The ancients believed sleep was a trip to another world. Early psychologists found it to be an opening to the subconscious. Physicians, then and now, know it to be a daily rejuvenation of body and mind. We know we need it, and when we miss sleep we feel it all day long. Still, many people frequently skip sleep because they have hectic schedules, are so worried they wake up in the middle of the night, and place priority on other activities.
R. Morgan Griffin, of WebMD, explains that not getting the right amount of sleep affects "your health, your mood, your weight, and even your sex life." Not getting a full night of sleep over long periods is linked to heart problems, obesity and diabetes. Moreover, according to the article, a good night's sleep helps with overall health and lessens the risk of accidents.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' statistics show that poor sleep patterns affect 25 percent of adults. Losing sleep about every other night is too much; it causes health problems and makes individuals accident prone. Sleep disorders that remain untreated adversely affect "quality of life" and contribute to poor general health, even an "increased risk of death from any cause."
Research at the Harvard Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine finds that sleep has an important role for "immune function, metabolism, memory, learning, and other vital functions." Science has yet to fully understand why we sleep, but we're sure lack of sleep causes poor memory and learning problems. Sound decision-making becomes difficult and makes individuals accident-prone.
There is general agreement on what it takes to get a good night's sleep. Going to bed and waking at regular times keeps the body's clock synchronized; you fall asleep more easily and your sleep is more restorative. The bedroom environment needs to be as quiet as possible. Many people are in the bad habit of thinking that noise from a radio or television aids sleep. While it may help you fall asleep initially, the mind is distracted subliminally by the continual noise. Also, a low temperatue will keep your bed more comfortable, and of course low lights are a must.
It's unavoidable that daily activities come with some stress and anxiety, so decompressing before sleep creates a much needed transition. A nightly routine that slowly tones down activity can help you sleep soundly through the night.
You can also prepare yourself for better sleep during the day by getting adequate physical activity, which contributes to well-being and stages the body for rest. The body is on a 24-hour cycle and naps can interfere, leading to restless nights. In addition, avoid late night meals and allow a few hours for digestion. Furthermore, cigarettes and too much alcohol always disrupt sleep.
Unfortunately for some, a disorder is at the root of missing needed sleep. Sleep disorders can be physical or psychological, often both. Serious problems falling and staying asleep, problems staying awake during the day, unusual behavior during sleep and oversleeping are all indications it's time to seek professional help. Insomnia, acid reflux and sleep apnea are common sleep disorders, but with over 100 possible conditions it's best to not self-diagnose.
When an occasional night of tossing-and-turning ruins a night's sleep there is no need to worry. It is clear that a bad night's sleep is problematic, but a pattern of losing sleep puts good health at risk. Long-term sleep disorders cause serious health problems and unnecessary emotional distress. When what should be a sensible approach does not work, it's time to take a step back and evaluate how sleep is affecting your waking hours and health.
Web MD – Reasons to Sleep More
Department of Health and Human Services
Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School
National Sleep Foundation
U.S. National Library of Medicine
Wikipedia – Sleep Disorders
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America
About the Author:
Iris Stone has worked as a freelance writer since 2011. Her writing has included content on medicine, healthcare, and education, although her interests are wide and varied. Prior to breaking into the freelance biz, Iris worked in sales for a health company and prior to that as an assistant in a chiropractic office. She is currently attending George Mason University and is majoring in Political Science. Check out her Google+ profile.