, and very common, to have quick twitches called hypnic myoclonus as you fall asleep. These can occasionally be quite pronounced but are completely benign. They tend to increase with sleep deprivation or stimulants, including caffeine. Why it happens isn't clear, but it likely has to do with the muscle relaxation that normally happens as you fall asleep. 
  5. Q: Why do some people dream more than others?
    Dr. Bazil: Everybody dreams – but some rliliber their dreams more than others. It could be because some people often are awakened during Rli sleep (dream sleep). In any case that is a good thing, unless of course the dreams are frightening or disturbing in which case there are therapies that can help.