SLEEP. We all need it and Lots of it!
We often find ourselves ignoring this very important habit of good health. The range of ways we try to fool ourselves that sleep is not that important is endless. We repeatedly stay up too late for work, or have to finish that do-list or the last page of our book. Some of us force ourselves to get up extremely early for exercise even when we went to bed at midnight leaving only 4-5 hours of sleep. Some of us try not to be deprived of sleep, but with young children in the house that can be very challenging.
Studies tell us that for good health, the average adult needs between 7-9 hours of restful sleep each night. People who can’t get the required amount of sleep are setting the stage for some serious problems. An early sign of sleep deprivation may be the way you feel when you get out of bed in the morning, as if you never slept at all. Another is feeling drowsy while driving a car or falling asleep while watching TV. There can be cognitive deficits such as lack of concentration and memory loss problems. Irritability and an increased feeling of unhappiness can also indicate sleep deprivation.
In a recent poll taken by the National Sleep Foundation they found that…..
36% of Americans drive drowsy or fall asleep while driving
29% of Americans fall asleep or become very drowsy at work
20% have lost interest in sex because of fatigue
14% report having to miss family events, work functions and leisure activities in the past few months due to sleepiness
Long term sleep deprivation can contribute to the development of diabetes and heart related issues. There is also a greater risk of developing obesity due to an increase in appetite brought about by sleep deprivation. The risk for the development of psychiatric conditions such as anxiety and depression increases. For some the lack of adequate sleep can increase the problems with ADHD, and other memory and focus conditions. This can be particularly difficult for children and young adults. In the case of those that have substance abuse issues lack of sleep can become a spiraling downhill slide.
If you can’t adjust your sleeping schedule to give you the needed 7-9 hours then there are some basic behaviors and habits that can promote healthy sleep:
Set a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends.
Create a sleep environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and slightly cool.
Remove work materials, TV, phones, and other distractions.
If you must read…read something very boring that puts you to sleep. Reading a stimulating book can keep you up for hours past your designated bed time.
Avoid caffeine, eat 4-5 hours before retiring and limit alcohol consumption which can disturb your sleep.
So, after following these steps and you still cannot get a good night’s sleep, what else can you do?
If you’re not interested in drug treatments, there has been some very positive research coming out about the use of meditation and relaxation training. Learning to relax your mind and body can help you fall asleep better and sleep more deeply. To help my clients who can’t seem to relax and turn of the mind chatter, I offer them the following exercise. The phrases are designed to help you relax your body and mind. Use some type of recording device and repeat the following words. Learning to listen to your own words can be extremely helpful. Say the phrase in a quiet, thoughtful and caring way. Pause after each phrase and notice how you feel. Pay particular attention to your breathing. Take two or three breaths before you repeat the next phrase.
I feel quite quiet…….
I am easily relaxed…..
My right leg feels heavy and relaxed………
My left leg feels heavy and relaxed…..
My hips are quiet and relaxed……
My stomach is quiet and relaxed ……
My left hand is heavy and relaxed….
My left arm is heavy and relaxed…..
My left shoulder is heavy and relaxed….
My right hand is heavy and relaxed…..
My right arm is heavy and relaxed…..
My right shoulder is heavy and relaxed…..
My neck is heavy and relaxed……
My breathing is calm and regular…..
My face is smooth and relaxed……
My heartbeat is calm and regular…..
I am at peace….
There is nothing to bother and nothing to disturb me…..
I am quite and relaxed……