March 2013 – Getting enough sleep
March 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Page updated: October 16, 2023
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