One in three American adults doesn’t get enough sleep, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Furthermore, according to the National Sleep Foundation, thirty-to-forty percent of adults in the United States report that they have experienced symptoms of insomnia within the last twelve months, and 10-15% percent of adults claim to have persistent and lasting insomnia.
Insomnia and Sleep Medications
Insomnia isn’t just an inability to fall asleep; it’s also difficulty staying asleep, waking up too early, or having sleep that is not refreshing. Abdul Hamid Alraiyes, MD, FCCP, Director of Interventional Pulmonology, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at an Illinois hospital, claims that such sleep-deprived individuals are more prone to excessive fatigue and a decrease in cognitive function, especially relating to memory.
Insomniacs are likely to pop sleeping pills frequently, perhaps even every night. Those who rely heavily on sleep aids should know, however, that while sleep aids may help to combat insomnia in the short-term, there are many negative side-effects associated with long-term use.
Benzodiazepines such as Xanax, Valium, Ativan, and Librium are anti-anxiety medications which also induce drowsiness and sleep. All benzodiazepines are potentially addictive and can cause problems with memory and attention.
New medications that decrease the time it takes to fall asleep such as Lunesta, Sonata, and Ambien are somewhat less likely than benzodiazepines to be habit-forming, but over time they can still sometimes create physical dependence. Other side effects of sleep aids may include, but are not limited to: changes in appetite, daytime drowsiness, heartburn, stomach pain, uncontrollable shaking, and allergic reactions.
Even natural sleep aids can be unsafe. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate dietary supplements (which include natural sleep aids like valerian and melatonin) for quality, safety, effectiveness, or truth in marketing claims. In addition, melatonin can have adverse effects on an adolescent’s developing reproductive, cardiovascular, immune, and metabolic systems.
The Secret Mattress Scam
Before you buy an adjustable orthopedic downy snow queen such-and-such mattress, you should know that many mattresses are the same product marketed with a different brand or model name. With most products, manufacturers establish a uniform name that remains consistent from retailer to retailer. In the mattress world, however, there are retailers who use different names for the same mattress, with little to no difference in the actual product. So if you ever find yourself having narrowed down your options to a couple mattresses while shopping for a new bed, and you can’t seem to tell the difference between them, that’s probably because there isn’t much of a difference. Perhaps one has an extra 1/4-inch of foam, or vaguely different material. Do yourself a favor and choose the cheaper of the two.
While a cozy, mid-day nap is certainly a temptation from time-to-time, it is best to keep naps to a minimum. A recent study found that a combination of daytime napping and losing sleep at night is associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Naps can easily be avoided by getting a full rest at night so you will be energized and wide awake during the day. Healthy sleepers have a regular bedtime as well as a regular waking time. This insures that the correct timing of the body’s internal clock is maintained, making the process of falling asleep and waking up easier. Most experts recommend that adults get seven to eight hours of sleep each night, but children and teenagers often need more. If your internal clock is off, try to establish a calming pre-sleep routine to help the body and mind wind down at night. It’s also important to use coping skills such as leaving work at work, as such troubles can cause worries that prevent healthy rest.
Habits of Healthy Sleepers
Wondering how to sleep better? People who sleep deeply at night and are wide awake during the day don’t possess some kind of mystical secret. They just have healthy habits that ensure better sleep. Your nightly bedtime routine can include the usual brushing your teeth and changing into pajamas, and it may also include limiting your exposure to light (especially the blue light emitted by electronic devices), avoiding caffeine and alcohol late at night, eating and drinking enough at dinner to feel comfortably satiated, listening to relaxing music, and avoiding stressful activities before bedtime. An exercise routine during the day can also create an enriched sleep experience at night. Try to get at least thirty minutes of exercise most days. You can walk, jog, or even practice yoga to simultaneously destress body and mind. If you find yourself lying awake in bed, get up and do a gentle activity such as reading a book until you feel tired again. This will help your mind create a strong association between being in bed and sleeping.