How To Cope With Sleep Issues

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Much is being reported about the dangers of not getting enough sleep or getting too much. For some of us, this is just one more thing to worry about.

When you have anxiety or depression attempting to get the “right” amount of sleep can be tricky. You might follow all the sleep tips in the world and spend half the night awake or realize in the morning that you've overslept by three hours.

It's crucial to know how many hours of sleep are ideal. It's also important to find effective ways of coping with those nights when it's hard to fall asleep.

How Much Sleep Is Just Right?

Scientists who study the human body and sleep have put together a report based on 320 sleep studies of healthy individuals. Their report resulted in a revised Nation Sleep Foundation guideline for hours of recommended sleep.

“We still have a great deal to learn about the function of sleep,” said Dr. Don Carlos of Loyola University in Chicago. "We know it’s restorative and important for memory consolidation ... but we don’t know the details of what the function of sleep is, even though it is how we spend one-third of our lives.”

For adolescents and adults, the guidelines are:

  • Ages: 6 to 13: hours of sleep recommended is 9 to 11.
  • Ages 14 to 17: hours of sleep recommended is 8 to 10.
  • Ages 18 to 25: hours of sleep recommended is 7 to 9.
  • Ages 26 to 64: hours of sleep recommended is 7 to 9.
  • Ages 65 and up: hours of sleep recommended is 7 to 8.

Unfortunately, one symptom of anxiety and depression is difficulty sleeping. How we cope with sleep issues can neutralize its effect.

Coping When It’s Not Just Right

When sleep problems cause increased worry or feelings of guilt it intensifies the ill-effects of too much or too little sleep. While we may not easily cure our insomnia or hypersomnia, we can accept it without judgment and choose an effective way to cope.

  1. If you are sleeping “too much,” consider that your body may know what it needs. Maybe the extra hours of sleep are necessary for managing the stress you are experiencing until underlying issues, or problematic circumstances can be resolved. If the issues seem unresolvable, it may be time to seek professional help.
  2. Laying awake at night when you know sleep is needed is aggravating. Yet, getting aggravated ensures you will have trouble falling asleep. This is a difficult but perfect time to practice mindfulness or non-judgmental observation of what is occurring. Instead of focusing on not sleeping, be aware (mindful) of your wakefulness, your desire to sleep, how your body is feeling, your emotions and the noises the house makes in the night’s silence. You may decide to get up and eat a light snack or to lie in bed and practice a relaxation technique such as listening to soothing music or visualizing a restful scene.
  3. If you are awake and your thoughts are racing a mile a minute, a distracting activity may be more helpful. Consider reading, doing a crossword or other puzzle, watching TV or organizing a desk drawer. Although you may not feel sleepy right away, your body will relax as your thoughts do.

Source: Science Daily
Photo credit: Alyssa L. Miller / flickr creative commons

 
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