Don’t go to bed as advised by Mark Twain, an insomniac and humorist, because so many people die there. But the truth is that if you did not you would soon find yourself yearning for cool sheets and a soft pillow. As you know, that sleep is essential to all living things, which have their own cycles of waking and sleeping, activity, and rest stop and go.
It is the balance between them that generates energy and interest. During sleep, the body gathers its resources, regenerates its energies rebalances its metabolism, and orders its psyche. Just how much it refreshes the brain and the body becomes apparent as soon as you are deprived of it. Lack of sleep quickly diminishes the quality of life when awake.
Fortunately, this does not happen very often. Sleep is so natural and vital that the body tends to take just as much, or as little, as it needs 14 hours or more like a baby, and 6 hours or less as an octogenarian. But it is not just age that determines your sleep requirements. The amount of sleep needed varies considerably from person to person and with the state of mind and emotions.
The eight hours rule stands corrected by experiments in sleep laboratories that have consistently shown that some people need as few as five hours of sleep before waking refreshed and alert while others may need as many as 11. The body and brain seem to restore themselves at different rates in different individuals.
If you are worried and stressed out that you’re not getting enough sleep consider first that you may in fact be getting all the sleep that you need and that you are only suffering from unreal expectations. Use your diary to record how much sleep you got, over a two-week period and how you felt the following day. If you habitually wake up feeling un-refreshed and carry on feeling excessively tired throughout the day. Then you may not be getting your full quota.
You should bear in mind that if you are going through a particularly demanding phase in your life and are getting very little sleep, you do not have to make it all up. Studies on students kept up for three nights in a row at the University of Florida, USA showed that they only needed three to four hours extra sleep to make up for the 24 they actually lost.
Keep in mind that sleep cannot be forced. It is easy and effortless and seeks you out. It does not come with trying still less with anxiety. Worrying about not getting off to sleep is almost certain to keep you awake, relax using any of the methods detailed on the previous pages and let sleep surprise you.
It almost certainly will. Even so, there will be times in most people’s lives when sleep is elusive. You may take hours to go off to sleep and then find that your time asleep is disturbed by periods of wakefulness or you may wake up at dawn, overcome with tiredness, and yet find it impossible to drop off again.
You may get up in the morning and somehow struggle irritably through the day, only to go to bed at night to find that exactly the same thing occurs. Sleeplessness has become a pattern. While it is a pattern that usually resolves itself spontaneously, prolonged periods of insomnia can lead to considerable strain and should be discussed with a doctor in order to rule out any medical cause.
Moreover, if you are suffering from sleeplessness, then do not automatically reach out for sleeping tablets. These should be a last not a first, resort and should be prescribed only for a short period of time in order to help you ride through a particularly difficult period. Despite their evident drawbacks, however, sleeping pills are still widely prescribed. In fact, it has been estimated that every tenth night’s sleep in the UK is hypnotically induced.
While the newer generation of sleeping tablets may be safer than the previous ones the barbiturates and the highly addictive mandrax, still work in large general areas of the brain, often depressing the central nervous system in amounts above that are simply required to produce sleep.
They may linger in the system long enough to give feelings or handover on awakening together with impaired concentration and alertness the following day. In addition, these sleeping tablets which are almost identical in chemical composition to tranquilizers can lead to dependency. With long-term use, it becomes increasingly difficult to get to sleep without them so treat them with respect.
8 Tips for Good Sleep
Go to sleep when you are tired, not when it is time for bed. If you feel wide awake, stay up. Capitalize on having a little extra time. The best idea is to read a book or take a short walk. Fresh air and gentle exercise are two of the best sleep inducers, particularly if taken an hour or so before going to bed.
The most effective way of counter-acting difficulties in getting off to sleep at night is to get up an hour early morning. It takes a certain amount of discipline, but persevere and you will soon find that you start feeling sleepy at bedtime if not before.
Another tip is to avoid overloading the stomach just before going to bed. Meals are best eaten early in the evening and proteins, despite their unearned reputation for causing bad dreams make much better bedtime foods than carbohydrates. Cheese milk and yogurt are all good, late-night foods. Milk is especially suitable because it contains high levels of amino acids that seem to play a significant part in mobilizing the sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain.
Make sure that your system is not running on overdrive by the time you go to the bed, and your intake of all stimulants including alcohol, sugar, salt, coffee, tea, and cola drinks. The caffeine present in the last three speeds up the metabolism and its buzz may last for up to seven hours. If you go to bed at midnight, coffee or tea drunk at six o’clock in the evening could well be keeping you awake. While caffeine tends to interfere with sleep in the early part of the night, large amounts of alcohol, though sleep-inducing will cause you to wake early. Because the alcohol is still in the process of being metabolized, it can react with the digestive and nervous systems, causing restlessness and gastritis not to mention handover.
Take a warm bath before going to bed, and use an aromatic essence to soothe and relax you. Some of the pure, essential oils, such as chamomile, Melissa, and orange blossom, are deliciously relaxing. As you soak, try going through a simplified progressive relaxation procedure, r simply lie there and enjoy it. Let your mind drift, do not drift off altogether though.
Make yourself a sleep pillow, place a potpourri of herbs dried hops, lime blossom, rosemary, lavender, jasmine, and chamomile in a flat linen envelope and tuck it inside your ordinary pillow. Hops and lime blossoms, in particular, have very strong sleep-inducing properties.
Check that is you comfortable in bed. This may sound obvious, but it is crucial. There are no hard and fast rules about what meals one bed and bedroom preferable to another it is your own comfort that counts. If you find you tend to sleep better in other beds, your mattress may be too soft or too hard, or your bedroom too cold or too hot.
Is your sleep disturbed by background noise, some people find sound, whether the indistinct rumble of traffic or the louder ticking of an alarm clock, conducive to sleep. Others find it infuriating. In addition, there is the possibility that your sleep is being disturbed by noises of which you are unaware. If you do find it difficult to get off to sleep, keep waking up during the night, or feel excessively tired the following day, embark on an anti-sound strategy. Move to another bedroom away from street noise, have double glazing fitted to bedroom windows, or buy a pair of earplugs.
If sleep still eludes you try building up the amount of carbon dioxide in your body. It is easy to fall asleep in a crowded room when the windows are tightly shut because the amount of oxygen available is gradually being displaced by carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide acts as a natural tranquilizer in excess as a poison too, of course, numbs the brain, slows the body’s responses, and produces a range of symptoms identical to stage one sleep.
This breathing technique will temporarily raise your carob dioxide levels, without dangerously depriving you of oxygen. Take three deep breaths and at the end of the third, hold on to the outward breath for a count of six, so that the lungs are completely emptied of air.
Repeat this twice, and then do it once again but having exhaled as deeply as possible breathe minimally not gulping for air but breathing from the top of your chest in short, shallow breaths. This will increase the amount of carbon dioxide in your system and can be repeated every ten minutes or so if you are still awake.