Is getting a good night’s sleep only for a select few? Are we all so over-stimulated, caffeinated and anxiety-ridden that it’s tougher and tougher to doze-off when it’s time to sleep?
The problem is real. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50 to 70 million U.S. adults suffer sleep or wakefulness disorders.
There’s a difference between the total time one is asleep and the total time in bed. For some, it’s a big difference and that’s why some smart folks at MUSC are constantly seeking answers. You might even say they’re dedicating every waking hour to that purpose.
Sleep is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. In some cases, we’re the enemy.
Look around your bedroom. How many of these items are present: TV, iPod, digital clock, treadmill, magazines, books, smartphone, computer, maybe even a pet? If most of those are in the bedroom, then there’s a real chance you’re not having many restful nights.
We’ve made our bedrooms our living rooms, dens, offices, kennels and exercise facilities. That’s part of our nation’s problem with its sleep deprivation.
We’re all in our bedrooms, we just don’t have time to sleep in them.
Dr. Thomas Uhde is chairman of the Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Department at MUSC. He’s extremely involved in studies that deal with sleep apnea, sleep paralysis and insomnia. Uhde even has studied something known as sleep misperception syndrome. This is somebody who thinks they’re not getting enough sleep, but they really are.
Dr. Uhde also believes while we all should get 7 to 9 hours of sleep, it’s not always the amount but rather the quality of sleep that makes us refreshed and energized to start the day.
But here’s the dilemma. If there are stressors and anxieties afflicting you while you’re awake, they’re likely to still be there when you try to sleep. His best advice is to replace those thoughts with neutral stimuli.
But he also suggests that reading be done somewhere besides a bed, because the body conditions itself to associate the bed with one activity and not the other.
The same could be said about the bed and watching TV.
I know I’ve oversimplified some important research and medical science that’s still being understood, but in terms of lifestyle: We’ve created our own problems.
Do’s and don’ts
So what works and what doesn’t for those who just want a good night’s rest? A recent study at Oxford says counting sheep doesn’t really accomplish much. It was determined that particular mental exercise was just too boring.
Here’s a suggestion: name a fruit for each letter in the alphabet. A for apple, B for blueberry, etc. Personal research indicates sleep often arrives before the letter G.
Making sure the bedroom is dark, cool and quiet is also more conducive to quality rest.
Other tips: don’t go to bed hungry or stuffed. Wine and cigarettes before bed are no-no’s because they’re both stimulants. And don’t exercise just before you put on the pajamas.
For most of us, a change in lifestyle might remedy some of our sleep-related issues. Losing weight, cutting back on the caffeine and putting Fido somewhere other than the foot of the bed might be good places to start.
If these adjustments don’t create better conditions both when you’re asleep and awake, then it’s time to get it checked out. There’s a chance your slight annoyance might be something more serious that deserves defined medical attention.
Take inventory of your own self-created impediments to a good night’s rest. There are answers available. If you can ... sleep on it.
Reach Warren Peper 937-5577 or firstname.lastname@example.org.