The Early Bird Gets to Sleep Trouble Free
Do you ever struggle to turn your brain off at bedtime? Have you experienced the frustration of eyeing the clock as time slips away, while consciousness refuses to follow suit? If so, you’re not alone. Millions of American adults complain of difficulty falling, or staying, asleep. After a night of tossing and turning, they awake feeling anything but refreshed and rejuvenated.
It’s a big problem that results in countless hours of lost productivity, and may account for additional costs to society in terms of accidents caused by inattentive, sleep-deprived drivers. Sleep deprivation is no mere annoyance. Sleep is the foundation of good health, for a variety of reasons. Sleep deprived people have trouble concentrating and making well-considered decisions. Other aspects of health suffer, too. Sleep loss has also been linked to weight gain, for example.
Sleep also affects the immune system’s ability to make crucial repairs and perform “maintenance” in the brain and body. If you think the effects of a little sleep disturbance are negligible, keep in mind that night-shift workers are at greater risk for a number of deadly cancers. Even though these folks are presumably getting a full eight hours of sleep (albeit during the day) it’s thought that the disruption in their 24-hour daily sleep/wake cycle is enough to hamper the immune system’s vigilance against the development of cancerous cells, which accounts for their slightly elevated risk of getting certain cancers.
If insomnia is an occasional problem, you might want to look at your schedule. New research suggests that when you turn in affects your ability to turn off negative thoughts, which may hamper falling asleep. Negative thought patterns, which appear to be outside of the person’s control, are typical of people suffering from disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress syndrome, or major depressive disorder. But I’m pretty sure that just about anyone who is feeling stress in their lives—and who isn’t these days?—falls prey to these sorts of counter-productive thoughts occasionally.
Sleeping for shorter periods, and going to bed later at night, were both linked to more negative thoughts, which in turn affected the ability to fall asleep. The pattern suggested to researchers that going to bed early, on a regular schedule, might be more conducive to better sleep.
"Making sure that sleep is obtained during the right time of day may be an inexpensive and easily disseminable intervention for individuals who are bothered by intrusive thoughts," said researcher Joseph Nota. So there you have it. Stick to a sensible schedule, and avoid burning the late-night oil, and you may have better luck falling asleep at night.
Jacob A. Nota, Meredith E. Coles. Duration and Timing of Sleep are Associated with Repetitive Negative Thinking. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 2014; DOI: 10.1007/s10608-014-9651-7