Thursday, August 24, 2006


Sleep and Night by Evelyn De MorganI don't get enough sleep. I often stay up too late, either watching television, talking to my wife, or studying. When I do lie down, I sometimes have trouble getting to sleep because I have "twitchy leg" or gas or the neighbor's dog is barking or something. It tends to wear me thin. But it turns out that thin is something I might have trouble being if I don't get enough sleep.

According to, there are several causes for sleeplessness. One is lifestyle choices (others include medical conditions, sleep disorders, and medication). That tends to be what shoots me down.

According to this webpage, lifestyle choices include shift work - which often interrupts my sleep patterns - jet lag and travel (which I don't experience much) and caffeine, alcohol and diet, and emotional disturbance or stress (all of which I have from time to time).

And one big bugaboo about this whole thing is it can play into an addictive cycle. You don't get enough sleep, so you're tired (like me) so you have a cup-of-joe to wake up, but it only lasts a little while, so you have another. Or maybe you eat late at night (shift workers) and then you can't get to sleep because you're too full.

Or maybe the day just won't go away. Maybe things haunt you and you cannot seem to turn it off. These things come like a guest unbidden and stay like the Thing That Wouldn't Leave.

All of that can contribute to weight gain because it causes a depletion of one of the hormones that tells your brain that you're full. It also causes mental impairment, which can lead to bad decisions, sloppy work, irritability, and stress. Which of course can lead to sleeplessness. I hear the cycle spinning.

And there are also the very real dangers of operating a car or other machinery when you'd rather be snoring. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that 100,000 car accidents are caused each year by driver fatigue. Of that number, more than 1,500 die and 71,000 are injured. Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

So what are we walking zombies to do?

There are some steps to take. The first one is to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, regardless of whether it is a weekend or you are on vacation. Every day - up and down at the same time. This helps the body's rhythms and contributes to deep sleep.

According to the website, others include:

Regular exercise improves sleeping habits. Exercise between twenty to thirty minutes a day for the best results, but take care not to exercise within five hours of bedtime.

Don't Lie Awake. If you cannot fall asleep, don't lie in bed awake. Worrying about falling asleep actually keeps many people awake. Get up and do something else until you feel sleepy.

Eat and Drink Long Before Bedtime. A heavy meal before bed can cause indigestion, which can keep you up. Drinking fluids before bed can interrupt your rest by causing you to get up to urinate. Try to avoid both food and fluids for at least two hours before bedtime.

Relax. Spending some down time before bed can relax you enough that falling asleep comes easier. Meditation, relaxation techniques and breathing techniques may all work. Relaxation could be as simple as a warm bath, or quiet reading (not in the bedroom, though).

Keep the Bedroom for Two Things. Watching television, paying the bills, reading a book, and listening to music in the bedroom are not recommended. By doing so, you create the expectation in your mind that the bedroom is for activities other than resting. Your bedroom should only be used for sleeping and sex. (WOO hah, now that's what I'm talkin' bout.

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