What is Sleeplessness?
If you struggle falling asleep or wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep, and this persists for a few days, a few weeks or longer, you suffer from sleeplessness, a serious disorder that robs your body of the rest it requires to re-energize you physically, mentally and emotionally. A typical form of sleeplessness, also referred to as insomnia, occurs when you wake up during the night, realize you are wide-awake when you should be sleeping and then become anxious. The anxiety causes adrenaline to flood the system and adrenaline prompts the body into action – the opposite of what you need for effective sleep. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. Sleeplessness affects all age groups. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that about 60 million Americans suffer from insomnia each year. The National Sleep Foundation reports that disordered sleep – difficulty falling asleep, light sleep or nonrestorative sleep for several nights or more weekly – affects nearly two-thirds of American adults at some point. It’s believed that sleeplessness increases as we grow older. More than half of older Americans have trouble sleeping and think it’s a part of aging. It’s not.
Sleep problems in the elderly are not a normal part of aging
says Dr. Julie Gammack, assistant professor of geriatrics at Saint Louis University.
It contributes to an increased risk of accidents, falls and chronic fatigue. Our children and teens, too, are having trouble sleeping. Difficulty falling asleep is the most common complaint among adolescents. In a national survey on the sleep patterns of U.S. adolescents ages 11-17, the 2006 Sleep in America poll by the National Sleep Foundation found only 20% of adolescents were getting the recommended nine hours of sleep on school nights and 45% slept less than eight hours.
What’s Causing Your Sleeplessness?
Stress is a leading cause of abnormal sleep patterns. Research shows it is a common trigger for both short-term and chronic insomnia. Stress can result from health concerns, depression and anxiety among other things, but perhaps the most insidious cause is the fast paced world in which we live. Technology, world events and our ever-increasing knowledge about our world and the universe seem to have put time on a relentless treadmill and keeping up can wear out even the most determined among us. Scientific research by the Institute of HeartMath shows stress creates incoherence in our heart rhythms, and when the heart is out of sync normal sleep patterns can be interrupted.
Up to 90% of all health problems are related to stress. Additionally, a large body of research confirms our thoughts and emotions have a dynamic effect on our health and vitality.”
The American Institute of Stress
Before settling down for the night, take five minutes to try these simple steps adapted from the HeartMath Attitude Breathing® tool.
- Focus on your heart as you breathe in. Focus on your solar plexus as you breathe out.
- Concentrate on a positive feeling or attitude as you breathe.
- Lock in this feeling.
- As you become adept at this technique select new feeling and attitudes.
Benefits of Restful Sleep
- Wake up feeling rested, refreshed and ready for the new day
- Increased mental awareness, concentration, focus
- Body energized, alert; less potential for accidents
- Improved memory
- Reduced risk of illness, disease
Techniques are demonstrated to provide powerful stress-reduction benefits in carefully designed scientific studies that are supported by a documented reduction in damaging stress hormones.
Paul Rosch, President, The American Institute of Stress