Happy Wednesday, everyone! Gosh, but it feels like Tuesday… Three-day weekends will do that to you, I guess…
I’m currently recuperating from a could-be-so-much-worse knee injury (of the wow-was-I-being-dumb variety) so my running’s been a little light lately (read: nonexistent) but I wanted to make sure to get online tonight to introduce a new series… Why It Matters Wednesday. (Bear with me… it’s a working title for now.)
The idea behind this is to bring up topics that pertain to health and wellness and why we should take the extra time/energy to care about how they affect us. In the name of grace, I know my first several posts will be fairly broad, but I’m hoping to get down to the nitty-gritty eventually and address things that interest me in a bigger sense… things that are more cause-based and incite a bit more fire in my writing (blood donation and autism to name a couple of near-and-dear causes), but first things first…
Hello! Welcome to Why it Matters Wednesday!
As it is rapidly drawing close to bedtime for me, the subject of sleep is certainly on the front of my mind… or rather, falling asleep. We’ve heard every syndicated medical expert on radios/TVs/the interwebs talking about why sleep is so good, how much you should get, that sleep can contribute to your weight loss… We get it. Enough already. But for many people, the act of falling asleep is the challenge and staying asleep can be a battle.
There is a wiiiiiiiiiiide spectrum of advice on how to get yourself to sleep — much of it is solid, research-supported advice — but a lot of it is just one big stew pot of old wives’ tales sprinkled with some friend-0f-a-friend-based urban legend. The problem with faulty advice? Faulty results! Here are a few of my favorite myths about how to fall asleep…
1. “Just flip on the TV… You’ll zone out.”
Well, not really… Your bed is a zone that should exclusively be “for sleep and hanky panky” (no joke — the American Sleep Association has that on their website!). No reading, no TV-watching, and you should definitely do as I say and not as I do (right now) and NOT tappety-tap on your laptop from the comfort of your bed. Associating your bed with anything other than sleep or hanky panky (I just wanted to say hanky panky again) prompts wakefulness. Unplug, unwind, and for Heaven’s sake… don’t play with your computer/iPhone/other techy stuff in bed.
2. “Man, I hate insomnia! I keep a bottle of NyQuil on the nightstand just in case…”
Taking NyQuil to make you go to sleep is not wise… at all. The wonder drug we all know and love for when we’re itchy, sneezy, sniffly, feverish, et al is known to cause drowsiness — hence the warning about not operating heavy machinery. The problem with relying on this effect is that antihistamines aren’t intended to be used as sleep aids and can actually cause ‘fragmented sleep,’ meaning the sleep you’re encouraging will not be restful, sustained sleep.
3. “Hmm… Can’t sleep… Guess it’s time for a beer…”
Alcohol is something of a false friend when it comes to sleep. Though it makes you feel drowsy initially, it inhibits deeper levels of sleep and drinking lots can mean you’ll have to get up in the middle of the night.
Sleep is important for a lot of reasons, but if we won’t listen to docs and get enough sleep or see a physician to help diagnose a possible sleep disorder, we’re putting more at risk than our waistlines and vanity — we’re putting each other at risk.
Fatal crashes are most likely to occur between 2:00 and 3:00 AM and are more than ten times more likely to occur then than they are between 8:00 and 9:00 AM. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that about 1,500 drowsy driving related deaths occur each year, that 71,000 injuries are reported from drowsy driving-related crashes, and that $12.5 billion dollars are lost annually to these crashes.
You’ve probably heard every reason imaginable imploring you to sleep more, sleep regularly, sleep well but after a while, it probably just sounds like noise. Does hectoring the public make them more likely to follow sound advice? Probably not. But imagine how much more you could get done, how much more time you could save, and most importantly how much more energy you’d have for everything if sleep was your priority and not just an option.
Do yourselves a favor — get sleep regularly. And if you can’t fall asleep, get help from a professional — you’ll be thankful that you did. (And I won’t avoid driving when you’re driving.)
With that said, I’m off… G’night everyone!