Do you feel like the left-overs from a sleep deprivation study, most mornings? Can you remember a day when you actually woke up, feeling so good that the day felt like it had wonderful potential? I had one of those a few years back. It was so remarkable, that I can remember the moment that I realized I felt amazing, as I drove the truck out the driveway. I actually noticed how great I felt for a change. It was, as you can see, quite noteworthy and sadly it was a rarity.
My nights had turned into a routine of falling asleep as soon as my head touched the pillow and then waking up around 3:00am. This would happen most nights. And the longer I laid there, trying to fall asleep, the more my mind would begin to race . I started slipping out of bed to head for the couch. If I wasn’t going to sleep, at least I wouldn’t be bored right?
Does Anything Work When You Can’t Sleep?
So I’d lie there for a while, with the tv turned down real low. After an hour or two, I’d finally fall asleep, only to get up pretty close to my usual time. I remember every day, feeling the effects of the building sleep deprivation. I remember dragging myself through each day. I’m sure that I’m not alone in this experience. In fact, if you stopped in read this, you probably have your own variation of the same story of sleeplessness and chronic exhaustion.
The Blessings of Youth (are wasted on the young)!
The blessing of being young means that we seem to have a certain youthful ‘life-force’. It somehow keeps us going and functional despite being sleep deprived a lot of the time. That it was mostly self inflicted because we stayed up too late, played too hard and tried to hold down jobs at the same time is neither here nor there. Sleep deprived is sleep deprived. I think there comes a point as we get older and the body starts getting ‘glitchy’, that we kind of run out of ‘candle’ to burn at both ends. And not only is that sleep deprivation making you feel terrible, but it effects your health.
Just as a point of reference, 57% of women are likely to have insomnia, whereas only 51% of men are likely to experience it. More intrusion of our hormones into the life of women! Oh joy!
11 Ways Sleep Deprivation is Doing Us In!
It is the cause of any or all of the following:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness.
- Affects job performance.
- Can cause a loss in the ability to make sound decisions.
- Impairs your ability to concentrate.
- Affects memory, learning skills.
- Impairs your immune system.
- Increases the possibility of respiratory disease, heart disease, weight gain.
- Sets the stage for Type 2 diabetes as it affects production of two hormones that control your appetite and feelings of fullness. When these hormones aren’t abundant, that shortage can cause the release of insulin. This allows your body to store more fat.
- Can lead to weight gain
- Can lead to poor impulse control, feelings of inadequacy and powerlessness, anxiety….
- Loss of interest in life, friends and family in extreme cases.
THE CAUSES OF SLEEP DEPRIVATION.
So now that we know what effect sleep deprivation has on us, what causes it?
Insomnia can be caused by all kinds of problems. Some of them are hard to avoid and some are things we can adjust by a tweak here, an adjustment there.
- acid reflux
- chronic pain
- various medications that we might have to take
- sleep apnea
- worries and anxiety
And the things that are easier to just avoid or adjust are:
- any caffeinated drinks in the evening. (caffeine takes 8 hours to be flushed from your system)
- bright bluish white light from your computer screens
- strenuous exercise, late in the evening
- smoking cigarettes (because tobacco is a stimulant)
- heavy meals late at night
- working late in the evening
- late in the day naps
- rehashing the days ‘drama’.
Are You Still Awake?
Have you managed to stay awake so far? If you’re still with me, I’m sure that you’re wondering, what the heck can be done about this? What are the magic answers that will get you off the sleep deprivation studies lists, and back into the land of the living where the sky is blue, the sun is shining and you feel fantastic! There’s gotta be a way right!
A good place to start can be keeping a sleep journal. This will help you figure out if you’re making any of the above mistakes (like pulling an all nighter with the office work and slamming coffee in an effort to stay awake.) Or maybe you’ve gotten into a habit of a piece of dark chocolate with your last cup of tea in the evening while you catch up on Facebook. Any chance of that happening in your house? And yes, I am being facetious because, guilty, guilty, guilty! At least the Facebook and chocolate part. When you write your routines down, patterns are sometimes easier to spot.
So What Kind of Treatments Are There For Sleep Deprivation?
