What is better than sex, and yet one third of Americans are not able to get enough of it?
Hint: Put your wallets away, because you can’t buy it! You can’t charm your way into it. No sense of entitlement will earn it for you. The only way to achieve it is to put in the work required to achieve this much sought after, American Dream.
Nearly a third of all Americans get less sleep than the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep a day. The reasons given for this lack of sleep are many. They range from busy lifestyles to sleeping disorders. Could it be that Americans are taking sleep for granted? Or is this an unavoidable problem, a true epidemic, that is continuing to sweep the nation as the numbers of those affected by sleep deprivation continues to rise?
Many studies are showing that young adults and parents of children under 18 are among the more sleep deprived groups, while senior citizens tend to be well-rested. Perhaps lifestyle is the culprit for this lack of sleep among Americans. Studies have shown that among the working class, those working nights, achieve less sleep on average than those that work during the day time. College aged students and young adults are among the group most sleep deprived.
Other major causes of sleep deprivation are sleeping disorders. Insomnia, Restless Leg Syndrome, Sleep Apnea, REM Sleep Disorder, Night Terrors, Sleep Walking, etc., etc. The list goes on.
Another sleep depriver that deserves an honorable mention is PTSD / Anxiety. Some people who suffer with sleeping problems and anxiety have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. PTSD is a mental health condition caused by a traumatic and/or extremely stressful event. Symptoms include, but are not limited to flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks, and uncontrollable thoughts about the event. It is not uncommon for PTSD sufferers to experience problems with sleep on occasion, or to have interruptions with regular sleeping patterns.
Sleep deprivation can lead to higher risk of chronic health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, diabetes, and stroke. Sleep also plays a critical role in thinking and learning. Lack of sleep negatively affects cognitive processes, as it impairs attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem solving. Lack of sleep has also been said to increase in hunger and appetite, leading to weight gains. Lastly, but certainly not least, lack of sleep has been cited for inhibiting sex drive. Lack of energy, sleepiness, and increased tension may be largely to blame.
Now for the good news! There is help. A good sleep hygiene regimen can help with sleep deprivation and those high risk chronic health problems! While getting enough sleep may seem next to impossible now, you have more control over it than you may think. Below is a sleep hygiene regimen that will have you sleeping in no time.
1. Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol, Nicotine, energy drinks, vitamin supplements and any other Chemicals that interfere with sleep.
Caffeinated products decrease quality of sleep because they are stimulants that can keep you awake. Avoid caffeine (found in coffee, tea, chocolate, cola, and some pain relievers) for at least four hours before bedtime, depending on your sensitivity to caffeine. If you are very sensitive, you may need to stop consuming caffeine as early as 8 hours before bedtime.
Smokers should refrain from using tobacco products as far out from bedtime as possible, but at least an hour.
Similarly, alcohol should also be avoided as far out from bedtime as possible, also. It may help bring on sleep, however, after a few hours it acts as a stimulant, interrupting sleep and therefore decreasing the quality of sleep. It is best to limit alcohol consumption and to avoid drinking within three hours of bedtime.
2. If you want to improve your sleep, taking a hot bath at night is key. The trick is to not take your bath right before bedtime, but rather to take it well before bedtime to allow your body time to relax. The body temperature plays an important part in regulating circadian rhythm, which tells the body when to feel sleepy. Raising the body’s temperature and then allowing it to fall is what lets the body know it’s time to go to sleep. Bathing earlier in the evening gives your body a chance to cool off and prepare for sleep.
3. Any fragrance that makes you happy is capable of promoting sleep. When you smell something that bring back a good memory or makes you feel good, your body releases feel-good, relaxing chemicals, called endorphins, that can set the stage for great sleep. Once you’ve found your sleep-enhancing scent, bring it into your bedroom, living room, or any room that you are likely to spend time in. Some of the most popular sleep inducing fragrances are:
- Lavender, perhaps the most well know sleep inducing fragrance, is considered a calming fragrance and has been used to lessen anxiety and agitation. It relaxes the body and mind, helping you sleep better
- Vanilla is famous for being a potent relaxer.
- Valerian is a pungent smelling herb which boasts anxiety-reducing effects properties, thereby helping you to sleep better.
- Jasmine is a sweet-smelling flower that projects a fragrance that induces sleep. Surprisingly, its effects were even more powerful than those of lavender!
4. Relaxation techniques can help to reduce both emotional and physical stress, as well as the worry or stressful thoughts that can accompany them. When you learn to relax your breathing and reduce your muscle tension, your mind will relax. If your mind is relaxed, void of stressful thoughts and worry, your body will relax as well. Below are 5 types of relaxation exercises that you can use to achieve relaxation leading to sleep:
- Deep Breathing: When stressed, it is common for our rate of breathing to increase and our breathing to become shallow. A deep breathing exercise allows for fuller, slower breaths that reflect a true relaxed state.
- Visualization/Imagery: IS the act of using imagery to fully immerse ourselves in a pleasant scene, noticing the sights, sounds, smells, and palpable sensations.
- Meditation: Meditation, simply put, is exercises for the mind. Meditation exists in many forms. The ultimate goal of all types of meditation is a quiet and peaceful mind that allows you to drift off into dream land without complication.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Involves sequentially tensing and relaxing the large skeletal muscle groups. Muscle relaxation can be achieved by tensioning and releasing those muscle groups that are prone to carrying tension.
5. When bed time arrives, make sure your room is dark and cool. Turn off all electronics, exception being a sound machine or perhaps very soft music set on a low volume. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule helps to ensure better quality and consistent sleep. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day sets the body’s “internal clock” to expect sleep at a certain time night after night. Maintain this schedule even on days off.
Of course, some of these tips will be easier to include in your daily and nightly routine than others. However, if you focus on them and put them into practice daily, you will find them to be a habit before you know it and your sleep greatly improved! Dare I say, even restful! Even so, unfortunately, not all sleep problems are as easily conquered. If these tips for good sleep hygiene do not help you experience more restful sleep, this may be an indication that your sleep problems are more severe and may require medical assistance, as you may have a sleeping disorder. Teaming up with your physician or a sleep specialist may be of more assistance to you.
-Lisa Addison C.P.C.