If sleep were a commodity, one can only imagine how much it would sell for in stores, or trade at on global stock exchanges. There is no question it would be right up there with diamonds and crude oil in terms of price and demand.
We humans have a funny habit in life of treating badly or disrespecting the things that are so important to us. It might be that we lose faith in our favorite sports team so easily, or take out a bad day on a loved one, for example. Sleep falls right into this category, too. We know that we cannot possibly function without it, and most of us realize exactly how important it is to our overall health. Yet, if we have to make time in our day to do something, sleep is often the thing cut first. Surely, there is something wrong with this equation?
Impacts of Lack of Sleep
Before we look at bad habits and at how to break them, we need to understand the impact that a lack of sleep can have on us.
Many studies have likened the impact of sleep deprivation to that of drinking alcohol, in that our responses slow down, we become less alert, and can act in irrational ways. This can clearly have a dramatic effect on the way we live our lives, it can make driving even short distances more dangerous, it can make us unproductive at work, and it can influence how we look after and behave towards our children.
Clearly, having bad sleep habits or not getting enough sleep is risky on many levels. One issue with ‘bad sleep’ is that people often think that, because they are not diagnosed insomniacs or suffer from sleep apnea, that the way they sleep is just pot luck, and because they have not been prescribed any medication, they do not have to address their sleep patterns.
Such an attitude can further feed into the dangers associated with not getting any sleep, and represents a naïve viewpoint in any case.
If you are not diagnosed with a specific sleep disorder, then it is likely you fall into one of the categories that we will explore now, all of which are within your control, and you can easily do something about.
No Sleep to All Sleep
We mentioned lack of sleep being compared with alcohol consumption earlier, and that is not the only way you can link the two. We all have friends that do not drink during the week, but then at the weekend use all of their ‘saved’ units to get hammered.
Millions are doing the same with sleep, too. Whether they are burning the candle at both ends, so to speak, during the week or just trying to keep up with work, sleeping less during the week then oversleeping to catch up at the weekend is becoming increasingly common. While it may seem a logical thing to do, it does nothing but mess up your body’s conditioning. As much as we like to think otherwise, we are creatures of habit, and our brain and nervous system wants to know that at 11pm each night, for example, it is going to shut down and rest for at least seven hours.
Set your bedtime, and stick to it.
How many of us quickly check an e-mail before going to bed, then reply, then check a social networking site or another website?
It is easy to think this is harmless, but it is just further punishing your body when all it wants to do is sleep. If you must do something in bed, read a book under dim light. Go for something really long and boring if you are having trouble nodding off, it will work a treat!
Do not fall into the trap of thinking that going on your phone is okay because you have lain awake for 30 minutes, either. If you find yourself awake, write down your thoughts, or continue reading, until you feel ready for sleep.
Those who regularly experience this phenomenon will probably identify with the next bad habit.
Time to Unwind
You have had a hard day at work and all you want to do is sleep. You have an unhealthy takeaway or ready meal that you cook in minutes, and then head straight off to bed, where you lay for the 30 minutes we mentioned earlier, growing increasingly frustrated at the fact you cannot fall asleep.
The bottom line is this: if you do not give yourself the time to unwind, you are never going to have a peaceful nights’ sleep. Give yourself at least an hour to just sit and gather your thoughts, read, or have a hot bath. Sitting on your laptop, tablet, or smartphone until five minutes before bedtime is just as bad as doing it in bed, so lock them out of sight if you have to.
Improving Your Sleep
While we cannot control some factors that may disrupt sleep, such as young children waking in the night, the fact is we are in charge of almost every possible variable aside from this. It may even be the case that you have identified a reason your child has disrupted sleep, do they have television on in bed, for example?
If you suffer from disturbed sleep and it is having an impact on your life, you can do something about it. If breaking the bad habits we have explored above does not help, make an appointment to see your doctor at the earliest opportunity, as there could be a greater underlying health issue that requires attention.