Are you a good sleeper? Do you fall asleep at the drop of a hat? Do you sleep soundly all night long? Does nothing every worry you when you sleep so that there are no problems going to sleep and staying asleep? When you go to the bathroom, almost in a zombie like state, on returning to bed do you fall asleep instantly? Well, guess what, you are one of the VERY lucky people in this world.
We know that more than 40% of people experience significant stress in their personal and work relationships. We also know that up to 30% of people have trouble sleeping. Insomnia – a simple word with simple meanings. Insomnia is the inability to experience sufficient hours or quality of sleep. You might have trouble falling asleep. You go to bed feeling relaxed, rested, ready for sleep and you lie there for hours thinking at a fast rate, switching from your left side to your right side, wriggling, and kicking the blankets off – unable to fall asleep.
Alternatively, you fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow but four or five hours later you wake suddenly and cannot get back to sleep. Your thoughts race, you replay all the unpleasant and stressful events and interactions that occurred during the day, you start to think about the recession and possible job loss, your mind starts calculating the unpaid bills sitting in your home office, you then remember that your vehicle requires a major service and you worry about the cost, and on and on. There seems to be no end to the stressful things you think about when you wake up in the middle of the night.
Sleep deprivation is interfering with the lives of millions of Americans. In many cases, the insomnia and reduced sleep is transient and when the worries disappear, sleep returns. Unfortunately, for some people, sleep can be a major problem. One disorder is narcolepsy and this means that people fall asleep almost anywhere at any time but this isn’t the concern of this article. I am often asked by my clients in therapy how to deal with the stress of sleeplessness.
I won’t explain the sleep cycles (REM and non-REM) but I will give you a simple concept of sleeplessness. Everyone requires a certain amount of sleep to feel refreshed and well. This varies from person to person. Let’s imagine for you it is eight hours a night. This is the optimum for your body and brain to feel refreshed and rejuvenated. Now let’s think about a Sleep Bank. This is the place where you deposit your daily and weekly amount of sleep. So, each week, you need to contribute 56 hours to your sleep bank. But you have two all-nighters because of work pressures. Now you have a significant Sleep Debt. Your body and your Sleep Bank require you to pay back that lost sleep. The debt does not disappear. You need that amount of sleep gasoline to keep driving your body.
This is my first explanation for insomnia and sleeplessness. In my next article I’ll talk about how to deal with breaks in your sleep. Loss of sleep, failure to pay back the sleep debt, excessive worry, and over-work all conspire to make Jack and Jill stressed and unhappy people. Loss of sleep leads to impaired performance, errors, added stress, and even depression. So go visit that sleep bank now and make sure you have healthy deposits to prevent personal and workplace stress.