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6 Things Only People Have Bad Night’s Sleep Would Understand (And Ways to Alleviate It)

6 Things Only People Have Bad Night’s Sleep Would Understand (And Ways to Alleviate It)

If you suffer from insomnia or you have to do shift work, then you will know all about a bad night’s sleep. If you have a newborn baby, the situation may be even worse. Join the club of 50-70 million Americans and 5 million in the UK who cannot get a decent night’s sleep. 20% of these are getting less than 6 hours sleep a night.

There are various causes such as too much Internet, email, stress, alcohol, and a host of other problems which are all stopping us from getting our share of sleep which is vital to proper functioning.

Most medical experts say that those who suffer from sleep problems are prone to more depression, anxiety and poorer health overall. Add in diabetes, obesity and heart problems and you will begin to see why this is a very worrying trend. The CDC estimates that this is a pubic health epidemic. Here are 6 things that only people with sleep problems will understand and also 4 ways to alleviate the problem.

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1. You know that tomorrow is going to be hell.

As you lie there tossing and turning and having tried everything from hot milk to sleep aids which become less and less effective, you wonder, why me? Then you start worrying again about how bad all this is for you and that tomorrow will be all the more difficult and stressful. You just know that you are going to get exhausted more quickly and that you will have problems in concentrating at work or in studying. You will be in a bad mood as well.

2. You love your baby but…..

If you are a new parent, the constant interruptions from the crying newborn have a detrimental effect and may be worse than getting no sleep at all. This interrupted sleep is about the same as getting 4 hours sleep and you just cannot function on that. Many parents often feel anger towards their newborn child building up and this makes them feel guilty which, in turn, disturbs their sleep when they do manage to fall into a fitful slumber.

3. You do not get much sympathy.

Everybody has their own remedy. They will recommend homeopathic treatments, yoga, melatonin and a host of other remedies which will vary from grandmother’s recipes to New Age discoveries. None of them work for you and people just shrug their shoulders and more or less tell you to get on with it! There is very little support and even doctors do not give this medical disorder the attention it deserves.

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4. You are not so sure about sleep aids.

How can you sort out the facts from the hysteria about sleep aids? You do all the research in your waking hours and you get all the scary stories about the health risks. Then you do more research and Big Pharma reassures you that disastrous side effects are few and far between. Yet, as you count the 456th sheep, you cannot dismiss the stories of the death of Heath Ledger who took an overdose of prescription meds which included sleep aids, of course.

5. You are more accident prone.

You are also keenly aware that lack of sleep causes accidents. You reflect bitterly that the some of the biggest accidents in history were caused by sleep deficits. The big ones such as Chernobyl, the accident at Three Mile Island and the Exxon oil spill all were connected with a lack of sleep. On a more mundane level, you worry that while driving tomorrow, you may become just another statistic in the annual 100,000 road accidents.

6. You may be causing irreversible brain damage.

Now I know that the latest experiments were done on mice but experts are alarmed that the same process may be happening in humans. Researchers at the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania have shown that a lack of sleep in mice causes irreversible damage in certain brain cells. These cells are the locus ceruleus (LC) neurons which wakefulness seems to destroy and there is no chance that they will be reborn or replaced. Another study at the University of Surrey (UK) suggests that sleep is needed to clear your brain of all the toxins which have been linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s.

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4 Ways To Alleviate The Problem.

There are lots of sites which will tell you how many hours of sleep you should be getting. I would advise you to treat this advice with some caution because the number of hours is only a vague indicator. What counts is the quality of the sleep you are getting. If it is a deep and restful sleep, the number of hours will be mostly irrelevant. Here are 4 ways to help you sort out the problem. Unfortunately, there is no one size fits all so you may have to experiment with what works best for you.

1. Examine your lifestyle.

There is usually a compelling reason why you cannot sleep. It could be related to stress and worry. You need to look at these factors carefully. Regular bedtimes help as does a special routine which helps you wind down towards blissful sleep. Maybe you are exposed to too much artificial light just before bedtime. That may mean changing your routine a bit.

