What can you do when you can't sleep at night? What can you do if you never seem to sleep well? Many have sleep difficulties nightly. While sleeping pills are an option that millions resort to, there are practical measures that you can take that can be more effective and that can result in a good night’s sleep regularly.
Keep the TV and other electronics out of your bedroom, exercise during the day and don't drink anything with caffeine before you go to bed. These are a few simple ideas to help you get a better night's sleep.
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Insufficient Sleep - Effects on the Body
Insufficient sleep is associated with a number of chronic diseases and conditions - such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression - which threaten our nation's health. Not getting enough sleep is associated with the onset of these diseases and also may complicate their management and outcome. Sufficient sleep is increasingly being recognized as an essential aspect of chronic disease prevention and health promotion.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) health site asks, "Tired? Insufficient sleep is associated with a number of chronic diseases and conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and depression. Sufficient sleep is increasingly being recognized as an essential aspect of chronic disease prevention and health promotion."
How you feel and perform during the day is related to how much sleep you get the night before. If sleepiness interferes with your daily activities, more sleep each night will improve the quality of your waking hours.
What We Can Do to Get a Good Night's Sleep
The promotion of regular sleep is known as sleep hygiene.
Here are some simple sleep hygiene tips:
Go to bed at the same time each night, and rise at the same time each morning.
Go to sleep in a quiet, dark, and relaxing environment, which is neither too hot nor too cold.
Make your bed comfortable and use it only for sleeping and not for other activities, such as reading, watching TV, or listening to music.
Remove all TVs, computers, and other "gadgets" from the bedroom.
Avoid physical activity within a few hours of bedtime.
Avoid large meals before bedtime.
Get regular exercise during the day, especially if you don't work or if your work is not physical.
Listen to soothing music before going to bed or while trying to fall asleep.
Avoid caffeine in any form in the evening. Drink warm milk before going to bed.
One writer on the subject encourages writing in a journal all of the preoccupations of the day, all worries and things that are cluttering up one's mind. In harmony with that many find prayer before bed and Bible reading to be helpful.
Don't rely on sleeping pills to sleep. It can hurt one's quality of sleep in the long-term. it can be easy to become dependent on sleeping pills in order to sleep and can be dangerous to have in one's home for a number of reasons.
"Sufficient sleep is not a luxury-it is a necessity-and should be thought of as a vital sign of good health."
Wayne H. Giles, MD, MS, Director, Division of Adult and Community Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
Types of Sleep Disorders
Sleep-related difficulties of
"sleep disorders" affect many people.
Major sleep disorders include:
Insomnia - an inability to fall or stay asleep that can result in functional impairment throughout the day.
Narcolepsy - excessive daytime sleepiness combined with sudden muscle weakness; episodes of narcolepsy are sometimes called "sleep attacks" and may occur in unusual circumstances.
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) - an unpleasant "creeping" sensation associated with aches and pains throughout the legs that can make it difficult to fall asleep.
Sleep Apnea - interrupted sleep caused by periodic gasping or "snorting" noises or momentarily suspension of breathing.
Television Can Contribute to Sleep Problems in Children and Adults
"...with television in their bedrooms are often irritable and drowsy the next day, and this makes them more difficult to cope with...the half-hearted notion that television will make parenting easier is a false economy. And parenting is made even more difficult because of what children watch on television."
--Remotely Controlled - How television is damaging our lives – and what we can do about it by Dr. Aric Sigman - Book Review
Take the television out of your or your child's bedroom. This can help an adult or child get a better night's rest. Adults, too, benefit from taking the television and other electronics out of the bedroom.
What about sleeping pills?
Sleeping pills are used by millions. Some use them often, some once in a great while. Are they a good option to help you or to help a teen or a child to get a good night's sleep? For doctors sleeping pills are very easy to prescribe. Often times those who are already on medication for a psychiatric disorder, might have an additional problem with sleep.
Sleeping pills, while popular, do have dangers. One can become dependant on them to sleep and a vicious cycle can be created. One can overdose on sleeping pills and when they are in the house, they are frequently used in suicide attempts
and actual suicides.
