The quality of sleep enhances health. Not enough sleep can lead to many mental, emotional, and physical problems. It seems when we are young, we could live without sleep for long periods of time – studying for exams, racing across the freeways to get to your destination, partying, and more.
My longest time without sleep is 166 hours. I was going to school and working two jobs during the week leading up to Christmas Break my second or third year in college.
I would drive to school (Texas A&I University in Kingsville, TX), leave school and drive to work (PPG Chemical Division in Corpus Christi, TX), and then leave around midnight to go to the Post Office and unload mail trucks until daylight. A quick trip home to clean up, change clothes, and off to school again! I was young and did it easily.
I can easily fast (not eat)for 72-120 hours, but I cannot stay awake that long anymore. The pandemic has some people worried and that stress impacts the quality of their sleep. Quality of sleep is that you fall asleep quickly, sleep soundly, and wake up refreshed and ready to go seven to nine hours later.
Dreams can infect sleep with dread and horror – nightmares. It is speculated that nearly half of Americans have an occasional nightmare. I have had one in my life and it was before I was ten years of age. I cannot remember having another one since.
Dreams are a different animal. I dream every night. Many times, I can wake up briefly and go right back into the dream where I left off and continue that dream for a while longer. Some nights, I can pick up where I left off and continue further into that dream.
I dream in color, hear voices clearly, see family and friends (alive at a much younger age if they are currently deceased), feel textures with my fingers, and even smell aromas and scents. We must sleep first to begin our dreams, right? I take an eight to ten-minute nap several times a week and I can easily begin to dream when it is time to get up – many times before my ten-minute alarm has alerted me.
(https://www.verywellhealth.com/wait-between-alcohol-sleep-3014979) is a good source of understanding of the ins and outs of sleeping. What helps us to go to sleep? There are many sources to help begin the sleep cycle. (https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/ways-to-fall-asleep) is one. But, what about those few things that keep many of us from going to sleep quickly and staying asleep for hours?
(1) Sleep Routine
A sleep routine is an environment you sleep in every night. Do you read in bed? Do you watch television in bed? Or worst case, do you leave the television on while you are sleeping? Do you check your cell phone, computer, or other electronic gadgets with blue light before going to bed? Is it quiet? Is it dark? Is the temperature right to induce sleep?
(2) Eating and Drinking
Alcohol is a poison or toxin to the body. Drinking before going to bed puts the digestive processes on hold and the liver processes the alcohol. Once the alcohol has been removed, the digestive processes start up again.
It is not unusual to wake up from a dead sleep at 3:03 am (or some other weird hour) and wonder what woke you up. You are awake for more than a few minutes and gradually wander off to sleep again. Your body transitioned from alcohol processing to food digestion. (https://www.verywellhealth.com/wait-between-alcohol-sleep-3014979).
Eating has a similar problem but on the front end. It delays the start of sleep. It might make you uncomfortable if you ate too much. Sometimes, fat in our stomach/belly areas can force some of that digested food back up out of the stomach and we experience some heartburn. It is best to do your eating and drinking three or four hours before your planned sleep time.
Most of us are on medications – many of us more than one. We take some of these before bedtime. It might be that one or more of your medications is causing you to have sleep problems.
Look at the side effects of the medicine to see if that might be the cause. Many drugs have interference effects with others that individually there might not be a problem but taken together there may be. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if in doubt.
Here is a short article that might help – (https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/medications-that-can-affect-sleep).
(4) Stress Relief
We all face stressful situations daily. Not all of us hang on to the stress and take it to bed with us. It is not the stress that affects our health and our sleep, it is what we do with it.
We must ‘let it go!’. If you do not have a good stress management program, go to YouTube,
and find three or four different stress relief programs that you can do daily. It is better to tackle stress several times a day rather than a half-hour before bedtime.
There are many other factors besides the few I mentioned in this article. Your problem may be more complicated than the easy fixes outlined above. Do not take over the counter sleep aids without consulting your physician. There are many health problems that can start from something that seems as innocent as an over the counter non-narcotic sleeping pill.
Concentrate on each of these easy fixes over a period of twenty to thirty days and see if the quality of your sleep improves. You might be doing four things right and one thing wrong and that one thing might cost you the quality of sleep you need.
Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin – RedOLaughlin.com