2. Change your sleeping accommodation if necessary.

As regards the bedroom, you should try and improve it as far as possible. Is it noisy and if so, could you move to another room? There may be problems with the temperature- a fairly cool one of around 18° is ideal and it should be in total darkness. Try black out curtains or a face mask if there are no real blinds on the window. The idea is to get as much sunlight during the day and as much darkness towards evening so that the melatonin substance which induces sleep can kick into action. That melatonin is vital and I can tell you that smartphones, TV and computers all interfere with its release. If you take your smartphone to bed, you are asking for trouble!

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3. Look for natural sleep aids.

Prescription sleep aids may work for a time but there is no magic cure. It may be time to look at natural alternatives. There may be something that can work for you. I take Valerian or melatonin tablets and they have usually worked. These do not work for everyone. You can try taking some warm milk before bed and/or a banana snack. Magnesium can help the brain to relax and can be found in green leafy vegetables or just by taking a magnesium supplement. Taking a hot bath with lavender oil can also help to relax and calm some insomniacs.

4. Nap wisely.

Although naps are encouraged in some workplaces to renew energy, insomniacs are advised to avoid regular napping. Experts say that when you nap for more than 30 minutes, you tend to fall into a deep sleep and when you wake up, you may feel groggy and very unproductive so it seems to have the opposite effect. Naps can be useful though when you limit them to less than 20 minutes and provided you do not take them late in the afternoon or evening or falling asleep in front of the TV near your bedtime. If you avoid these traps, you can help to keep to your regular bedtime schedule and avoid upsetting your wake sleep cycle which is essential for restful sleep.

What helps you to get off to sleep? Let us know in the comments how you deal with insomnia.

Featured photo credit: Insomnia persists/ Quinn Dombrowski via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away

13 Bad Habits You Need to Quit Right Away

Creating your productivity ritual — a routine that helps you to maintain a peak level of energy can get you the best out of your days.

Part of creating your productivity routine involves removing activities that drain you (what I call “kryptonites”), and that includes your bad habits.

Like it or not, bad habits are bad for you — mentally, physically, emotionally and even socially in some cases. While some bad habits are harder to quit than others, it doesn’t change the fact that you need to get rid of them. Here are 13 bad habits to quit right away:

1. Stress Eating

I used to be a serious stress eater. I would eat whenever I felt unhappy, stressed, disappointed, anxious, or even… happy! My eating had nothing to do with being hungry, and everything to do with using food to fill my emotional voids.

While eating would comfort me, this feeling was momentary and would disappear right after I was done eating. Instead, what I had left would be the same emotional void that triggered me to eat in the first place (be it unhappiness or stress), a 2,000 excess calorie intake over what I should have eaten for the day, and anger at myself for having stress ate.

I’ve since overcome stress eating. I have healthy eating habits and a healthy relationship with food today where I no longer use food as a tool to fill my emotions.

If you are a stress eater, don’t fret — here’s how to manage your stress better:

How to Manage Stress (A Step-by-Step Guide to Turn Stress Into Success)

2. Nail Biting

Not only is nail biting unhygienic, it is also socially repelling, leads to dental problems like malocclusion of the anterior teeth,[1] potentially cause stomach problems,[2] and lead to severely deformed fingernails in the long run.

People who bite their nails tend to have shorter nails than the average person; their nail plates also experience scarring and may eventually become absent.[3]

Understand what triggers your nail biting behavior and replace it with another neutral to positive habit. Make habits to break habits.

For example, if you bite your nails when you are stressed, go for a walk or listen to music instead the next time you feel stressed.

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3. Hanging out with Naysayers

We all know these people — people who play devil’s advocate to every idea you have and every goal you want to pursue. We are already our greatest self-critics, so it doesn’t help when there’s someone beside us, ever ready to pounce on what we say and tear it down.

Hang out less with these naysayers and spend more time with supportive people who share constructive feedback instead. You will be much happier this way.

Learn how to get rid of naysayers with these 10 Ways to Ignore the Naysayers and Achieve Your Dreams.

4. Being with People Who Don’t Appreciate You

Haven’t all of us been in this situation before? Trying to please people who don’t appreciate us? Bending over backwards to be there for people when they are never there for us?

While we give without expectations of return, we need to draw a line with people who don’t value us because these people damage our souls.

Stop spending time with people who don’t appreciate you, and spend more time with people who do instead.

