Not if you are a new parent, shift worker, traveller or night time web surfer.
Parents of new babies miss out on around six months’ worth of sleep during the first two years of the child’s life.
Happy World Sleep Day.
How did you sleep last night? Are you feeling refreshed?
Shift workers, travellers who cross time zones, certain illnesses, some medications, bad sleep habits and the temptations of the internet are other sleep thieves that can turn the idea of slumber into a nightmare.
Oh yes, and menopause, ageing and thinking.
LACK OF SLEEP IS KILLING US
Lack of sleep has been linked to loss of brain tissue, breast and colorectal cancers, strokes and early death.
Research has shown that less than seven hours each night can reduce life expectancy.
The National Roads and Motorists’ Association (NRMA) estimates fatigue is the cause of one in six fatal car accidents.
Major disasters, such as the Chernobyl nuclear accident and the Challenger space shuttle catastrophe have been linked to human errors in which lack of sleep was a factor.
Seventeen hours of sustained wakefulness leads to a decrease in performance the same as a person with a blood-alcohol level of 0.05 per cent.
Fatigue causes poor concentration and memory, mood swings, impaired judgement and poor coordination and reaction time.
Without enough sleep, we all become tall two-year-olds.
It is also a cause of obesity – people often consume too much sugar for the energy hit it gives – and affects our appearance with added wrinkles and bags under our eyes.
It is thought those who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to get the common cold infection.
World Sleep Day is an annual event aimed at celebrating sleep and raising awareness about the dangers of not getting enough.
Organised by the World Association of Sleep Medicine (WASM), the campaign was started in 2008.
WHAT STOPS US FROM SLEEPING?
Sleep disorders, such as Obstructive Sleep Apnea, primary insomnia and Restless Leg Syndrome affect more than 1.5 million Australians, according to the latest statistics, and the economic cost is estimated at around $818 million.
There are a host of reasons why we don’t get enough sleep and even the tiniest things, such as digital alarm clocks, can have an effect.
The tiny luminous rays from a digital alarm clock are enough to disrupt sleep as the light turns off a neural switch in the brain, causing levels of a key sleep chemical to decline within minutes.
Depression is another leading cause of sleep loss, and in a cruel twist, sleep deprivation can cause depression.
Too much thinking is also a major cause of sleep deprivation. When that overactive mind registers you are not sleeping when you should be, sleep anxiety results and these are the ingredients that nightmares (or, at least wakefulness) are made of.
The good news there is that research suggests if you tell yourself (and believe it) that you have had a good sleep, you will perform better.
Insomnia is a gross feeder. It will nourish itself on any kind of thinking, including thinking about not thinking
HOW MUCH GOOD SLEEP IS ENOUGH?
The amount of sleep required by the average person is five minutes more.
The amount of sleep we need changes according to our age and can also be different for each individual.
Generally, infants need at least 16 hours of sleep per day. Teenagers require around nine hours. Adults can survive well on seven to eight hours. Those older than 65 can make do with around six hours.
The longest a person has purposely gone without sleep is 264 hours (11 days).
Oversleeping can also cause health issues. A US study showed that people who slept nine to 10 hours were more likely to become obese.
Oversleeping has also been linked to heart disease and diabetes.
GOOD SLEEP AND CHILDREN
The importance of setting up good sleep routines for children is paramount if they are to achieve that reachable dream in their adulthood.
Poor sleep for children can result in memory and attention lapses, difficulty learning and with school work, getting sick more often and having more accidents, according to sleep researcher Dr Sarah Blunden.
There is another, surprising, side effect of sleep deprivation in kids.
“Rather than falling asleep during the day, young children who don’t get enough sleep typically become hyperactive, with a tendency to get angry faster, be more aggressive and have poor attention spans,” Dr Blunden said.
“As a result, they are often mislabelled as ‘difficult children’.”
HOW TO ACHIEVE THAT REACHABLE DREAM
The Sleep Health Foundation recommends those with chronic sleep disorders seek medical advice.
However, there are some things we can do to help send us into dreamland and these include;
- Make a sleep routine and stick to it.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol for at least fours hours before trying to sleep.
- Avoid rich and filling foods two to three hours before bed.
- Organise a relaxing bedtime ritual.
- Remove distractions, especially televisions, computers and smartphones, from your bedroom.
- Ensure your sleep area is comfortable.
- Ensure you get enough light and activity during the day.
- Turn your thinking around. If you start to feel anxious because you cannot get to sleep, tell yourself that waking up through the night is normal and that you have managed on others days with even less sleep.
- If you still cannot sleep after 15 – 20 minutes, leave your bed and sit in a dark, quiet room, without distractions, until you feel tired again.
Wishing you sweet dreams and a gleeful week, Tamuria.