I was just reading about a book that just came out by Patricia Morrisroe called Wide Awake: A Memoir On Insomnia, which is definitely an interesting topic because lots of people don’t even realize they have a sleep problem. I know that I get distracted on my laptop sometimes until 3am and that most people are asleep by then, but I’ve never thought of it in terms of sleep issues. It seems normal to go to sleep when you feel tired, but what if you’re not tired until the early hours way after the clock strikes twelve? According to Morrisroe, this means you might have insomnia if this happens on a regular basis. It could just be a bad night or week if you’re able to fall asleep earlier normally – we are human, after all. However, if you find yourself tossing and turning every night or finding excuses to watch ridiculous amounts of TV or read just to distract yourself from sleeping, there definitely is a problem.
The main difference between having a bad week and insomnia is that stress typically causes a bad night or week’s loss in sleep, however, insomnia is an underlying fear or inability to sleep that causes you to stay up late thinking or focus on other things as distractions. I definitely know a few people besides myself who just find excuses to stay up late on a regular basis. For example, I’ve heard the line countless times, “I only had four more chapters left of that book – I HAD to finish it.” That’s okay once in a while, but if you’re just finding things to fill your time instead of sleeping, you’re definitely not on the right schedule and need to fix your biological clock in order to sleep.
I’ve heard all of my life about how important sleep is to daily functioning and your immune system as a whole. Lack of sleep can cause you to make silly mistakes at work or even put yourself in dangerous situations like walking in front of a moving vehicle. Everyone has their off weeks where they have to work late or they just got out of a bad relationship and can’t stop thinking about it until the early morning hours. However, if you’re only getting 6 or less hours of sleep a night or posting Facebook updates at 4am, there’s nothing good about that. If you have to get up early for work the next day and you’re still puttering around the internet until you hear the birds chirping outside, it’s counterproductive. If you’re not really doing anything important, go to bed. Even if you are, do you really think it’s going to turn out well when you’re running on no sleep? Your mind and body will thank you for not putting so much strain on them to stay awake. Does it really make sense to go to your job, sit at your desk and have to chug coffee because you can’t concentrate? Besides the obvious health benefits of beating insomnia, dreams are really important, too – you need your R.E.M. sleep to consolidate your memories and keep your mind sharp. Insomnia is a difficult thing to deal with – any night without the ability to sleep and way too many thoughts running through your head makes for a foggy day and a hard time being productive. Sometimes, sleep improves creativity, but in the long run, a constant bout of insomnia could make any creative progress incoherent and not worth the sacrifice.
There are some various ways to beat insomnia, including sleep medication, which a doctor can prescribe for you. However, if this isn’t something that helps you or you just occasionally have an issue sleeping, one of the best ways to get your sleep clock back in order is to go to bed at the same time every night. I don’t mean 3am or any time after 12am, but between the hours of 10-12am is a better way to go. You actually lose sleep if you go to bed after 12am and feel more rested when you’re in bed before that hour in terms of biology. Keeping a normal scheduled time for sleep is an important way to beat insomnia, although as I said before, simple methods like this might not work for you and medication might have to step in. Another way to regain your biological clock is to turn off all electronics at least an hour before you want to sleep. All of the light from your laptop or the television can animate you too much and keep you awake. Your body needs to wind down and prepare to sleep, not just be thrown into “slumber” when you still want to go out and dance. Make sure to wind down with a good book or just lie down for a while. Make sure that you can just drift into slumber instead of wanting to find something else to do.
Keep these ideas in mind and make sure you go to a doctor if you think you might need sleep aid. It’s always better to get a second opinion from a professional in order to keep your strong, independent self healthy!