A new campaign called Sleeping Smart is about to happen as a joint project between the National Sleep Foundation and Sanofi-Aventis, a pharmaceutical company and the makers of the popular sleep aid Ambien. The goal is to educate people about the value of sleep, and help those who suffer from insomnia understand its consequences.
I’m all for campaigns like this, because I think insomnia is sorely underestimated. What’s also highly underestimated is the effect insomnia can have on a person—from mood swings and irritability to decreased capacity to function at optimal levels, get things done, and generally feel good. I challenge anyone who looks and feels worn-out to prioritize sleep for one week and see the difference.
There are numerous health-related risks associated with insomnia, too. But perhaps the most stunning realization of all is the fact so few people even recognize they have insomnia. And those who think they do never mention it to their healthcare professional. In fact, two-thirds of those at increased risk for insomnia don’t consider themselves to have the condition, which may further perpetuate reasons for not seeking help.
Here’s a few questions to ask yourself (especially if you have trouble sleeping):
- Do you engage in stimulating activities before bedtime (e.g., watch television, send e-mail, surf the Internet, do household chores)?
- Does it take you more than 20 minutes to fall asleep?
- Do you resort to taking anything to help you sleep soundly, be it prescription drugs or over-the-counter remedies (Tylenol and Advil PM count!)?
- Would you fall asleep if you were to read quietly in the afternoon? By the same token, do you drift off at afternoon meetings?
- Do you sleep on airplanes?
- Do you sleep when you are a passenger in a car?
- Do you look and feel older than you really are?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, it may be time to check in with your inner sleep thief. (This last question usually gets people—they don’t realize that restful sleep can physically de-age you, taking years off your looks and work at the cellular level.)
Insomnia does not have to be a fact of life, even if it’s more common today than ever before due to our chosen lifestyles. There are plenty of combination strategies that you can use to become a better sleep.
The top three:
- Develop a consistent and routine bedtime habit that calms you down and prepares you for sleep; know how much sleep you need and be sure to get it consistently.
- Learn how to out-smart negative self-talk that can enter your mind when you hit the pillow.
- Exercise regularly and avoid caffeine and alcohol within three hours of bedtime.
You’ll become a better—younger—person overall. Everything about you can benefit.
For more info, check out www.sleepsmart.org.