You”re young and beautiful, you”re popular, and life is just one great party. In fact you”ve been partying practically every night since summer started, and it”s natural that you haven”t noticed how much sleep you”re NOT getting. Look at your eyes and skin. Are there any tell-tale signs of sleep deprivation? What”s your energy level like these days? Have you been moody lately?
Lack of sleep is not to be taken lightly. When we have organizations solely devoted to the subject of sleep – the National Sleep Foundation, for example – then that can only mean sleep is a BIG ISSUE. In fact, the number of accidents caused by sleepiness is cause for alarm and definitely the country”s “wake-up” call. The National Sleep Foundation said that sleepiness or fatigue is the main cause of at least 100,000 reported car crashes each year, killing more than 1,500 Americans and injuring another 71,000. In more than half of fall-asleep crashes, young drivers 25 or under are involved.
Many ideas have been tossed around about sleep and how many hours an individual needs for optimum health. Some are true, and some are myths. One such myth is that you can “cheat” on the amount of sleep you need. Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a day to be appropriately alert for day-to-day tasks”. If we”re habitually sleep deprived, we may have to deal with issues – like obesity, high blood pressure, negative behavior patterns – later in life.
Another myth: insomnia is defined by a difficulty in falling asleep. The National Sleep Foundation says that being unable to sleep is only one of four symptoms of insomnia, the other three being:
- waking up too early and not being able to fall back asleep
- frequent awakenings
- waking up feeling unrefreshed
When these symptoms linger for weeks and begin to disrupt daily living, then a visit to a doctor is advised, as these symptoms could suggest either a medical or serious psychological problem.
It may be okay to get into financial debt – there are school loans to pay, a car and house to finance, or a ring to purchase for your beloved – all these debts are normal and expected. But if, on top of your money debts you also have a sleep debt, you could be heading into a real disaster – like a road mishap or an injury from operating a machine.
To help you pay down your sleep debt, the Canadian Health Guide devised a “to avoid” list. As such, avoid the following:
- daytime naps
- heavy meals late in the evening
- arguing or working in bed (this confuses your brain”s association with the bed as being for sleep only)
- alcohol-based nightcaps
- caffeine (don”t forget that chocolate has TONS of caffeine!)
- smoking tobacco
- regular use of tranquilizers and sedatives.
In contrast, a “to do” list is also provided for fit-full sleep:
- adopting a good daily exercise routine (especially in the late afternoons/early evenings)
- using the bedroom only for sleep and sex (though not in that order or you may end up divorced…)
- ensuring sleep environment is quiet, dark and comfortable
- having a regular sleeping and waking up time to reinforce the body”s circadian rhythm.
Remember: sleep is a critical part of your overall health, and a big factor in determining your quality of life. If you experience the occasional bout of sleeplessness, don”t hit the panic button. But if things linger more than a night or two, talk to a healthcare professional. A small adjustment in your daily living could solve the problem long before a personal crisis – such as a car accident or workplace injury – could force you to seek the help that you need.