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spike bullet March 2013 – Getting enough sleep

What happens when we sleep?
What causes lack of sleep?
What can we do?
Staying healthy
Tips for getting a good night's sleep
Resources (links, books, articles, the lighter side)
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color bulletMarch 2013 – Getting enough sleep

Many studies around the world have shown that a large number of people do not get enough sleep.  The impact of getting less sleep than you need can be mild or can be dangerous to your overall physical, mental and emotional health.

People who are constantly tired have less patience for the day-to-day stresses of the workplace and the day-to-day stresses of their personal life. Feeling tired can contribute to accidents and injuries as well. On-the-job accidents using machinery or tools or falling off a ladder are much more common for people who are tired than those who are well-rested. Making mistakes in written reports, forgetting important meetings or deadlines are also more common for people who are tired.

Our mood is also affected by being tired.  People are more impatient, less kind and less gentle with others when they are tired.

Our ability to make decisions is deeply affected by how well rested we are.  We are much more likely to make mistakes when we are tired.

What happens when we sleep?

While we sleep, our physical body rests from the daily stresses of living in a physical world.  Our mind and emotions also rest when we sleep well.

When we don’t have sufficient sleep, our body cannot do what it needs to do to restore itself.

What causes lack of sleep?

Even if we go to bed at a reasonable time, there may be disruptions during the night — physical, mental or emotional — that cause us to wake up or keep us from going back to sleep right away.

If we have issues swirling around in our mind, we may not be able to relax enough to sleep properly.  If we are thinking about issues from the past, we may not be able to relax enough to sleep properly.  If we are worrying about things that need our attention, we may not be able to relax enough to sleep properly.

There may be too much noise or light in our environment.  We may have outside traffic noises, neighborhood noise or a partner who snores.  We may have streetlights shining in our window or other light that cannot be controlled.  

We may have a mattress that is not right for what we need to be comfortable or we may have a pillow that is not right for us.  The temperature may be too warm or not warm enough.  We may need fresh air or circulating air in order to sleep.  

These are just a few of the many reasons that sleep might elude us. 

What can we do?

If we wake up during the night and have trouble going back to sleep, we can get up and move around.  Sometimes, that is enough to get our body aligned with our thoughts and our feelings.

We might take a few minutes to write down what is bothering us, or work on something that is on our mind. Often, that will relieve some of the pressure and we can go back to sleep knowing that we have dome something about that issue.

We can mentally put the issue that is weighing on our mind in a file cabinet and know that it will be safe until we are awake and can work on it properly.

If we are hungry or thirsty, we can provide our body with appropriate nourishment.  Disorders such as diabetes or hypoglycemia may be interrupting our sleep.  We may have other physical issues that interrupt our sleep, such as under-active or over-active thyroid.

We can shift our mind from worry and fearful thoughts, to calm and loving feelings.  

Staying healthy

Benjamin Franklin advised, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”   That advice is still good more than 300 years later.  

Most resources reviewed for this article recommend at least 7-8 hours per night for adults.  One of the surveys mentioned in the resource section noted that the average 'score' for people who took the World Sleep Study survey was 6.4 (out of 10) - clearly not the optimum.  

Seeing a family doctor once a year at least for an overall physical is an important part of maintaining overall health.  Routine tests can rule out many health issues and can identify physical imbalances that can be corrected through diet, exercise, stress-reduction exercises and occasionally, through medicines.

Getting enough exercise is very important for the body.  We need to exercise in some form at least 2-3 times a week, preferably more. This can be very hard to do for those who have high-pressure jobs or who have family demands that take more time than is available.

Computers, cell phones, televisions and other electronic devices have made our life much easier in so many ways and they can become a big distraction if we feel chained to a lifestyle that demands that we be ‘on call’ at every moment, and must keep up with the latest news in the world.

Life is about making choices every day.  The choices we make today to keep our body healthy will pay tremendous dividends later in life.

