Sleep. Ahhh, that wonderful time of the night, when we close our eyes to rest our weary bodies and drift off to dreamland. Unfortunately, this may also become the time when too many people become frustrated, tossing and turning to go to sleep or stay asleep. By the morning we are sore, cranky, tired zombies.
What causes insomnia and what can we do about it? Studies estimate that one quarter to one third of all adults in the U.S. and Europe have insomnia, the inability to initiate or maintain sleep. Studies have also shown that the lack of sleep can more than double risk of death. Sleep deprivation can also be a risk factor in becoming obese, developing type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and depression and wreak havoc on your immune system, which makes you prone to other diseases, such as cancer.
Some other signs of sleep deprivation can include memory loss, an inability to concentrate, a change in appetite, becoming irritable and being fatigued. Some people just zone out while other be-come hyperactive with nervous tics or anxiety. Quality of life is impaired and their physical and mental dysfunction is the victim’s primary focus.
Sleep is an important phase of our daily activity because it allows our body and mind to rest. Our body re-energizes and our cells rejuvenate. Not only do we restore ourselves, but also during sleep we conserve energy and some say reprogram and file away our daily activates into the subconscious bank of our minds, which also helps to relieve stressors.
So what can cause insomnia? Pain, fatigue, stress, and simple things like getting up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, can affect the sleep process. Some say that most elderly people don’t get the sleep that they need. As we age, the rhythmic timing (our circadian cycle) may be out of sync and therefore sleep becomes impaired. Some adults may live stressful lives or work different shifts, new mothers may have babies on a different cycle, teens have busy lives, and the list goes on. Everyone is affected by insomnia.
So what can we do to insure a good night’s sleep? Some of these simple habits may work better than counting sheep.
1. Avoid large meals, excessive fluid intake, alcohol, caffeine and other stimulants at least two hours before bedtime. Carbohydrate rich foods are recommended if you need a light snack or wake up in the middle of the night. A dab of peanut butter on a cracker or cheese toast may also provide just a little protein.
2. Set up a regular schedule. Go to bed at a certain time and get up at a certain time. The more scheduled your body is, the faster it gets on a cycle.
3. Create a relaxing environment. Take a warm bath; listen to soothing music, read or whatever helps you relax. Your environment should be a comfortable temperature, quiet and in a dim light or darkness (light is a stimulant).
4. Practice relaxation techniques for those extra stressful days or the ‘busy mind’. Special CDs that have music, deep breathing techniques and muscle relaxation for stress reduction are available.
If you continue to have insomnia for long periods of time or experience other symptoms such as crawling sensations in your legs, difficulty breathing, snoring or daytime fatigue, you may need a physician to help you with medication and possible further testing.
In the meantime, “Good night, dear heart. Good night, good night.” Mark Twain.