By Barbara Radin Fox for The Island Connection
Fall is here and it’s the time for many animals to get ready to hibernate, or sleep, for the winter. We humans don’t need to do that for survival, so we don’t have that “luxury”, but our bodies do need to “hibernate” for the night, or for the day if one works at night!
Researchers do not know exactly why we need the sleep, but they know that our bodies deteriorate in many ways if we don’t get it.
We start to get very achy and irritable if we’re not getting enough of it. It’s one of the biggest causes of fatigue, inability to fight off disease or recover from a disease, inability to focus or concentrate, poor work performance, marital problems, behavior problems in children and underachievement in school. Some people are misdiagnosed as a result of this and instead of being told to get more sleep, they are put on medication for ADD, anxiety or depression. Some end up with domestic violence problems. This is one of the biggest problems that I see in my psychotherapy practice.
Most health care professionals recommend seven or eight hours for the great majority of people, but on rare occasions, some people feel totally rested after three or four hours.
What causes sleep problems? There are a myriad of causes, but I believe that the main one is caffeine consumption.
Many health professionals tell their patients that it is ok to use caffeine until 5 p.m., but I have found that in my patients who have sleep problems and use any caffeine during the day, even having a cup of coffee or tea or hot chocolate early in the morning, can affect the ability to sleep. (There are many who do not have this caffeine sensitivity, but they do not have sleep problems!) Caffeine is in coffee, tea, decaf, sodas, chocolate and Excedrin.
Alcohol also disrupts sleep, even though many people think it puts them to sleep. Actually, they “pass out” and awake a little later and then need more alcohol to get them back to sleep for a little while. Sleep apnea is another cause and not only disrupts sleep, but contributes to heart problems. It may be diagnosed with a sleep study.
Anxiety/depression also disrupts sleep and there are several treatments for this common condition. Pain can keep people waking throughout the night, so adequate treatment is needed. (Pain will be discussed in a future column). Have your thyroid checked if you are hyperactive, this may be the cause of a sleep problem. Leaving TV and cellphone on in the bedroom can affect sleep- especially for children who are talking on their cellphone all night. If a room is too light or too warm, this too may inhibit a good night’s sleep.
Think about what may be causing your sleep problem, but the simplest is to make sure to turn out your bedroom light early enough to get the 7-8 hours of hibernation that you need and lots of problems will solve themselves!
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