Sleep is a behaviour shared by all animals. The need for sleep is not fully understood but it is agreed upon that sleep gives the body ‘time-out’ to recuperate. Some people sleep an average of 5 hours while others sleep an average of 9 hours a day. On the average about a third of our lives is spent sleeping.
Sleep is usually taken for granted (at least I do); we take naps both during the day and at night, however sleep problems are quite common. Most of us have experienced a day or days with difficulty with sleep probably due to a temporary stress. About 30 percent of adults are said to have experienced difficulty with initiating or maintaining sleep at some point in their lives. Statistics show that women and the elderly are more susceptible to have such problems. About 6 percent of people actually suffer from persistent difficulty with sleep which is so severe that it interferes with their social or their occupational functioning.
One could be said to have a sleep problem called insomnia when you find it difficult falling asleep, maintaining sleep or waking up not feeling refreshed. Persistent insomnia becomes a clinical problem when it occurs at least 3 days a week for up to a month.
There are a lot of factors that may cause this problem with sleep ranging from factors from within, like anxiety, sadness, jet lag, to factors without like the environment, drugs, and meals. Poor sleep could also be associated with both physical and mental illnesses. In certain cases some individuals have had a life long problem with sleep which is referred to as idiopathic insomnia.
HOW TO SLEEP BETTER
I have noticed that most often than not when people have a problem with sleeping they self medicate themselves. Sometimes, when they have access to a doctor, they get sleeping pills to help them sleep. Sleeping pills can be very helpful a lot of times but the problem with its frequent use is that it can become addictive. Sleeping pills are only meant to be used occasionally, never use them everyday consecutively for more than 14 days if not you run the risk of becoming addicted to it. Once an individual becomes addicted, the sleeping pills then have a rebound effect such that it starts causing insomnia and the individual finds it difficult to sleep without the pills and may sometimes have to increase the quantity needed to fall asleep. Interrupted use of sleeping pills will reduce the risk of becoming addicted to them. The use of sleeping pills should also be a last resort or used in severe distressing cases.
Like it is said a problem understood is half way solved so you may need to first identify and address any underlying problem; is it due to a medical, psychiatric or a psychological condition? Could it be the environment, stress, drugs or perhaps persistent pain? Sometimes you may need a professional to help you identify this.
Let me share with you a better way to address that problem of poor sleep before resulting to the use of sleeping pills…
This can be defined as "all behavioural and environmental factors that precede sleep and may interfere with sleep. It is the practice of simple sensible guidelines in an attempt to ensure better rest. I like to remember these guidelines with the acronym S.E.A. (just imagine you are by seaside taking a nap).
· It should be familiar and comfortable
· Dim light and quiet
· Consistent bedtime and waking up time with not more than one hour variation even during weekends or holidays
· Thinking about problems before going to bed and winding down about an hour before bed by listening to music, having a warm bath, reading, watching T.V etc.
· Physical fitness by engaging in regular graded vigorous exercise programme during the day
· Late evening exercise or other activities (except sex); don’t watch T.V or bring work to bed so that the bed is only associated with sleep
· Caffeine-containing drinks late in the day
· Excessive alcohol and smoking
· Naps during the day (confine naps to early afternoons and it shouldn’t be longer than approximately 40 minutes)
· Large late meals, and
· Too much time in bed lying awake; if sleep doesn’t occur do not remain in bed for more than 10-20 minutes, get up and go to another room (without turning on all the light) and returning to bed only when sleepy.
There are some few other non medication treatments for insomnia like sleep restriction and relaxation training but that will be a discussion for another day,meanwhile go and put into practice these guidelines and “ease up” on the frequent use of sleeping pills and I guarantee that there will be an improvement in your sleeping pattern.