Are You Sabotaging Your Own Sleep?

Sleeping angel
Credit: Paul Sapiano./Creative Commons License-Attribution

Sleep is an important part of everyone's daily routine and an essential part of healthy living. Everyone needs enough shut eye in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Not to mention deprivation of daily slumber can eventually lead to other health problems. Despite the known benefits of getting enough, a large number of people fail to allow themselves the time to get a good night's rest.

Age, health, physical activity and mental stimulation affect the levels of sleep a person needs and should be taken into consideration when determining how much rest you actually need. Depending on your individual needs, you may need as little as 5 hours of sleep a night or require as high as 10 hours.

While the optimal amounts of sleep vary amongst individuals, the ideal amount of time a person needs is, on average, 7-8 hours of rest a night. In lieu of the fact we need more of it, we often botch those efforts.

Here are five top ways we tend to sabotage chances of getting a good night's rest:

Hectic Lifestyles

Lifestyles today are pretty fast-paced these days. It often seems there aren't enough hours in the day to accomplish what we want to do and relaxation often comes secondary when living a hectic life. As a result, for many people, sleep gets pushed to the wayside and shoved down the priority list of things to do.

A concern is whether this pattern perhaps can be established in childhood. Beginning at a young age, nowadays, many kids do not receive much time to unwind because daily schedules are full; not only with school and homework, but with play dates, clubs, sports and other after-school activities. This fast-paced lifestyle is taught to kids at an early age and, for many individuals, this cycle might just perpetuate into adulthood. While we are tired from our scheduled commitments each day, it can be hard to unwind when we get home -- think of the potential impact these habits can have on our kids.

Children sleeping
Credit: Holly / Creative Commons - Attribution

Sleep Routines

Daily routines can also significantly impact the quality of sleep received each day. If you are frequently overtired or stressed this can eventually lead to sleep issues. Erratic routines further complicate problems because the body never gets a chance to regulate itself and receive adequate amounts of sleep on a steady basis. As a result, sleep disruption patterns emerge because the more irregular the sleep, the harder it is to fall asleep, stay asleep and get a good night's rest. These problems can easily be avoided by establishing regular sleep habits.

What We Ingest

What we ingest also impacts getting enough shut eye. As a society, we often indulge in convenience and fast foods which aren't ideal for health. An unhealthy diet can also affect our sleep patterns because the body doesn't receive enough of the right nutrients. Even worse, sleep deprivation has been found in some studies to cause more junk food cravings. 2

Over-the-counter sleep aid drugs and caffeine are often used to counteract bad sleeping patterns, but for some people, this can possibly further disrupt rest routines. Instead of developing good sleep habits, how many people who rely on artificial products to keep awake during day hours and to get to sleep at night end up being successful? A short term solution perhaps, but what about the long term?  OTC drugs can potentially have other side effects and even end up ineffective because its habitual use may create a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation -- as a result, the body cannot effectively develop its own natural patterns.

Sleeping in public transportation on the train
Credit: Sasitis/Public Domain


Technology appears to also be having an impact on interrupted sleep and daily rest requirements. For instance, it is not uncommon for individuals to get wrapped up in video games, Internet, television and cell phones before bedtime. According to the National Sleep Foundation3, a poll showed 95 percent of individuals use some sort of gadget (i.e. computer, video game or mobile phone) on a routine basis within an hour before bedtime. Some scientists say these gadgets can disrupt the ability to drift off to sleep.

Many experts recommend instead of using these gadgets in the time frame leading up to bedtime, instead putting these gadgets away earlier in the evening. Yet many people leave them in the room when they doze off as the phone buzzes away or have it handy on the night stand within arm's reach. Some people even sleep with their phones.

The time invested in these devices often inhibits precious sleep hours, in some instances to the point of a possible addiction. In 2010, a study found 1/3 of women aged 18-34 check Facebook as the first thing they do when they wake up. 4

Instagram and other Social Media AppsCredit: Image Credit: Jason A. Howie at Flickr/Creative Commons-Attribution

Wants vs. Needs

Our fast-paced society tends to push aside rest in favor of other preferred activities, and wants end up overshadowing needs. As a result, again as with hectic lifestyles, getting enough sleep often gets prioritized lower on the daily list of things to do. Most people don't get their full amount a night and instead fall into a pattern of regular sleep deprivation.

Many of us also have a tendency to sabotage our own sleep. Until we realize how harmful our routine habits affect healthy sleep patterns -- this vicious cycle will continue.  Prolonged sleep deprivation has the potential to severely compromise all facets of life including mental and physical health, relationships, work and overall happiness.

If you can determine how much sleep you need and make a concentrated effort to maintain a regular sleep routine, you'll probably feel better and not experience the negative effects of not getting enough each night. Moderation is the key. The human body needs time to relax and the mind needs a chance to shut down and rest. If balance in our standards of living can be accomplished, better sleep routines will tend to follow.


[ Related reading:  How to Make Your Bedroom Ideal for Sleep ]