Information about sleep and how much is needed, including the risks of poor sleep, how to get better sleep, and other sleep problems.
Do you get enough sleep every night?
Do you wake up frequently during the night?
Do you wake up earlier than you're supposed to each morning?
Does it take you more than 30 minutes to fall asleep at night?
When you awaken, do you have a difficult time getting back to sleep?
Do you feel groggy and listless?
Do you feel drowsy during the day?
If your answer was "yes" to any one of these question, you might have a serious sleeping problem that is affecting you in ways you don't even realize. More than half of all American adults experience sleeping problems, however, few recognize the importance of adequate rest. Even fewer are aware that effective methods of preventing and managing sleep problems exist.
Sleep is not just a rest from your busy routines and schedules. It is essential for good health, mental and emotional functioning, and safety.
Even occasional sleeping problems can make daily life feel more stressful or cause you to be less productive. Having trouble getting enough sleep usually results in a greater difficulty concentrating, accomplishing required tasks, and handling minor irritations.
Sleep loss has been found to impair the ability to perform tasks involving memory, learning, and logical reasoning.
Insufficient sleep can also be extremely dangerous, leading to serious and even fatal accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated more than 100,000 auto crashes annually may be fatigue related. This problem has been found to affect drivers aged 25 and under more than any other age group.
Sleep needs vary. In general, most healthy adults need an average of eight hours a night of sleep. However, some individuals are able to function without sleepiness or drowsiness after as little as six hours of sleep. Others can’t perform at their peak unless they’ve slept ten hours. Contrary to common myth, the need for sleep doesn’t decline with age although the ability to get it all at one time may be reduced.
If you have trouble staying alert during boring or monotonous situations when fatigue is often visible, you probably aren’t getting enough good-quality sleep. Other signs are a tendency to be unreasonably irritable with co-workers, family, or friends, and difficulty concentrating or remembering facts.
Scientists define the best sleep as having the right mixture of REM (Rapid Eye Movement – when a person dreams) and non-REM sleep. Getting enough sleep without interruptions from your environment or from internal facts such as breathing is more likely to result in restful restorative sleep.
Virtually everyone suffers at least an occasional night of poor sleep. Certain individuals may be more vulnerable including students, shift workers, travelers, and persons suffering from acute stress, depression, or chronic pain.
The biggest reasons for sleep problems are:
1. Psychological factors such as stress from
-death of someone close.
2. Lifestyle stresses such as drinking alcohol or beverages with caffeine in the afternoon or evening, exercising close to bedtime, following an irregular schedule, working or doing mentally intense activities right before getting in bed.
3. Shift workers (20 percent of the working public in the United States) experience sleep problems.
4. Jet lag.
5. Environmental interference such as:
-uncomfortable room temperature
-light and sounds that disrupt sleep
-comfort and size of bed –
-habits of a sleep partner
6. Physical factors such as:
-pain, from backache or arthritis or other things causing pain
-restless leg syndrome
-hormonal shifts from premenstrual syndrome
-hot flashes from menopause
7. Medication where sleeplessness is a side effect.
Some tips for a person having difficulty with sleep include:
1. Avoid caffeine.
2. Avoid nicotine.
3. Avoid alcohol.
4. Exercise regularly, but not within 3 hours of bedtime.
5. Don’t use the bed for anything except sleep or sex.
6. Make your sleeping environment as pleasant, comfortable, dark and quiet as possible.
7. Don’t nap.
8. Establish a regular bedtime and stick to it.
9. If you don’t fall asleep within 30 minutes, get up. Go do something for awhile, then try to sleep again.
If problems persist for more than a week, a physician should be contacted.
For instance, researchers have found that people with chronic insomnia are more likely than others to develop several kinds of psychiatric problems. People suffering from sleep apnea are likely to have higher blood pressure while they sleep and suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness.