We live in a ‘Can’t Sleep Society’ – but there are solutions out there.

Why are so many people having trouble getting a good night’s sleep? Well perhaps you only have to count up the number of ways that contribute to this huge, ever-growing problem:

  • We are over-caffeinated (coffee, soft drinks, energy drinks, and snacks) and we are over-medicated (prescription and over-the-counter drugs, including all alcohol), and this is wreaking havoc with our regular slumber patterns.
  • We are over-wired (video games, Web browsing, social media, texting) and overstressed (money, work, relationships, overloaded schedules), all things that are making us too restless to doze off when we should.
  • We are overworked (longer hours, night shifts that are incompatible with our biological clocks) and overweight (perhaps this is a chicken-or-egg situation as studies have found that one leads very much to the other).

On top of all this so many people seem to have such intense social pressures in their lives.

We seem recently to have raised sleep deprivation almost to the level of a badge of honour. Late nights, early mornings – we’ve got to the stage where we’re actually boasting about it.

The effects of all this however might outnumber the causes, and they are hardly as benign as many of us might think them to be. It has been clearly proved that any degree of sleep deprivation will seriously impair our performance levels – whether it’s behind the wheel of a vehicle, in the classroom or in the workplace. A leading Sleep Scientist stated only this week that the major incidents such as the Bhopal Disaster, Challenger, Exxon Valdez and Three Mile Island  “are all officially attributed to problems from sleep deprivation. But the biggest risk of sleep deprivation by far is car crashes.”

On the basis of this, there’s no real wonder that we are seeing such a dramatic growth in both private and state-run sleep centres and clinics, not just here in the UK, but everywhere.

We need to remember that most normal adults need to have from seven to nine hours of sleep every single night to function properly and most of the insomnia victims amongst us have trouble falling or staying asleep even in a setting which has adequate conditions for sleep. This sleep deprivation is mostly caused by behavioral or situational factors that curtail the ability to get enough sleep time for us.

Remember this simple fact.

Anyone who uses an alarm clock is by definition sleep-deprived because if the brain had got the amount of sleep it wanted, you would have woken up before the alarm went off.

Some of the worrying effects of lack of sleep on our health

  • With sleep deprivation, some glucose metabolism problems can lead on to diabetes, and if it does, a consequence of this could sometimes be heart disease and stroke.
  • With insomnia, there is no evidence of long-term physical problems or links to other diseases. But insomnia results in a much poorer quality of life and regular work absences and it can lead to depression.
  • With sleep apnea there is evidence emerging that it can also lead to hypertension, heart problems and a higher risk of strokes.

What are the solutions?

Good sleep ‘hygiene’ can improve or even resolve insomnia. Avoid late eating and drinking, keep the bedroom cool and dark and try to ‘chill out’ before bedtime. You’re setting the scene for a better night’s sleep with all the right conditions.

Sensible naps at the right time can help – particularly ‘power naps’ of 30 minutes or less, when you’re finding that you just can’t stay awake, or even when you’re heading out for one of those late-night events. Many business executives take a power nap at lunchtime.

Make sure to see your doctor if you’ve had difficulty in falling and staying asleep and this problem lasts for more than a week. Or if you snore, causing you to wake up frequently and then feel sleepy during the day, cut out or reduce the snoring problem by using a medically recommended mouthpiece, such as sleepPro, that will help your breathing when you sleep and contribute to a great night’s sleep.

Finally anyone with the more serious sleep apnea symptoms should seek some medical advice as soon as possible. Talk to your GP who’ll be glad to advise you about the problem.

By John Redfern

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