We all know that sleep is crucial to our quality of life, and even that lack of sleep can have serious health implications and lead to a higher risk of serious conditions, including obesity, cardiovascular problems, diabetes and stroke. But can lack of sleep actually kill you? To get to the heart of the question, let’s take a look at the most basic sleep disorder, insomnia. Insomnia is a condition that afflicts millions of Americans – somewhere between 10% and 30% of us will likely experience insomnia at some point in our lives. Though we may think of any period of sleeplessness as insomnia, the condition is actually strictly defined as when all three of the following conditions are present:
- You’re having a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep. Difficulty staying asleep may mean waking in the middle of the night or awakening too early in the morning and being unable to fall back to sleep. The end result is that the sleep that you get is insufficient and you do not feel well rested.
- You encounter this situation even when your sleep environment is conducive to sleep – in other words there are no noises, interruptions or other extraneous factors that would be expected to interfere with getting a good night’s sleep.
- The situation is having a negative impact on you, whether physically, mentally or emotionally.
- Stop fighting with yourself about sleep. If you are having a hard time getting to sleep, get up out of bed and do something relaxing like reading a book. Keep the lights low and don’t let yourself get too energized. Then when you are feeling drowsy, go back to bed. Sometimes you have to approach insomnia by forcing yourself to stay awake longer so that you are truly tired when you go to bed, then slowly and methodically push your bedtime a bit earlier each night.
- Don’t get out of bed until you wake up naturally. This ensures that you are getting the rest that you need.
- Try to minimize caffeinated drinks. At the very least, stop ingesting them at noon.
- Make sure that your sleep environment is peaceful, dark, quiet and cool.
- Stay away from electronic devices for at least two hours prior to going to bed.
- Write down your reminders and stressors and to-do lists before you go to bed so that they have been addressed and you don’t lie in bed thinking about them.
- Don’t nap during the day.