Suicide is the 5th leading cause of death in China. Of all suicide attempts from 1990-2002, 28% (4,103) were attempts by ingesting anti-anxiety agents
or sleeping pills. (CDC)
Elderly persons who are prescribed sleeping pills or sedatives have a four-fold higher risk of suicide from overdose, a recent study in Sweden documents. (A fourteen-fold increase of risk in the crude analysis, and a four-fold increase, when results are interpolated to account for pre-existing psychiatric condition).
Swedish study concludes:
There is an extremely high rate of prescriptions for the elderly for all psychotropic drugs, including sedatives and hypnotics (sleeping pills)
The availability of sleeping pills in the home does seem to contribute to a higher suicide risk
Commenting on this study, one report stated,
"These medicines are prescribed quite widely to treat depression, anxiety, and sleep disturbance in older people."
Sedatives include the medicines diazepam, alprazolam, and buspirone. Sleeping pills include nitrazepam, flurazepam, zopiclone, and zolpidem.
Some of these drugs may cause an increase in aggressive behavior in some people, even though the drugs are intended to be calming. If that's the case, people may be more likely to act violently towards themselves (as well as others).
Because these drugs are dangerous in overdose, they may provide a method of suicide for people who are already considering it.
On the subject of sleeping pills, the Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA) website states, in part because medication for ADHD can produce insomnia in many persons:
"Sleep aids....are...not for long-term use. Research shows that sleep quality suffers with sleeping pills. Medicated sleepers don't remember waking up during the night because most sleep aids also induce minor amnesia. And because sleep medication shortens the cycles of deep restful sleep, insomniacs taking sleeping pills continue to exhibit signs of irritability and fogginess."
Sleep disorders are often misdiagnosed as ADHD.
Conclusion of Drugs Used for Sleep
By taking practical measures, most can overcome sleeping problems without drugs. Keeping active during the day and exercising, avoiding to much television, or overly-stimulating television or movies, avoiding alcohol and quitting smoking, keeping electronics of all types out of the bedroom, keeping a clean and orderly home, these can help one to get a good night's rest.
Additionally, listening to gentle or relaxing music, doing light and positive reading at night, using earplugs, praying before going to sleep, drinking a cup of chamomile tea an hour or so before bed, can also help to get a good nights rest.
Many mental health professionals feel that sleeping pills should never be used for children. It sets up a dangerous life-pattern, gets children used to the idea of taking pills to solve problems, and sets up an undesirable foundation for adolescence with its many emotional highs and lows. Parents should do everything they can to ensure that their children have a secure and stable home, clean and safe, orderly. If parents keep electronics out of the bedroom, and have a TV-out policy without 1 1/2 to 2 hours before bed (including computer, video games an movies), as well as a number of other suggestions which one can read for children here, most children will get a good night's sleep.
Medication for ADHD can contribute to poor sleeping habits in children, and while some (irresponsible) physicians do use sedatives or hypnotics to "help" children to sleep, this is not in the child's best interest or in his or her long term safety or benefit.
Rather, parents should work hard for their children to have a balanced, secure and healthy life, which will contribute to good sleeping habits for the child.
References for overcoming sleep problems and sleep disorders
1. Anders, Carlsten, Margda, Waern, (2009). Are sedatives and hypnotics associated with increased suicide risk of suicide in the elderly? BMC Geriatrics. 9:20. http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2318/9/20
2. Insufficient Sleep Is a Public Health Epidemic Sleep. (Retrieved July 8, 2009). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/Features/Sleep/
3. Overcoming ADHD Without Medication: A Parent and Educator’s Guidebook, (2010). AYCNP.
4. Roggli, L. (July 2009). ADHD Sleep: Sweet Dreams or Nightmare. ADDA e-news. Attention Deficit Disorder Association newsletter.
5. Sleeping pill suicide risk for older people. (June 4, 2009) Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/besttreatments/2009/jun/04/sleeping-pill-suicide-risk-for-older-people
6. Suicide and Attempted Suicide --- China, 1990-2002, (June 11, 2004). Center for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5322a6.htm