Sleep…Is It Really All that It’s Cracked Up To Be?
Sleep. Now there’s a word that many people working today wish they had more of. If you’re one such person who wishes they had more time to sleep (I’m raising my hand here too), then know that you’re part of a growing group that believes they just have to deal with not getting enough sleep. With the ever increasing complexity of people’s lives over the last few decades, it may appear that we are just doomed to putting up with feeling a little tired all the time. But how true is that? Do we really have to deal with not getting the amount of sleep that we need? Can we really learn to function on less sleep than we may actually need? How much sleep is enough? Is how sleepy we feel a good judge of whether or not we are getting enough sleep?
You Can’t Handle the Truth! (Jack Nicolson as Col. Jessup in “A Few Good Men”)
How do we know if we are getting the minimum amount of sleep in order to function? According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), the following are signs that you are definitely not getting enough sleep:
- You have a hard time paying attention during meetings.
- You feel tired and lack energy during the day.
- You are unmotivated and have trouble “getting going.”
- You need to use an alarm clock to wake up on time in the morning.
- You are irritable, grumpy or lose your temper easily.
- You start to doze off when you are driving a car. (DANGEROUS!!!)
A poll conducted in 2005 by the National Sleep Foundation showed Americans averaged about 6.9 hours of sleep per night. This represents a drop of about two hours per night since the 19th century, one hour per night over the past 50 years, roughly 15 to 25 minutes per night since 2001. In another study done at the University of Pennsylvania, investigators found that subjects who slept four to six hours a night for fourteen consecutive nights showed significant deficits in cognitive performance equivalent to going without sleep for up to three days in a row.
How would you like to go to work (or lead a group, or attend a business and/or social function for that matter) on the equivalent of not having gone to sleep for two or three days!?!
So What Can We Do?
The world we live in is an exciting and wonderful place to be. The means of communication, travel, the sharing of ideas and images has never been as easy and readily available as it is today. Because of this, it’s also a very fast and complex world that demands more and more of our time and energy. In order to function well we all need to rest well.
Sleep hygiene is defined as “the controlling of all behavioral and environmental factors that precede sleep and may interfere with sleep.” It’s the practice of following guidelines in an attempt to ensure more restful, effective sleep which can promote daytime alertness and help treat or avoid certain kinds of sleep disorders. Trouble sleeping and daytime sleepiness can be indications of poor sleep hygiene (Wikipedia).
Below are some excellent tips (provided by AASM) for getting a better night’s rest:
- Don’t go to bed unless you are sleepy.
If you are not sleepy at bedtime, then do something else. Read a book, listen to soft music or browse through a magazine. Find something relaxing, but not stimulating, to take your mind off of worries about sleep. This will relax your body and distract your mind.
- If you are not asleep after 20 minutes, then get out of the bed.
Find something else to do that will make you feel relaxed. If you can, do this in another room. Your bedroom should be where you go to sleep. It is not a place to go when you are bored. Once you feel sleepy again, go back to bed.
- Begin rituals that help you relax each night before bed.
This can include such things as a warm bath, light snack or a few minutes of reading.
- Get up at the same time every morning.
Do this even on weekends and holidays.
- Get a full night’s sleep on a regular basis.
Get enough sleep so that you feel well-rested nearly every day.
- Avoid taking naps if you can.
If you must take a nap, try to keep it short (less than one hour). Never take a nap after 3 p.m.
- Keep a regular schedule.
Regular times for meals, medications, chores, and other activities help keep the inner body clock running smoothly.
- Don’t read, write, eat, watch TV, talk on the phone, or play cards in bed.
- Do not have any caffeine after lunch.
- Do not have a beer, a glass of wine, or any other alcohol within six hours of your bedtime.
- Do not have a cigarette or any other source of nicotine before bedtime.
- Do not go to bed hungry, but don’t eat a big meal near bedtime either.
- Avoid any tough exercise within six hours of your bedtime.
You should exercise on a regular basis, but do it earlier in the day. (Talk to your doctor before you begin an exercise program.)
- Avoid sleeping pills, or use them cautiously.
Most doctors do not prescribe sleeping pills for periods of more than three weeks. Do not drink alcohol while taking sleeping pills.
- Try to get rid of or deal with things that make you worry.
If you are unable to do this, then find a time during the day to get all of your worries out of your system. Your bed is a place to rest, not a place to worry.
- Make your bedroom quiet, dark, and a little bit cool.
An easy way to remember this: it should remind you of a cave. While this may not sound romantic, it seems to work for bats. Bats are champion sleepers. They get about 16 hours of sleep each day. Maybe it’s because they sleep in dark, cool caves.
What are some ways you relax at the end of the day (let’s keep it clean here. This is a family friendly blog 😎 )?
What are your thoughts on how much sleep we are or aren’t getting today?