Not Getting Enough Sleep?

Sleep deprivation has measurable negative effects on performance and physical and mental health. If you haven't had a good night's sleep, you're likely to pay for it. The price may be high: Reduced energy, greater difficulty concentrating, diminished mood, and greater risk for accidents, including fall-asleep crashes. Work performance and relationships can suffer too. And pain may be intensified by the physical and mental consequences of lack of sleep.
Sleep needs vary. In general, most healthy adults need an average of eight hours of sleep a night. However, some individuals are able to function without sleepiness or drowsiness after as little as six hours of sleep. Others can't perform at their peak unless they've slept 10 hours. And, contrary to common myth, the need for sleep doesn't decline with age (although the ability to get it all at one time may be reduced).

So, how do you measure how much sleep you truly need?

If you have trouble staying alert during boring or monotonous situations when fatigue is often "unmasked" you probably aren't getting enough good-quality sleep. Other signs are a tendency to be unreasonably irritable with co-workers, family or friends, and difficulty concentrating or remembering facts.

What are the biggest sleep stealers?

Depression, anxiety, physical illness, including restless leg syndrome, caffeine intake, irregular schedules, drugs and medications (including alcohol and nicotine), and occasional or chronic pain.

Ten questions to ask yourself:
# Is your bedroom too hot or too cold?
# it too noisy or too bright?
# Is your bed comfortable?
# Are you experiencing any physical problems that may be related to your sleep problem, such as heartburn, menopausal hot flashes, arthritis, headache or back pain?
# Do you take any medications that may cause sleeping problems as a side effect?
# Do you consume caffeinated drinks in the afternoon or evening?
# Are you drinking alcohol before you go to bed?
# Do you exercise within three hours of going to bed?
# Are you napping during the day?
# Do you work in bed or just before going to bed?

If you've answered yes to any of the above questions, you may have found a reason for your sleeping troubles. Try changing your behavior and see if your sleep improves. If it doesn't, your doctor or sleep specialist may be able to help

So, what's the secret to good sleep?

If you are having a sleep problem or feel sleepy during the day, a visit with your doctor is the best first step. Your doctor will initially want to determine whether there are any underlying problems that are contributing to or causing your sleep problem.

In many cases, your doctor will be able to recommend lifestyle changes that can help promote sleep. Keep in mind that what works for some individuals may not work for others. So, your best bet is to find out what's effective for you and stick with it. In general, try to build into your schedule time for eight hours of sleep, and follow this routine as regularly as possible, even on the weekends.

Here are a few tips many people have found to be useful.

  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol in the late afternoon and evening. Caffeine and nicotine can delay your sleep, and alcohol may interrupt your sleep later in the night.
  • If you have trouble sleeping when you go to bed, don't nap during the day, since it affects your ability to sleep at night.
  • Exercise regularly, but do so at least three hours before bedtime. A workout after that time may actually keep you awake because your body has not had a chance to cool down.
  • Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine that will allow you to unwind and send a "signal" to your brain that it's time to sleep. Avoiding exposure to bright light before bedtime and taking a hot bath may help.
  • Don't use your bed for anything other than sleep or sex. Your bed should be associated with sleep.
  • Consider your sleep environment. Make it as pleasant, comfortable, dark and quiet as you can. If you can't go to sleep after 30 minutes, don't stay in bed tossing and turning. Get up and involve yourself in a relaxing activity, such as listening to soothing music or reading, until you feel sleepy.
  • Remember: Try to clear your mind; don't use this time to solve your daily problems.