Sleep – The Number One Health Problem?
“Sleep disorders are the number one health problem in the US today.” Dr. Rubin Naimin, sleep expert. Let’s address sleeplessness.
How Prevalent Is the Problem?
- 70 million adults have insomnia (sleeplessness).
- 23 million adults have sleep apnea (OSA) (1 in 4 men, 1 in 9 women)
- National Sleep Foundation found that 64% of a sample of adults had at least one clinical symptom of a sleep disorder at least a few nights per week.
- It is getting worse.
What Is Wrong With Sleeplessness?
- Chronic Illnesses: A growing mountain of data links many chronic illnesses to a lack of quality sleep. You need proper sleep for health.
- Infections and Immune System Functioning: Short sleepers have an increased risk for infections, specifically, 50% increased risk for viral infection (When we sleep, the immune system is galvanized, e.g., it responds to what is going on.). Have you heard people recommend to sleep off a cold?
- Autoimmune Diseases Like Arthritis: These go through the roof with short sleep.
- Insulin Resistance: There is a whole lot of data showing that sleep loss is associated with insulin resistance. You get dramatic spikes the day after you loose 3 or 4 hours of sleep. This is related with obesity or diabetes.
- Cardiovascular disease: This is strongly associated with short sleeping.
- Cancer: The American Cancer Society did a study about ten years ago with one million American adults. They found a very strong correlation between being a short sleeper and increased risk of cancer.
- Depression and Other Mood Disorders: These are also rampant with short sleepers. Sleep helps us regulate our moods. The data today make it hard to separate insomnia and depression. Dr. Naiman believes insomnia is an early symptom of depression. And, depression is a late stage manifestation of insomnia.
- Memory: Proper sleep promotes a positive memory. The last half of the night is when short term memories are written into the long term storage area of the brain.
- Appearance: Sleep improves our appearance. People call it their beauty sleep for a reason.
- Energy: Obviously, proper sleep is vital to being alert and energetic during waking hours.
- Obesity: The obesity and sleeplessness epidemics have occurred together. They may be related. The quality and length of our sleep impacts our endocrine system and hormones. A number of hormones govern our appetite and our satiety. Both sleepiness and hunger are states where there is a lack of energy. People sense a lack of energy and they eat, unfortunately, instead of resolving it with a nap. (Also, many times people eat when their body is actually thirsty. This also contributes to weight gain.)
A Proper Sleep Attitude
Have the right attitude about sleep. Make friends with sleep. It is not the enemy. Don’t fight it with caffeine, energy drinks, adrenaline or bright lights. Embrace it with sufficient time at night and with daytime naps if needed.
For decades, I considered sleep the enemy, because it was preventing me to accomplishing more of what I wanted to do. Now, I view sleep as joyful event in itself. Plus, it enables me to be more energetic, efficient, productive, positive, and happy all during the day.
How Long Should You Sleep?
The majority of people are not getting enough sleep. Typically, people need at least seven hours of sleep. Albert Einstein slept ten hours per night plus his daytime naps!
It is best not to set the alarm. Just wake up when you are done. That is so simple and so logical.
The proper amount of sleep varies with different individuals. For you, the answer is when your energy is sustained throughout the next day. You may also need an afternoon nap the next day, and that is fine. Don’t fight it if that is helpful. If you need caffeine or another stimulant, then you are not getting enough sleep. If you wake up in the morning raring to go, then you did get enough sleep. A good sleeper wakes up singing, “Oh, what a beautiful morning!”
The National Sleep Foundation recommends getting between seven and nine hours of sleep for most people. But, I still say to sleep until you are done.
How To Fall Asleep
When you want to go to sleep, don’t think about what you did today. Neither should you plan what you will do tomorrow. Neither should you worry about various problems or glory in your victories. Think of sleep is an escape into a different world of peace and bliss.
When you lay down, simply relax and think about falling or free-falling through the air in perfect peace. Maybe this is why they call it falling asleep. You may think about relaxing each of your body parts one by one. You can meditate. Concentrate on your breathing in and out and count the seconds. It is hard for most of us to avoid thinking about our busy life, but we must. So, thinking about something specific like our breathing is a good alternative. Some people have success by listening to meditation music or quiet soft-spoken thoughts. Think of beautiful scenes and thoughts. Think about the blessings you have received from friends, family, and God.
More Tips To Help You Fall Asleep
- Get daily exercise.
- Keep a regular sleep and wake schedule.
- Avoid coffee (or other caffeine) and alcohol in the evening.
- Make sure your room is dark.
- Wind down activities and dim the light as your bedtime approaches. Light suppresses melatonin, which triggers a shift into night-time consciousness.
- A warm relaxing bath helps some people get sleepy.
- Try to wean yourself from sleeping pills. Dr. Naiman says to use natural sleep aids like hops, melatonin, or valerian if needed.
- If you are a worrier and overwhelmed with too much to do, try to complete one task, even a small one, before you go to bed. That good feeling of accomplishment will help you relax.