You can't sleep. You grumble at work, with your significant other, with your kids. You can hardly concentrate on the task at hand because you feel irritable and tired.
No matter if the problem is falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting up too early, the results are the same. You are unable to contribute to your world in the way you want and are capable of doing.
Scientists do not understand why humans need to sleep. But they all agree that we do need to sleep. How much depends largely on your age. Newborns and teenagers need the most sleep, the elderly less. Somewhere between 7 and 9 hours of restorative sleep at night seems best for most adults.
Sleep can be life sustaining for people with psychiatric and other medical problems. Maintaining a happy and even mood depends heavily on regular and good quality sleep. Losing sleep can trigger not only depressed moods, but also manic ones in people who are at risk for that. Lack of sleep makes healing of all kinds take longer. Most of us have experienced this phenomenon when our bodies are sick with a virus and drive us to stop everything and rest. And if we ignore those signals? Then we drag through those activities we feel we "must" do and take longer to recover from the illness.
What interferes with the chance of getting 7-9 hours of restorative sleep a night? Traditional things that interfere are stress, taking care of kids, laundry, cleaning, work, not to mention a snoring bed partner or a sick child. In modern life, add in caffeine, television and computer time at night.
How can we promote restful and restorative sleep? Our bodies want to get up when it is light out and wind down when it gets dark. Not many of us can or want to live like farmers without electricity. But we can help things along.
- Go to bed roughly the same time each night and wake up roughly the same time each morning. Staying up late on the weekends and then sleeping in create jet lag without the benefit of having travelled.
- Have a getting ready for bed routine. Changing out of work clothes, brushing teeth, reading and other evening rituals tell your body to wind down because bedtime is near.
- Make sure your bedroom is comfortable. How is your mattress? How is the temperature? The linens? Do you like your windows opened or closed? Do you like silence or ambient noise?
- Does you or your bed partner snore? If the answer is yes, please talk to your physician. There are non-invasive ways to help snorers sleep quietly and healthily thereby helping themselves and their bed partners sleep better.
- Do you use caffeine after mid-day? Caffeine after noon can interfere with the ability to sleep for some people.
- Do you use alcohol to help fall asleep? Alcohol can help people fall asleep, but inevitably awakens the person in the middle of the night after it wears off.
Take any questions about your sleep to your primary care physician so that you and your doctor can get you back to bed.