Everyday Life / Health & Wellbeing

Sleepy Head

04.10.12

Sleep

photo credit: Kendal7

We all know sleep is important and we all know how lack of it can make us feel irritable, tired and unable to concentrate. I, for one, definitely know how falling out of a sleep pattern can get me down, so even on weekends or days off from work I rarely lie in past 7:30am. I know that needing to get up at 6:30am on a work day is bad enough, without knowing that it’s 3 hours earlier than I woke up the previous morning, or just 6 hours after than I went to bed. I know everyone’s sleep needs are different and some people function much better than I would on less sleep, but it always good to benefit from more shut-eye, and I went looking for some more information on how lack of sleep can effect the body and mind!

Sleep is essential for a person’s health and wellbeing, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). Yet millions of people do not get enough sleep and many suffer from lack of sleep. For example, surveys conducted by the NSF (1999-2004) reveal that at least 40 million Americans suffer from over 70 different sleep disorders and 60 percent of adults report having sleep problems a few nights a week or more. Most of those with these problems go undiagnosed and untreated. In addition, more than 40 percent of adults experience daytime sleepiness severe enough to interfere with their daily activities at least a few days each month – with 20 percent reporting problem sleepiness a few days a week or more. Furthermore, 69 percent of children experience one or more sleep problems a few nights or more during a week.

According to psychologist and sleep expert David F. Dinges, Ph.D., of the Division of Sleep and Chronobiology and Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, irritability, moodiness and disinhibition are some of the first signs a person experiences from lack of sleep. If a sleep-deprived person doesn’t sleep after the initial signs, said Dinges, the person may then start to experience apathy, slowed speech and flattened emotional responses, impaired memory and an inability to be novel or multitask. As a person gets to the point of falling asleep, he or she will fall into micro sleeps (5-10 seconds) that cause lapses in attention, nod off while doing an activity like driving or reading and then finally experience hypnagogic hallucinations, the beginning of REM sleep. (Dinges, Sleep, Sleepiness and Performance, 1991)

So, how do we get a good night’s sleep when shut-eye is alluding us? In an age where technology is all around us and our brains are more turned on than ever, here are some tips to get yourself a good night’s sleep:

According to leading sleep researchers, there are techniques to combat common sleep problems:

 – Keep a regular sleep/wake schedule

– Don’t drink or eat caffeine four to six hours before bed and minimize daytime use

– Don’t smoke, especially near bedtime or if you awake in the night

– Avoid alcohol and heavy meals before sleep

– Get regular exercise

– Minimize noise, light and excessive hot and cold temperatures where you sleep

– Develop a regular bed time and go to bed at the same time each night

– Try and wake up without an alarm clock

– Attempt to go to bed earlier every night for certain period; this will ensure that you’re getting enough sleep

Information credit: American Psychological Association

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