Difficulty Sleeping: Is Counting Sheep Not Enough for You?

So you’ve already counted one too many sheep? Well, you are definitely not alone! The National Sleep Foundation claims that 76% of Americans have sleep difficulties, and that’s just in the US. If we look at the statistics of our sleep deprived world we would be even more exhausted.

If you are one of those who suffer from sleep deprivation, you must know that chronic sleep deficits have detrimental effects on your ability to remain alert and attentive. This may lead to cumulative effects on performance that could become a safety risk.

helpmesleep Effects of Sleeplessness:

According to Daniel Cohen, a neurologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, an average person needs about eight hours of sleep nightly to perform well on their daily tasks. He further explained that when a person gets only four to seven hours of sleep per night, this is called chronic sleep loss whereas acute sleep loss is when a person is awake for more than 24 hours in a row.

Results of a study showed that there are two ways wherein people are affected by sleep loss. The effect may either build over the number of hours spent awake or build over day, or even weeks of getting too little sleep.

If you are among those who suffer from sleep deprivation, getting one night of good sleep won’t make up for the deficit. Cohen who studied sleep and published it in the journal Science Translational Medicine added, “We can falsely feel like we’ve recovered quickly from chronic sleep loss because recent sleep makes us feel relatively restored early the next day… It’s when they stay up and try to pull an all nighter that they are much more vulnerable to sudden sleepiness, inattentiveness, and potentially accidents and errors.”

Insomnia that ranges from trouble falling asleep to difficulty waking is usually combated by taking sleep medications, but some of these sleeping pills have been shown to cause cancer in animals and may also shorten your lifespan.

Science of sleep is discovering alternatives to these drugs. Dr. Rubin Naiman of the University of Arizona’s Center for Integrative Medicine suggests that it is our too much exposure to light from electricity and to the hectic nature of our modern lives is the major cause of our sleeplessness. Light upsets our natural circadian rhythms, which in turn controls our sleep-wake cycle. Our natural body rhythms react to dimming twilight, then a dark night. Through electricity, we get to delay our nights but the brightness it brings disturbs the melatonin levels and the circadian rhythms responsible for sleep. Thus, if you want to improve your natural ability to sleep, Naiman suggests creating a twilight stat for at least an hour before sleep. That means you have to dim all the lights, turn off the television, and let your body wind down.

Other ways of improving your natural ability to sleep includes meditation or prayer and other quieting activities before bed can help in relaxing the body into sleep. And, calcium in food like warm milk, theanine and GABA may help increase sleep. Tea may also induce sleep, you can try chamomile and valerian tea. In the olden days, they also used a type of hydrotherapy to treat sleeplessness. Just soak your feet in the coldest water you can for 15-30 minutes before bedtime. This works because it draws the blood to your feet and quiets your mind.

So, there you have it, may you have a good night, without having to count all those sheep.