Treatments for sleep deprivation can include any of the following:
- Light therapy – it mimics outdoor light during specific times of the day. I should mention that I’ve read that someone with some types of eye disease should work with a doctor if you are thinking about light therapy for your sleep problems. Also, if you decide to go this route, it wouldn’t hurt to see if your medical coverage doesn’t help with the cost of these things.
- Catch-up naps are okay, but only if you limit it to about 20 minutes and not too late in the day.
- Stay away from the coffee maker, soda drinks or anything else with caffeine (including the dark chocolate), late in the day.
- Get more exercise and outside if you can arrange it is especially good for you.
- Change the colour of the lighting from your computer screen in the evenings.
- Don’t watch the late night news.
- A warm soak in the tub can help you relax.
- Listen to relaxing tapes or watch videos where a soothing voice can take your mind off all your days drama.
- Try the relaxation exercise when you’re settled under the covers. To do that, you start off by tensing the muscles of your body and then one part at a time, relax them. First your hands, then your arms, then your body, legs, feet…listen to your breathe as you do this and really pay attention to how your body is feeling. Doing this not only helps your muscles to relax properly, but it also distracts your mind from jumping to your carousel of endless thinking
Do Your Bedtime Routines and Habits Help or Hinder?
The habits that you set up around going to bed and sleeping are so important. And consequently, can be a deciding factor in how you feel the next morning. While we’ve talked about the obvious, like don’t drink coffee before bed, there are other things that are equally relevant. Things like having a comfortable, clean bed to sleep in. Adjusting the room temperature and darkening the room as much as you can. Even what you do if and when you do wake up in the middle of the night.
For example, I’ve already mentioned that I used to slip out of bed to go to the couch and the low volume television. That was my routine for years. The problem is or was, that I didn’t know that I’d actually created and supported that HABIT and more importantly, it was changeable. I didn’t realize that until we made a move across Canada. In moving from the Maritimes to BC and faced with days of driving, we opted to take 1/2 a sleeping pill every night. Even though we were sleeping in different beds and had to put up with our restless cat sharing the same room, we managed to pretty much stay asleep every night.
Relief at Last! Hooray!
As soon as we got to our new place though, we laid off the sleeping pill use. And you know what? We’ve been here for six months and I’ve slept through the night pretty much every night. That’s when I began to understand that my waking in the night was actually only part of a bad habit that could be changed. Sleeping through the night for one month was all it took. Thirty days to set a new habit in place and the chronic sleep deprivation was a thing of the past.
If you’re still caught in the grinder of ‘wee hours waking’ and exhaustion, if you have no health issues otherwise and your life is reasonably stable and short on drama, maybe the idea of changing a ‘habit’ is something you can start exploring. Of course you’re going to get your doctor involved. You can start by explaining how wretched you feel all the time and then ask him for a two week supply of a mild sleeping pill. Explain to him or her, that you only want to try to ‘change a habit’ (not start a new one).
Make the Adjustments to Your Routine and Then Slip Under the Covers…
Looking at the list above, I’d make any other necessary adjustments to your bedtime routine. Then just when you crawl under the covers, take half of one of those tablets. This way, your two week supply will last you one month. And you’re very unlikely to develop any issues around the continued use of them. If you decide to give this a try and discover that you’re finally sleeping through the night, I’d love to hear back from you. We’d love to hear from you. Your success in overcoming your problems with sleep deprivation could help others. You could be a great source of inspiration for those who are still crawling through the day and wishing it was bedtime, all the time! So come back, or make a comment now and let us know how you did it.
Anyway my dears, love to you all and have a great day, wherever you are!
As always, I remind you that while I’ve spent the last 20 years focusing on and learning to ‘grow’ my own health, I’m not a medical doctor. What I’m sharing here is based on my own experiences and the things that I’ve learned from the real experts! Those are the researchers and doctors who’ve seen the actual patients, worked in the labs and write the medical reports that are sprinkled throughout these posts.
My goal is to motivate and help you find your best way to live a healthier and more peaceful life. I and Ageless at Sixty cannot be held liable for any resulting injury or adverse change in health status.
I also advise that any changes that might affect your health status be checked with your accredited physician. This would include changes to your exercise routines and any medications you might be taking or other supplements.
As well, this blog and each post may contain affiliate links. That means that if you buy something through them, I’ll receive a commission, at no extra cost to you.