Tips for getting a good night’s sleepBaby sleeping - public domain graphic from Library of Congress

  1. Learn more about your own needs for sleep.  There are quite a few resources online listed below for learning more.
  2. Consciously learn what works for you to keep you feeling awake and alert all day.
  3. Set a regular bedtime routine. 
  4. Start relaxing 60-90 minutes before your bedtime.  Do something you enjoy – cuddle with your partner, play with your children, read a book, relax in a warm tub or play games.  Do whatever is relaxing for you that helps you unwind and let go of the busy-ness of the day.  Don’t watch the 10 o’clock news (or any nightly news) right before going to bed as it will stay with you while you are trying to sleep.
  5. If something is bothering you, write it down before you go to bed and know that you can work on it in the morning. 
  6. Take short "power naps" if needed (10 minutes). Take longer naps if you need them.
  7. Meditate daily in the morning before you start your day.  Meditation helps to relax your mind and the effect lasts for several hours.  Even a few minutes daily can make a big difference.
  8. Put your children to bed at a reasonable time and help them learn good sleep habits.
  9. Make sure you have a healthy, well-balanced diet. 
  10. Learn what your body, your mind and your emotions need in order to relax.
  11. Make your sleeping arrangements as comfortable as can be for your own needs with a good pillow, a bed of the right type for you, blankets or temperature as needed for your best comfort.  

National Sleep Awareness Week is March 3-10, 2013.  Take some time to look at your sleep habits and make changes where appropriate to improve your own health and well-being.    

  Internet Resources 

book graphic  Books   -  Disclosure: We get a small commission for purchases made via links to Amazon.

  • The Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night's SleepLawrence Epstein, Steven Mardon.  Mcgraw-Hill, 2006. ISBN 978-0071467438
  • The Effortless Sleep Method: The Incredible New Cure for Insomnia and Chronic Sleep Problems. Sasha Stephens. CreateSpace, 2011.  ISBN 978-1456492540
  • Sleep, Interrupted: A physician reveals the #1 reason why so many of us are sick and tired. Steven Y. Park MD.  Jodev Press, 2012.  ISBN 978-0980236736
  • Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep. David K. Randall.  W.W. Norton & company, 2012.  ISBN  978-0393080209
  • The Promise of Sleep: A Pioneer in Sleep Medicine Explores the Vital Connection Between Health, Happiness, and a Good Night's Sleep.  William C. Dement, Christopher Vaughan.   Dell Publishing, 2000.  ISBN 978-0440509011
  • Sleep: A Groundbreaking Guide to the Mysteries, the Problems, and the Solutions. Carlos H. Schenck.  Avery Trade, 2008.  ISBN 978-1583333013
  • Sleep, It Does a Family Good: How Busy Families Can Overcome Sleep Deprivation. Archibald D. Hart.  Tyndale House, 2010.  ISBN 978-1589976092
  • Income Without a Job: Living Well Without a Paycheck.  Michael Jay Anthony, Barbara J. Taylor., 2008  ISBN-13: 978-0-557-00377-8.  Website:  Tap into your own creativity and use  your full potential.  Learn how to see opportunities that others miss.   

world wide web - articles  Articles

Related newsletter articles:
    November 2009 - Healthy and Safe Workplaces
    September 2004 - Stress Busters: Managing Stress in the Workplace
    April 2004 - Workplace Fitness
    July 2001 - Balancing Life and Work
    July 2008 - Revitalizing Your Energy Levels
    September 1997 - Balancing Life and Work
    Daily Centering or Meditation Exercise

smiley graphic  The Lighter Side  

  • Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.   — Benjamin Franklin
  • Sleep is the best meditation Dalai Lama
  • If you can't sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there worrying.  It's the worry that gets you, not the lack of sleep.  — Dale Carnegie
  • No day is so bad it can't be fixed with a nap. —  Carrie Snow
  • A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book. — Irish Proverb
  • I find out a lot about myself by sleeping.  Dreams, they are who I am when I’m too tired to be me.”  — Jarod Kintz
  • Man should forget his anger before he lies down to sleep.  Mahatma Gandhi
  • It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.  John Steinbeck
  • May sleep envelop you as a bed sheet floating gently down, tickling your skin and removing every worry.  Reminding you to consider only this moment.  — Jeb Dickerson
  • A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow.  — Charlotte Brontë
  • Without enough sleep, we all become tall two-year-olds.  — JoJo Jensen
  • Now, blessings light on him that first invented sleep!  It covers a man all over, thoughts and all, like a cloak; it is meat for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, heat for the cold, and cold for the hot.  It is the current coin that purchases all the pleasures of the world cheap, and the balance that sets the king and the shepherd, the fool and the wise man, even.  — Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, 1605

About our resource links:  We do not endorse or agree with all the beliefs in these links.   We do keep an open mind about different viewpoints and respect the ability of our readers to decide for themselves what is useful.

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