The Psychology of a Good Night’s Sleep 

Healthy Living – July 2, 2013Dr. David Prescott – Eastern Maine Medical Center Behavioral MedicineOne In Three People are Significantly Sleep Deprived: According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), about 30% of people who work a day shift are sleep deprived enough to experience significant impairment in daily functioning. Compared with other states, Maine ranks about the middle in terms of the number of people with sleep deprivation. The body’s need for sleep is strong: people who are sleep deprived often exhibit microsleep episodes where a 10-15 second interval of sleep occurs. We often refer to this as “nodding off.” Short and Long Term Effects of Poor Sleep: Most of us are familiar with the short term effects of poor or insufficient sleep. Common short term effects of poor sleep include moodiness, irritability, and disinhibition.In addition, chronic poor sleep is associated with a number of health problems including: · High blood pressure· Increased risk of heart disease and stroke· Depression and bipolar disorder· Obesity and DiabetesWhat Causes Poor or Insufficient Sleep? Over 70 different sleep disorders have been identified by sleep experts. Many of these require a thorough medical workup in order to be properly diagnosed. However, psychologists have found that many of the factors which contribute to difficulty falling asleep or poor sleep quality can be addressed by changing certain behaviors, thoughts, and lifestyle habits. Most people can achieve better sleep by studying their sleep habits and making some simple changes. Psychological Remedies for Improved Sleep: · Teach Your Body When and Where to Sleep: Your body responds to what psychologists call stimulus cues to prepare for sleep. These cues include time of day and place where you sleep. You can help train your body to go to sleep by having a regular bed time (stick to it!) and making your bed a place that is only for sleeping (rather than watching T.V. or reading, for example). · Get Regular Exercise: Regular exercise and activity helps relieve stress and assists you in falling asleep. Most experts suggest that you exercise at least 2-3 hours before you go to bed. · Monitor What You Eat and Drink Before Going to Sleep: Alcohol, heavy meals, or caffeine before sleeping all increase the risk of poor sleep. While alcohol may make you feel a bit drowsy, it actually can disrupt sleep. · What Are You Telling Yourself?: Many people describe being flooded with worries as soon as they try to go to sleep. Some of these worries are better left for the next day. Other worries, such as thinking “I’ll be miserable tomorrow if I don’t get to sleep” can be usefully changed through Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. Changing thinking patterns often helps you fall asleep and stay asleep. For More Information: American Psychological Association: Sleep Foundation : www.sleepfoundation.orgNIH National Center for Sleep Disorders Research