Sleep expert Dr. Harvey Karp discusses 'orthosomnia,' other disorders

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Dr. Harvey Karp, a sleep expert world-renowned pediatrician, spoke with ABC7 about a variety of sleep-related topics - including the disorder "orthosomnia." (KABC)

Do you get enough sleep?

The National Sleep Foundation says only 27 percent of American adults get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night.

Dr. Harvey Karp, a sleep expert world-renowned pediatrician, spoke with ABC7 about a variety of sleep-related topics -- including the disorder "orthosomnia."

Why do so many people have problems sleeping?

There are lots of different reasons -- we're trying to jam more into a single day. Another thing is electric lights, believe it or not, because now we extend the day longer and longer. Computers, of course. It isn't just like light but it affects part of the brain that releases melatonin, which is the brain's natural sleep hormone. So when you are looking at computer screens, it shuts off melatonin.

What can people do to help them get a better night's sleep?

Well, there are lots of things that we call sleep hygiene. So get outside, get fresh air, exercise, eat well, don't eat too late. Try to avoid caffeine after noon. Turn down the lights in the evening, like an hour or two before you go to bed, start dimming the lights to give your brain that message.

I strongly recommend using white noise, especially a rumbling kind of low-pitched white noise. The work I do is with babies, and what we see is that when we use white noise and swaddling and motion -- which any grandmother would know, right? -- you're able to increase a baby's sleep 1 to 2 hours a night.

Talk about orthosomnia. What is that?

Everyone's crazy about measuring your sleep now -- it's all about your app and your Fitbit and things like that. And while that can be good because you can learn some things about how you're sleeping, you may discover you're waking up an extra number of times a night and your sleep is really broken up, which is unhealthy for you. But if you're so focused that you're checking your Fitbit all throughout the night, that's going to ruin your sleep as well. One of the things that I think is important is just trying to get to bed early. That's one of the hardest things, because we're trying to fit so much in. But if you can do that, usually your brain's going to help you to do the rest.

How early is early?

Obviously, it depends on what time you have to get up. But, in general, your brain is built to want to go to sleep a couple of hours after dark comes, so 9, 10 o'clock.

You also authored a book, "The Happiest Baby on the Block." You're not aiming just to get adults to sleep well, but babies too.

We created a bed called SNOO which adds hours to a baby's sleep and keeps them safe. So, by keeping the baby sleeping better, we're keeping the parents sleeping better. And now we work with industries all across the country, like Activision and Hulu, to give this bed to the parents, so that the babies sleep better and then the parents sleep better.
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