In light of at least three recent celebrity deaths attributed to overdoses of prescription medications, I thought it appropriate to take a moment to talk about the toll sleep deprivation can take on a person (not just the toll it took on Michael Jackson, Heath Ledger and Anna Nicole Smith). While I’ve written on these pages before about sleep and how to get more of it, this is more about coming to terms with how we value sleep and how much of it we really need.
For some, six hours of sleep can be adequate. For others, it’s a tease that’s going to make them drag all day long. And then there are those who use sleep not to give the mind and body the rest they need in order to recharge and rejuvenate, but use it as a way to escape, so it never seems to be enough. I think that’s the place our celebrity friends were in. Instead of being equipped with the tools they needed to give themselves a satisfying night of rest, they were handed pills and intravenous liquids.
I don’t know about you, but I can think of a million things better than propofol to get some Z’s. And none of those things requires a quack’s prescription, leaves unsightly track marks, blows out your veins or make you stop breathing.
I understand what it is to lie awake at night, staring at the alarm clock’s glow and trying to solve the climate crisis. I get it. If that’s the place you are in, like anything else in life, you’ve got to do the work. My doctor calls it sleep hygiene. If you aren’t practicing good sleep hygiene, those TPS reports will keep haunting you until dawn.
First, you’ve got to consider your environment: light, sound and physical comfort. When you turn the lights off, what remains aglow? Little bits of black electrical tape can take care of that. A white noise machine can drown out unappealing or disruptive noises. And if your pillow is more than a couple of years old, try a new one to ensure you are getting proper support.
Next, consider what you’ve done to prepare for a good night of sleep: consumption and exercise. Practice healthy habits, moderation and common sense when it comes to food, alcohol and medication. Heavy meals, excessive drinking and caffeine are all a bad idea before bedtime. Check with your doctor to find out which medications are better to take in the morning. Consider morning or midday workouts, and try to avoid rigorous workouts before you hit the sack.
Another consideration is mental stimulation: television, computer work and reading. CRTs, LCDs and LEDs trick your brain into being awake, so it’s best to avoid the TV and the computer at night. While most experts agree that reading is the best way to calm the mind, it all depends what you are reading, so choose accordingly.
Lastly, and this may be the toughest and most important, get control of your thoughts. This can, after all, make or break your night and lead to more desperate choices as time goes on. It takes a lot of work initially to pull your thoughts away from stress and negativity and redirect them to a peaceful place. Try being conscious about what’s going on in your mind, and if you have trouble banishing the thoughts, keep a note pad and pen by your bedside.
Sometimes writing down whatever is bothering you will help free your mind to think of other less troubling things.
Night-night, sleep tight, and show that alarm clock who’s the boss!
Consult a physician if sleep continues to elude.
Lisa Snider is a local freelance writer. For more, go to www.LisaSnider.com.