Do you sleep well every night? Do you immediately fall asleep as soon as you hit the bed? Or are you awake the whole night as if waiting for the sun to rise, tossing and turning endlessly?
If somehow you manage to sleep, how many hours is it? Do you often wake up in the middle of the night? Or do you wake up too early and unable to sleep again?
If you have trouble sleeping, you’re not alone. Studies have shown the one year prevalence for primary insomnia (or sleep disorder) is within 5 – 10% of the general population. And in 50 – 85% of affected individuals, sleep problem is usually long-term.
Based on rat studies, long-term sleep deprivation (or inability to sleep) can result in death as an unavoidable outcome. Pretty scary!
What are some ways to help you get the necessary sleep you deserve?
Tip #1 Address medical issues. Do you have a medical problem that keeps you awake? Some people who can’t breath because of respiratory illnesses and those with persistent pain can’t fall or sustain sleep. Your family doctor should assess any medical problems affecting your sleep.
Tip # 2 Deal with your emotional or psychological problems. Do you suffer from psychological problems? Are you going through many stresses? Some people who suffer from clinical depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or nightmares can hardly sleep. Without addressing your emotional issues, no pill can help you sleep better. If you think that you have mental difficulties, consult your doctor right away. Alternatively, you should see a therapist or a counselor to help you deal with ongoing personal or family issues.
Tip # 3 Avoid caffeinated foods and beverages. Do you eat chocolates and drink coffee or tea before going to bed? Coffee and tea contain caffeine that can stimulate your brain and keep you alert even late at night. Chocolates and sodas have the same stimulating content. Avoid caffeine-rich foods and drinks.
Tip # 4 Avoid afternoon naps. Do you have regular naps after 3 or 4 PM that last at least 30 minutes? If so, this habit may be keeping you awake at night. Avoid naps even if you feel really sleepy. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule should help stabilize your sleep pattern.
Tip # 5 Use the bed only for sleeping and sex. Do you have many activities in the bedroom? Do you have TV or computer beside your bed? Keep any activities unrelated to sleep and sex away from your bedroom. Avoid any hobbies such as painting and singing in your sleep area. As well, keep your appliances in your family or living room.
Tip # 6 Avoid physical exercises before bedtime. Do you jog or walk 15 to 30 minutes before your sleep time? Do you jump rope, dance hip hop, or shadow box before 12 midnight, just before you plan to sleep? Any physical activity triggers the release of adrenaline that can keep you alert the whole night.
Tip # 7 Take stimulating medications in the morning and not before bedtime. Do you take medications that stimulate your brain and keep you alert? If you suffer from a medical condition that needs a stimulant, make sure that you take it in the morning.
Tip # 8 Avoid networking at night. Do you entertain friends who unexpectedly pay you a visit before your bedtime? Do you often receive late phone calls from family members or even telemarketers? There is time for socializing and networking. And the suitable time doesn’t include your bedtime.
Tip # 9 Do regular physical exercise and recreational activities during the day. Do you walk or run regularly? Do you lift weights and use treadmill immediately after work? Keep your strenuous activities during daytime. When evening comes, your body must be ready to rest.
Tip # 10 Maintain a regular sleep schedule. Do you sleep at different times at night? Do you sometimes retire at 9 PM and at other times at 1 AM or 4 AM? It’s always necessary to keep a regular schedule. Sleep at the same time every night so your body becomes used to it.
Dr. Michael G. Rayel — author, game inventor, and psychiatrist — has created the Oikos Game Series to promote emotional health and A 31-Day Series to help kids and teens. Since 2005, he has published Oikos’ Insights! www.oikosinsights.com as an online resource for personal development. Visit www.oikosglobal.com for more info. Also, he has offered psychiatry board review for ABPN II. Visit www.psychedu.com for details.