The signs are there. I’m forgetting where I put stuff. I’m finding stupid mistakes in my work (Clients please ignore this and read on). Sure, stress and too many distractions in the day are factors. But the biggie, according to sleep experts, is not getting enough zzzzs each night.
Slowly I’m sleeping my way to the big 8 hours of nightly sleep. That’s what these sleep experts say we need to function properly each day. Previously I had read that 7 hours worked and found that if I slept for 7 1/4 hours I was fine. Trouble is, the nights of that amount of sleep were few and far between. I get to bed way too late (too many things to do) and no, I don’t get up too early. However, when this relentless rain we’ve been receiving this week stops for more than a few hours and the temperature climbs, I want to get up an hour earlier to go out into my garden before sitting in front of the computer. So, I have to work back from the other end – when I go to bed.
Surprisingly, I usually don’t have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. On the few occasions when I wake up during the night I generally nod off within a few minutes. A disclaimer here: I do not take drugs to sleep or calm down, but occasionally take the natural supplement Valerian Root to relax. It doesn’t interfere with daily functions.
My big problem is finding time to get enough sleep – something I first encountered in high school when I stayed up late studying for exams and set the alarm for 6 a.m. to continue studying. I still didn’t cover everything in the curriculum and would face the exam with trepidation.
I’m not alone in this not-enough-sleep lifestyle. Many of us “sleep-walk” our way through each day. A study by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia confirms many people are akin to the living dead in their reactions to getting insufficient nightly shut-eye http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21368739. The CDC did an analysis of information from a 2005-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Statistics gleaned here on sleep deprivation are:
Adults 20–39 years – 37.0%
Adults 40-59 years – 40.3%
Adults aged 60 years and over – 32.0%
I fall into this latter group so these somewhat lower statistics surprised me, mainly because of what my friends of the same age have told me, i.e., they go to bed late, wake up at 5 a.m. and can’t return to sleep so get up and read the newspaper and check e-mail.
The other jolt from this study is the main repercussion found from lack of sleep – 23.2 % of US adults had difficulty concentrating on doing things. When you consider everything people do daily, it gets scary. Driving and operating machinery come first to mind. But what about traffic controllers? There have been instances of airplanes circling the runway because of no traffic controller response except maybe a series of snores. Even those of us who write and edit for a living lose our concentration fast. It seems to take longer to grasp something than normal and we miss bad sentence structures, wrong words in manuscripts and reports we edit (Clients, please snooze now). I’ve even dozed off for a few minutes and woken up startled to find my hands sitting on the computer keyboard.
Something has to be done. Bottom line is we need more sleep but how to get it? Some experts say to cut the TV viewing but that isn’t the only culprit. We stay out too late at social events. We work too late – and heaven help the night shift workers – they have it worse, but that’s another story. We try to cram too much into a day (guilty here). We need to either extend our sleep time in the morning or just get to bed earlier. I’m still don’t believe that on weekends you should get the same number of hours of sleep as weeknights (i.e. don’t sleep in). But if you do sleep in weekends, you need to get more than five or six or even seven hours of sleep during the week.
So, I’m trying to train myself to do less “housework” each night. I have the habit of doing the dishes late and then I get sidetracked from getting to bed by clearing papers off the table, sorting the unwieldy pile of unread magazines on the coffee table, sorting old newspapers, flyers and dumping them in the big recycling bin outside, and even reading said newspapers and magazines. The list goes on and I’m not even fully awake at the time. Do I really have to do this now? should be our mantra. Ask yourself: will the world end if you don’t (supply your own task) tonight? Remember the three D’s – delay, delegate and dump. Being an “only person” here, the middle D often raises the question “Who?” But I’m using the other two “D’s” more.
Another option is power-napping for 20-minutes during the day. But that doesn’t mean we can forego a good night’s sleep. If we don’t get more sleep, our society could turn into snoring zombies.
Now that would be rude.
Only Child Writes