Have you ever stopped to think how much of your life you spend sleeping? The average lifespan, in 2020, according to surveys, was 79 years. Of those 79 years we spend an average of 26 years sleeping. For those who are light sleepers and have trouble getting to sleep, add another seven years, which are spent trying to fall asleep. To sum it up, we spend an average of 33 years of our lives in our beds.
The terror of sleepless nights is a grueling reality many are faced with. Tossing and turning, unable to switch off that internal chatter, falling into a dizzying loop, as the night slips away from us.
Do you ever have nights when it feels as though you have forgotten how to fall asleep? The harder you try, the further away sleep seems to be? You are not alone. Insomnia is a commonly reported sleep problem. Insomnia symptoms include trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, or both. Approximately one in seven adults suffers from chronic insomnia and one in three people, in the USA, reportedly use prescription sleeping aids.
Collateral Effects of Insomnia
Humans can go up to three weeks without food whereas we can only manage, give or take, one week without sleep. The collateral effects of sleep deprivation can literally destroy us, slowly crippling us, sucking the joy out of life. Like a leaky faucet, our life energy is being drained away, one drop at a time, with every sleepless moment. The collateral effects of insomnia can be debilitating, putting our mental, physical and emotional wellbeing at risk.
- Loss of long and short term memory
- Mood Changes – irritability
- Inability to focus, be creative or solve problems
- Weakened immune system, leading to frequent illness
- Accident prone
- Daytime chronic fatigue
- High blood pressure
- Low sex drive
- Weight gain
- Risk of heart disease and diabetes
Sleep is essential to keep our central nervous system functioning properly. During a night of normal sleep we go through four to five sleep cycles, which are in turn composed of individual sleep stages, broken down into two categories: rapid eye movement sleep (REM) and non REM sleep.
Breakdown Of Normal Sleep Cycles
The first three cycles of sleep are non REM sleep. The first stage is short, and this is the time we spend dozing off and transitioning into sleep. The second stage is when the body and mind slow down as we settle into sleep. The third stage, is often referred to as deep sleep. This is when the body goes into recovery mode, and slows down further. During this stage our overall brain activity also slows down.
The fourth stage is REM sleep. During REM periods, brain activity shoots up to levels very similar to when we’re awake. During REM we experience our most intense dreams. Both breathing and heart rate increase during REM sleep and most of our muscles are paralyzed. This might sound frightening, however this paralysis is what keeps us from acting out our dreams. In fact some people suffer from sleep paralysis issues, which is topic unto itself.
REM sleep is necessary since it stimulates areas of our brain that are essential in learning, making and retaining memories. “According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a study depriving rats of REM sleep significantly shortened their life span, from two or three years to five weeks. Rats deprived of all sleep cycles lived only three weeks.”
During REM sleep, our brain exercises important neural connections. These are key to mental and overall well-being and health.
What Can You Do To Overcome Insomnia
- Avoid daytime naps
- Cut out caffeine – if you are not able to, then save it for mornings only
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday
- Relaxing activities, such as reading, meditating, or taking a bath before bed are helpful
- No heavy meals within a few hours before bedtime
- No electronic devices before bed
- Exercising regularly, preferably during the day as opposed to prior to bedtime
- Reduce your alcohol intake
Creating a comfortable, relaxed environment for yourself can help you wind down. Is your bedroom cluttered? Give it a good clean and remove all paper and or work related stuff from your bedroom. Your bedroom should be a temple, a place where you can safely leave your body behind as you journey into deep sleep.
Are you easily awakened by noise and/or light? If you live in the city and suffer insomnia, then noise is most certainly a contributing factor to your sleepless nights. Sleeping with earplugs and an eye mask can improve the quality of your sleep.
Hi-Tech Gadgets To Combat Insomnia
Science and technology have provided us with many drug free alternatives for dealing with insomnia. Hi-tech insomnia gadgets provide a wide range of methods, from guided breathing exercises, to electrical brain stimulation, that help overcome insomnia and solutions for sleep apnea. Not all of us suffer insomnia for the same reasons. For some it’s noise, or anxiety, while for others it may be issues with breathing, such as sleep apnea.
You will find Hi-tech gadgets designed to intervene and target specific insomnia related issues. I myself, have had issues with falling asleep. I tend to be high strung and very sensitive to noise. I have found a very simple solution to help me fall asleep. A free App which gives me a choice of sound effects to fall asleep to worked wonders for me. They offer sounds of splashing waves, soft rainfall or thundering rain, white noise, nature and animal sounds. My personal favorite, which works for me every time, is the sound of a crackling fire, with crickets in the background.
If you suffer from sleepless nights, or have trouble falling asleep, consider a non prescription solution. We all know that pharmaceuticals often fix one thing at the expense of another. Long term use of prescription drugs, as a sleeping aid, can lead to serious side effects, including addiction, undermining your health and wellbeing.