According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic and 50-70 million Americans have sleeping impairment. There are nearly 100 identified sleep/wake disorders.
One of them is insomnia, which can be defined as the inability to fall asleep, remain asleep, or get the amount of sleep an individual needs to wake up feeling rested. Its symptoms include difficulty falling asleep, frequent wake-ups during the night, waking up too early in the morning, daytime sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, and irritability.
Insomnia can be acute (lasting one to several nights) or chronic (lasting from a month to years). It may be a result of a deeper condition like depression, anxiety, stress and chronic pain. You can sometimes fuel your anxiety by clock watching and worrying that you are not going to be able to sleep.
Lack of sleep can lead to many chronic disorders including diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, obesity and cancer. Also related to sleep disorders are decreased concentration and poor work performance.
Approximately 1500 fatalities and 40,000 non-lethal car accidents can be related to drowsy driving. Sleep is just as important as diet and exercise for optimal health.
How much sleep is enough? Recommended amount of sleep for newborns: 16–18 hours a day; for preschool-aged children: 11–12 hours a day; for school-aged children: at least 10 hours a day; for teens: eight–10 hours a day; for adults (including the elderly): seven-nine hours a day.
One in 10 of us is an up-at-the-crack-of-dawn early bird, also called a “lark.” About two in 10 are “owls,” those who hit their stride late in the day and who enjoy staying up long past midnight. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle.
Whether you are an early bird or night owl is based on your internal biological clock, which may be influenced by genetics. The amount of sleep we need varies widely across the lifespan.
There are a number of things you can do which may improve your sleep.
Avoid caffeine and exercise at least four hours before you plan to sleep.
Use your bed only for sleeping, not for watching television, answering emails, or paying bills.
You should have a routine and go to bed and get up at the same time every night.
A cool dark room with a comfortable mattress and pillow allow for deep sleep. Naps are not recommended, but if you must, sleep for only 10-20 minutes.
Avoid eating large meals or sugary snacks just prior to bedtime.
Just before bedtime is not a time to begin emotional discussions; it is a time for relaxation.
Sleep is a way for our bodies to replenish and recharge spiritually. Everyone has a night of sleeplessness occasionally, but if your sleep disturbance lasts more than a few weeks, keep track of when and how much you sleep and see your primary care provider.
Deirdre Annice Golden, Ph.D., LP, is director of Behavioral Health for NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center Behavioral Health Clinic, 1313 Penn Ave. N. She welcomes reader responses to Deirdre.Golden@co.hennepin.mn.us, or call 612-543-2705.