Check-Up: The beauty of sleep
Maxie's problem is that he's falling asleep at work. Yes, work is tedious and even boring at times, but he knows he isn't sleeping properly at night. Maxie asks Check Up for some advice about how to correct this sleepiness. He tells Check Up that he's having some family and financial problems which just keep him up thinking all night. He says "his mind just runs on things".
Many people are really not getting enough sleep at night-time but this only becomes a problem when it begins to interfere with daytime functioning - our work schedule and social activities.
Sleepiness is a significant cause of motor vehicle accidents and poor school performance. It is also a major problem for people who work on a shift system. Treatment involves determining what is causing the sleep problem and avoiding these problems so that sleep is improved.
Sometimes there are more serious underlying disorders such as narcolepsy, which is a sleep disorder where the person can fall asleep at just about any time while involved in any activity; or sleep apnea, which is a more common disorder associated with snoring, poor brain oxygenation and interrupted sleep at night-time. Medical help must be sought!
Chronic illnesses such as asthma or heart failure, or painful conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia also keep us awake at night-time. Cigarette smoking is also associated with insomnia.
There are also medications which should not be taken at night-time as they tend to be associated with wakefulness; recreational drugs like alcohol which diminish the quality of sleep; and caffeine and caffeine-containing drinks, which may stimulate us during the day to increased wakefulness, but whose effects last many hours and will interfere with night-time sleep.
The body tends to follow a rhythm, where there is a natural tendency towards drowsiness and sleep between midnight to 7 a.m., and 1 p.m to 4 p.m. If you are awake during these hours and missing night sleep, then your body will have a greater tendency to doze off during these times.
When you don't get enough sleep, a sleep debt begins to accumulate and continues to increase until we catch up on the needed sleep. More and more signs of sleep deprivation will become manifest until the needed sleep is obtained. Not everyone needs the same amount of sleep and as we grow older, we can actually get by quite well with less sleep than our children need, but anyone can become sleep deprived.
In addition, shift workers suffer sleep deprivation quite a lot. They not only have to try to sleep during the daytime against normal body circadian rhythms, but they have to do this with the daytime loud noises from cars, telephones, etc. Yes, they do suffer. Statistics show that they have more accidents on the job, experience decreased productivity, and, even at times, decreased quality of a life, which may be associated with more car accidents while driving.
It's better to try a permanent night shift rather than mixing day with night shifts, as the body adjusts a little better, but it's never perfect. And work on eliminating all extraneous sounds from the bedroom during the day.
There is no substitute for sleep. If you need more sleep, try moving your bedtime up by half an hour three nights a week, then eventually adjust the other nights also, if possible. If not possible, then try to obtain one full hour of nap time during the daytime.
- Stop drinking coffee and all caffeine-containing drinks.
- Stop drinking alcohol, which leads to superficial sleep only.
- Don't drink and drive, and don't feel sleepy and drive. If necessary, get some sleep first, or take a nap.
- During the daytime, if feeling sleepy, take frequent 10-minute breaks to walk around, and drink some water to improve hydration.
- Have a candy bar, if allowed.
See your doctor for a check-up as there may be a medical problem for daytime lethargy.
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