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Wednesday, February 17, 2010


ZZZZZzzzzzz.. . . .. . Got yours lately?

Sleep is a critical element of our health, both physical and mental. Writers, like so many others, often face periods of sleep deprivation or problems. I asked a variety of writers about their sleep habits. Some told me that they just don’t have time to sleep. Between writing, the day job and family responsibilities; sleep becomes a luxury. Others voluntarily give up sleep time in order to write in a quiet environment. And yet some who take the time to rest just can’t get quality sleep. Everyone has trouble sleeping from time to time, so how do you know if there’s really a problem?

A sleep disorder is any difficulty with sleep, including:
• difficulty falling or staying asleep,
• difficulty staying awake during the daytime (excessive sleepiness),
• sleeping too much,
• difficulty sleeping during normal sleep hours at nighttime,
• abnormal behaviors during sleep which disrupt sleep, or
• unrefreshing sleep.

Common symptoms include:
Memory Lapses
Trouble staying awake while driving
Being told you look tired
Need caffeine all day long
Performance problems on the job
React slowly
Can’t pay attention, lose interest quickly

Long-term sleep disorders affect 40 million Americans every year. And though there are more than a hundred types, the most common include Narcolepsy, RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome), Insomnia and Sleep Apnea.

There are three basic classes of Insomnia, which is very common. Transient is the type that only lasts a few nights, usually due to stress, illness or excitement. Short term Insomnia can last up to three weeks and be due to ongoing stress or grief. Chronic Insomnia may be caused by an underlying illness so a health check up is recommended for those who can’t sleep well for a month or more.
Women are at a higher risk of sleep problems, and it’s estimated 75% of adult women do not get eight hours or more of sleep each night. Hormones play a large part in this, but so do factors like nighttime pain from arthritis, which is higher in women than in men. Pregnancy and menopause are both known for interrupting sleep patterns. Women also are more sensitive to noise disturbance, often from listening for a child during the night. Women who don’t sleep well are at a higher risk for heart disease.
Methods recommended for improving sleep quality include exercising, but not within three hours of bedtime. Warming one’s feet may help, as well as avoiding caffeine, sugar, salt and alcohol before bed. Turning off the late-night television programs can help, as can adjusting the thermostat to a more comfortable temperature.
It has also been documented that one’s bed partner can interfere with sleep patterns—if your spouse tosses and turns, snores or otherwise wakes you up throughout the night, it might be time for him or her to see a doctor. There are medicines now available for dealing with the discomfort of Restless Leg Syndrome, and sleep studies and treatments (including surgery) available for those who snore from Sleep Apnea. Narcolepsy, associated with sudden sleep during the daytime, can also be treated with drugs. offers the following survey results among American adults:
• 93% agreed that sleep loss can impair work performance
• 92% felt that sleep loss can increase one’s risk of injuries
• 90% agreed that not getting enough sleep makes it difficult to get along with others
• 86% believed that sleep deficits can lead to health problems

Risk Factors To Watch for:
A poor sleep environment
Too much daytime napping
Smoking or use of chewing tobacco
Excessive travel, especially changing time zones
Certain illnesses or medications
Being overweight
Working different shifts
Loss of creativity

Daniel J DeNoon of WebMD gives this warning, very alarming for writers:
A sleepy person's brain works harder -- and accomplishes less. A study using real-time, state-of-the-art imaging shows that sleep deprivation has dramatic effects on the brain and how well it performs.
Researchers expected to find only sluggish activity in the brains of healthy young people who took a simple word test after staying awake for 35 hours. They found instead that while parts of the sleep-deprived brains churned with activity during the test, another part of the brain -- the language center -- shut down.
"Sleep deprivation is bad for your brain when you are trying to do high-level [thinking] tasks," study co-author J. Christian Gillin, MD, tells WebMD. "It may have serious consequences both on performance and on the way your brain functions."

As writers we need all the brain function we can muster, and our language center is crucial. If you are not getting the sleep you need, see a doctor and try some of the tips above. I will talk to you again after we all get a good night’s sleep.


***first published in the Spirit Led Writer ezine

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