Tuesday, January 4, 2011

O sleep, O gentle sleep

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “The worst thing in the world is to try to sleep and not to.”

How many of us have been through sleepless nights of tossing and turning and then trying to function the next day as if we had a good night’s sleep? How many times have we fallen asleep in meetings or in class due to a lack of sleep? According to a new poll "The Health of Canadians" by Leger Marketing, more than half of those asked don’t get enough sleep at night and say they often feel tired and about 60% of us don’t get the recommended six to eight hours sleep each night. Adequate restful sleep, like diet and exercise, is critical to good health.

The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota says there are some primary causes of insomnia, including stress, anxiety, depression, medications, caffeine, nicotine and alcohol, medical conditions, change in your environment or work schedule, poor sleep habits, 'Learned' insomnia, and/or eating too much late in the evening. Everyone can add to that list based on their own personal experiences.  (The US National Centers on Sleep Disorder Research has a lot more information)

The consequences of not enough sleep can be deadly. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports there are about 200,000 car accidents a year caused by sleepy drivers, killing more people than drunk driving. I know from personal experience how risky insomnia can be. A few years ago, on a drive across the Prairies, I fell asleep twice at the wheel – the only thing that saved me was a four lane highway and rumble strips. That, and pulling into a motel in Lloydminster at 9am to get some sleep.

Those desperate enough for sleep often overmedicate which doesn't treat the insomnia at all. The insomniac has a smorgasbord of heavily marketed pharmaceutical remedies to choose from—both by prescription and over the counter. Just take a look at the selection available in Shoppers or Wal-Mart some day – it will blow your mind how many supposed “sleep aids” that are on the shelves.

Insomnia has been described by some in terms of an epidemic. In a recent article I read it stated that over 50 million prescriptions for sleeping pills were filled in the last year alone in the USA. I’m sure the number is proportionately true for Canada as well.  For people with chronic insomnia, studies show that simple behavioral and psychological treatments work just as well, and sometimes better, than popular medications, according to a report in The Journal of Family Practice.

The cost? Well, it’s easy to talk about lost productivity and sense of well being, but the bottom line is that insufficient restful sleep can result in mental and physical health problems and possibly premature death. Don’t go there.

1 comment:

Government Funded Blogger said...

a very timely post for this guy.the medication I am on seems to cause me to be kept in the dream state longer than I should be hence fitful sleep.