Sleep Towards a Better Life

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Wednesday, January 20, 2016
By Oscar Gomezese, LMFT

Did you know that at least 60% of Americans report sleep problems? Did you also know that 40% of adults experience daytime sleepiness that interferes with their daily functions? Did you know that teenagers who lack adequate sleeping habits in pre-school years are twice more likely to use drugs, alcohol and cigarettes?

 Here are some environmental factors that may affect sleep. For example, stress is the number one cause of sleeping difficulties (work/school/family). Drinking alcohol or caffeine in the afternoon/evenings, exercising close to bedtime, having irregular morning and nighttime schedules, or doing mentally intense activities right before getting into bed can disrupt sleep.
Other environmental factors that may be impacting your sleep are temperature, noise, lighting, comfort of the bed and the habits of your sleeping partner. Physical illnesses and medications can also affect sleep so please talk to the doctor if you need to.
Sleep deprivation leads to irritability, moodiness and disinhibition. If after these signs the person does not get adequate sleep the person may start to experience apathy, slowed speech and impaired memory. If this continues the person may go through intermittent sleeps of a few seconds that can happen while driving or doing other activities and further lead into hallucinations.
So how much time does a person need to sleep to be at optimum performance? Well that varies from person to person, but for an adult, the average time of sleep recommended is 8 hours at night. Some individuals can function well with only 6 hours of sleep and others need 10 hours to be alert all day.
Following are some techniques to improve your sleeping habits:
1.  Have a regular bedtime schedule.
2.  Do not drink alcohol or caffeine 4-6 hours before going to bed.
3.  Do not smoke, especially close to bedtime.
4.  Avoid heavy meals at night.
5.  Get regular exercise, but do not exercise close to your bedtime.
6.  Minimize noise, light and extreme temperatures where you sleep.
7.  Try to wake up without an alarm.
Being mindful of incorporating good and consistent sleeping habits leads to better decision-making, improvement of mood, increased patience, a healthier immune system, more energy and allows your brain to work at optimal levels.