Sleeplessness affects over one-third of the world’s population, more so for individuals with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. It can also affect anyone — including you. The best thing to do is to deal with its early symptoms effectively, before they begin to affect us badly.
Sleep is best defined as “a non-waking state of consciousness,” characterized by general unresponsiveness to the environment and general physical immobility. It is essentially a primitive state — a relaxed state that promotes rest.
A natural “shock-absorber” of the many hassles of life, sleep is also a fundamental requirement — for relaxation. It is suggested that the mechanism of sleep may partly be biological in nature, with behavioral and cultural factors predominating its overall response. However, sleep, in simple terms, is the general repose of the body. It is nature’s one big gift — an endowment that facilitates physical and mindful respite, thanks to chemical stimulation in the brain and nerve centers, in conjunction with the involvement of the muscles.
Lack of sleep, or sleeplessness, is a distress signal. It is an open invitation to physical and emotional illnesses.
An insomniac is a person who suffers from sleeplessness. He or she may fall into any one, or all, of the three categories of sleeplessness:
- When it takes more than 30 minutes to fall asleep
- When the sleep is disturbed
- When you wake up in the wee hours of the morning and feel unrefreshed.
The last mentioned is the most significant component in the triad.
Problems of sleep loss
Sleep loss has shown a transitory letdown in performing tasks — both simple and complex. Severe sleep loss is evidenced to lead to major letdowns, including behavioral affections, among other problems.
Today, sleep difficulties and excessive daytime sleepiness are considered major public health problems. This is not all. Sleep problems are being associated with decreased work productivity, increased missed days at the workplace, and amplified risk of accidents. Research has also shown that relative to normal persons, insomniacs have more problems with short-term memory and a greater loss of cognitive and motor skills, or performance.
In addition to this, sleep apnea (sudden, momentary stoppage of breath during sleep) may affect up to 5-6 percent of the adult population — especially people who snore a great deal.
The quality of sleep, though variable, is clearly based on individual requirements and age. Nevertheless, we all need a good “doze” of sleep — whatever our personal needs.
Small steps, big benefits
- Maintain regular sleep and wake-up time
- Avoid excessive time in bed
- Avoid naps, except when working in shifts
- Use your bed only for sleeping and sex
- Avoid nicotine, caffeine and alcohol
- Exercise regularly, early in the day
- Do something relaxing before bedtime.
In addition, try not to look at the clock often. Try also to eat a light, filling snack, an hour or two before bedtime.
Other things to do:
- Go to bed only when sleepy
- If you’re unable to fall asleep within 15-20 minutes, move to another room
- Return to bed only when you feel sleepy
- Stick to a regular awakening time, even during weekends
- Avoid napping at the “drop” of a sleepy thought.
If your sleep problems do not respond to simple measures, as outlined above, you’d need to think aloud and explore treatment options with your natural wellness physician, or therapist, promptly. You will not only get your sleep rhythm back, but you will also feel vibrant and refreshed, sooner than you’d say… “i-n-s-o-m-n-i-a.”