Lack of sleep, either done willingly or through insomnia, affects people's memory, concentration, physical performance, even the performance of the immune system. People are more likely to feel stressed and are more accident-prone if they are sleep deprived. During the Christmas party season and at other times it is important to get enough sleep. This articles looks at some tactics and strategies that may help you get a good night's sleep.
A recent survey of 1500 people in Australian found most were missing out on about one hour or sleep a day by only sleeping for seven hours rather than the recommended average of eight hours. The worst sleepers were those in their later teens or early twenties (18-24 year-olds). More than a third of those interviewed reported that they woke several times throughout the night.
Why do people struggle to get a full night's sleep?
All of these disturb your sleep and the effects of these and many other sleep disturbers can accumulate. many people do not suffer from chronic insomnia - they do it to themselves by inappropriate behaviour.
Even during the eight hours of recommended sleep we seldom sleep right through the entire period. Research has shown that when people go to sleep, the first hour is usually very deep sleep. However after about 90 minutes there is a period of much lighter sleep This is characterised by rapid eye movements or dreaming for a short period of time before we return to deep sleep again.
Often we wake up for a short time during these periods of light sleep. It is normal for most people to wake up briefly in regular cycles throughout the night.
Research has shown that deep sleep is necessary for physical recovery from work or other exertion. People such as laborers, who do a great deal of physical work generally have longer periods of restful deep sleep. On the other hand when we are troubled by something or are trying to work things out mentally we tend to have more Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. It appears that REM sleep is required for working things out mentally and for cementing our memories.
If you have been having lots of stressful late sessions at work, you have been working late or partying, or your new baby has been depriving you of sleep, what is the best way to recharge your batteries?
Well, surprisingly the Mediterranean siesta may be one good solution for a catch-up. Research has shown that our bodies are designed to have two sleeping periods every 24 hours. This can be a single 8 hour sleep period, or perhaps 6-7 hours at night with a short nap of about 30-45 minutes in the early afternoon. While this works the trick is not to sleep no longer than 45 minutes, to prevent disrupting our biological clocks. This can work wonders on the weekend to make up some sleep time.
Mothers with new babies have for a long time been advised to sleep when their baby does, irrespective of the time of day, in order to 'make up for on missed sleep during the night. These short naps don't progress to a deep sleep but helps keep mums mentally refreshed and able to cope well for the rest of the day.
What if you just cannot sleep? According to sleep physicians the problem is often linked to being in bed and not sleeping - tossing and turning. It is often better to break the cycle by get up and going to a quiet, dark place for a short period of time. When you feel tired and ready to sleep, go back to the bedroom. Resting can be just as beneficial as sleep but it needs to be totally inactivity and not resting while watching TV. Some researchers claim that sleep itself is not enough and it needs to be accompanied by mental, social and physical rest.
Sleep apnoea is mostly caused by mechanical problems in the upper airway and people affected should seek medical attention. People with sleep apnoea usually get to sleep quite easily, and show symptoms of loud snoring and occasional gasping noises. They usually have problems getting into deep sleeps. Their frequent awakenings interrupts the progression into deep sleep as their breathing blockages wakes them up. There are a number of treatment methods.
Sleeping pills or tablets are not useful for treating long-term insomnia as the tablets become less effective with regular use.