There are nights when I toss and turn. I wake up every hour, grope for my glasses, slide them on and squint, unbelieving, at the numbers on my clock, which have never changed nearly as much as they should have. Sometimes, I wake up so often that I opt to leave my glasses on all night rather than go through the hassle of searching for them one more time. Then, there are the nights where I stumble into bed at three or later only to wake up at seven, groggy and longing for my pillow. Either way, neither night spells out sufficient rest. I, like so many other Americans, have abominable sleep habits. I either don’t get enough or don’t get good enough sleep. I am sleep deprived, and if you’re anything like the rest of us, so are you.
Naturally, it’s not from lack of trying. Yes, there are times when you could have gone to bed earlier but chose to watch one more Friends rerun instead. And, there are probably times when you decided to stay out for another hour, despite your early wake up call. Those times would be your fault. They are lifestyle decisions that you are making in lieu of your health. But, there are other reasons behind your lack of sleep. The number one is stress. When you are riddled with nerves and anxiety, your brain doesn’t allow your body to relax. You are keyed up, alert and unable to sleep. If you do sleep, it’s not well. You wake up often, never allowing sleep’s therapeutic aspects to take effect and in the end, you’re exhausted. Of course, it’s not safe to assume that stress is your only problem. Some medications and medical conditions, such as asthma and depression, can affect your sleep patterns as well. And, you should know when that’s the case. It is important that you know exactly what’s causing your unrest, so you can rectify the situation before the negative effects of sleep deprivation set in. What are those effects? Well . . .
Inability to maintain a healthy immune system, irritability, slurred speech, impaired ability to handle stress and think, depression, heart disease, hypertension, hallucinations and slow reaction times top the list. And, there are many more. Sleep deprivation affects every part of you, leaving you mentally and physically drained. The only way to reverse this is sleep, actual sleep, but how can you obtain that? The answer starts long before you go to bed. It lies in how you spend your days and hours before crawling under the covers. For example, if you spend each night in front of the television or computer, you are destroying your sleep efforts. A recent study found that individuals who use electronic media for a significant amount of time each night are more likely to experience insufficient sleep, despite the number of hours they log. And, people who are pepped up and alert up until that final moment aren’t doing themselves any good either. It’s recommended that you take 15 minutes prior to bed to clear your mind and relax. Sit, meditate, breathe – that’s all you have to do. Your body will wind down and be prepared to rest.
However, if you can’t seem to accomplish that on your own, you have options. A sleeping pill is one of them, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Taking any pill too often can lead to dependency, and over time your body could develop a resistance, rendering the medication completely ineffective. Instead, try an herbal remedy. Your options are a lot more plentiful than you’d think. California poppy, chamomile, catnip, and passion flower all help you relax. And, they’ve been proven to work, in and out of the laboratory. However if you do decide to take one make sure you are, as always, informed. Not every herb is safe for every person. Take the time to talk to your doctor and do the research. In the end, it’ll be worth it.
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