The CDC is actually calling being unable to sleep a “public health epidemic”! How often do you struggle with being unable to sleep? If you’re an adult over twenty years old, chances are likely that you suffer from at least a little sleep deprivation. On average, about 30% of adults are getting less than six hours of sleep a night when they really need more like seven to nine to function well. Being unable to sleep isn’t an unusual problem, but it’s getting worse for society.
What happens when you’re unable to sleep? Several things can go wrong. You may have difficulty concentrating, which can be a huge problem at work or even in your relationships because you may not be able to concentrate on conversations and such. Another relationship problem: you’ll be less likely to remember things. Most people who are unable to sleep have difficulty working on their hobbies, taking care of financial issues, or performing their daily work. These are all dangerous for your social life and work life, but is being unable to sleep dangerous for you physically?
Being unable to sleep on a regular basis has been shown to increase risk for diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and a myriad of other problems in the long term. In the short term, though, being unable to sleep may leave you a tired driver. In a month’s time, about 38% of men and 37% of women are likely to fall asleep accidentally during the day, and 6% of men and 4% of women are likely to nod off or fall asleep at the wheel in any given month. Yikes!
I’ve done that before, and it’s really scary. Luckily, I’ve never been in a car accident because of falling asleep at the wheel, but many people have. It’s hard to pin down the exact number of accidents that happen because of lack of sleep, but it’s a huge percentage of all the accidents out there. Not getting enough sleep leaves you driving like a semi-drunk person. It’s been scientifically proven.
What to do
Now that you see how important it is to get enough sleep, what do you do if you’re unable to sleep? My first suggestion would be to do some research. Books like Sleep Well and Tight can help you learn about problems with sleep, ideas and tips for getting better sleep, and ideas for getting ready to sleep and for falling asleep faster. These tips and tricks are all based on the way your body naturally works, so they can help you gradually adjust your sleep until you’re getting good, solid sleep nearly every night of the week.
If you walk through Sleep Well and Tight and its suggestions, and still don’t have much luck, the next thing to do if you’re unable to sleep is to see a doctor. Don’t ask for drugs right away, since they can do more harm than good in the long run. Instead, see if there are any underlying medical conditions that can make you unable to sleep or that may make the sleep you are getting less fulfilling and deep.
Finally, I might also suggest working with a therapist – again, before you start taking medications for sleeplessness if at all possible. Sometimes underlying mental processes are blocking you from getting to sleep, and you may be able to work through those with the help of a licensed counselor or therapist.
So if you’re unable to sleep, check out Sleep Well and Tight – the tips in that book are ones I come back to every time I start having difficulty sleeping again – and talk with your doctor or see a therapist for help. Sleep problems are preventable and solvable, but you might just need to give yourself some time to get the problem fixed.
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