In January 2006, a Florida truck driver crashed into the back of a car and killed seven children. The driver admitted that he had not slept in over 30 hours.
How many times do you get behind the wheel of your car when you haven’t slept more than an hour or two? Operating heavy or dangerous equipment, including cars, with less than adequate sleep, can have dangerous consequences.
Do you find yourself physically exhausted but lying in bed wide awake for hours at night? At a minimum, a lack of sleep leaves us tired, grumpy and unfocused the morning after. Sleep deprivation also increases the risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, stroke and other maladies.
There are five things that many of us do that keep us from sleeping well.
1. Using a cell phone or other electronic equipment an hour or less before bed. The blue light that we can’t see from cell phones, TVs and other electronics suppresses the hormone, melatonin that we need to sleep. Conclude all of your business that requires the use of electronics at least an hour before bed.
2. Consuming coffee, tea, caffeinated sodas and chocolate after 10:00 a.m. Caffeine can stay in the body for up to 15 hours after you consume it. Having two cups of coffee at lunch could be keeping you counting sheep at night. Plan to eliminate all caffeine 12 hours before your bedtime.
3. Using the bedroom as a home office, TV room or other work space. The bedroom should be reserved for sleeping and relaxing activities such as reading, yoga or knitting. Make your bedroom an oasis of calm. Use peaceful colors, serene art, and dim lights.
4. Having an inconsistent sleep schedule. If you go to bed at 9:30 p.m. during the week but stay up until after midnight on weekends, you’re disrupting your body’s natural rhythm. Aim to go to bed and get up at about the same time every day.
5. Engaging in stressful activities immediately before bed. If you have difficult conversations or do other nerve-racking things right before bed, you’re taking all that tension to bed. Replaying conversations and wondering about unfinished tasks can produce just enough anxiety to keep you awake for hours. Use the last hour before bed to relax. Have a cup of naturally decaffeinated tea. Take a warm bath. Read an enjoyable, but not too exciting, book.
If you are practicing one or more of these sleep-robbing habits, try eliminating one each night and see if you start sleeping better. Visit www.sleepfoundation.org for more tips on sleeping well. If these strategies don’t help, discuss your problem with your health care professional.
When you get a good night’s sleep, you’re ready to wake up and be your absolute best.
What do you need to stop doing so that you can sleep well every night?