Unsure who you should get rid of? Learn about it here: 5 Kinds of Toxic People That You Need to Get Rid of Now

5. Smoking

Smoking is one of the leading causes of preventable death globally.[4]

In just the United States alone, about 500,000 deaths are attributed to smoking-related diseases annually. A recent study estimated that as much as one-third of China’s male population will have significantly shortened life-spans due to smoking! Gender-wise, male and female smokers lose an average of 13.2 and 14.5 years of life respectively — that’s over a decade of life right there.[5]

Not only that, smoking causes pre-mature skin aging (i.e. wrinkles), yellowing of teeth, bad breath, and worse of all — jeopardy of the health of people around you, including your loved ones. Studies have shown that non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke are at risk to many of the health problems associated with direct smoking.[6]

Smoking risks

    6. Excessive Drinking

    All of us know that drinking too much alcohol is bad for us, but do you know how bad it really is?

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    According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, drinking too much — be it on a single occasion or over time — can seriously damage your health:[7]

    • Brain problems: Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, making it harder to think clearly and move with coordination.
    • Heart diseases: Cardiomyopathy – Stretching and drooping of heart muscle, Arrhythmias – Irregular heart beat, stroke, high blood pressure
    • Liver diseases: Steatosis or fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis, cirrhosis
    • Pancreas problems: Pancreatitis, a dangerous inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels in the pancreas that prevents proper digestion.
    • Different types of cancer: Mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, breast

    If you drink a lot, perhaps cutting it out right away will be tough. Cut down the number of glasses you drink each time, followed by the number of times you drink a week.

    If need be, seek help from an AA group — you aren’t alone in this. Change starts from today.

    7. Eating Junk Food (Including Diet Soda)

    Junk food — they are everywhere in our society today. From McDonald’s, to KFC, to Burger King, to 24-hour takeouts, junk food such as fries, highly processed burgers and sodas has become a staple in our society today.

    If you think, “Hey, but junk food is tasty!”, think again:

    A study by Paul Johnson and Paul Kenny suggests that junk food consumption alters brain activity in a way similar to addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin.[8]

    “After many weeks with unlimited access to junk food, the pleasure centers of rat brains became desensitized, requiring more food for pleasure.”

    And you wonder why you seem to crave fast food when you just had some the day before?

    While it may not be possible to remove junk food completely from our diet right away, we can reduce our junk food consumption starting today. Instead of soda, opt for a fruit juice (fresh juice, not the carbonated kind) or mineral water. Instead of fries, switch to mashed potato, a salad, or rice (many food outlets allow for this today). Instead of a fried meat patty, go for a grilled one.

    Where possible, opt for healthy food joints like salad bars and delis as opposed to fast food outlets. Every little step goes a long way.

    Here’re some healthy snacks ideas for you: 15 Healthy Snacks You Should Always Have At Home

    8. Eating Too Much Red Meat

    There has been conclusive evidence that consumption of red meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer; and suggestive evidence that it increases the risk of oesophageal cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, and endometrial cancer.

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    In addition, some studies have linked consumption of large quantities of red meat with breast cancer, stomach cancer, lymphoma, bladder cancer, lung cancer and prostate cancer![9]

    Personally, I’m a vegetarian so I don’t consume red meat, but for those of you who consume red meat, do watch out and limit your intake — better still, cut it out of your diet. World Cancer Research Fund recommends limiting intake of red meat to less than 300g (11 oz) cooked weight per week, “very little, if any of which to be processed.”

    Of if you’re thinking about becoming a vegetarian, check out this guide: 5 Practical Tips For Starting a Vegetarian Lifestyle

    9. Watching Too Much TV

    I stopped watching TV since eight years ago and I have never regretted it. Every once in a while I will switch on the telly to see what is on, and then I will switch it off because it’s just the same boring shtick over and over again.

    Watching TV, particularly well-written dramas, can be a good way to unwind. However, remember that TV isn’t your life.

    Spending three hours every night watching TV will not change your life for the better. Rather, using that time to reflect on your life, take stock, and take action on your goals will.

    It’s not easy to remove TV from your daily routine right away, but follow these 6 Steps To Remove TV From Your Life.

    10. Being Late

    Not only is being late being rude to others, it also means that you’re always rushing from one place to another, playing catch up in your agenda, and having to apologize to every person you meet.

    Stop being late and not being punctual, but practice being early instead. Target to arrive 15 minutes earlier before any appointment and bring along something to do in those 15 minutes (or longer if the other person turns out to be late). Then you can stop playing catch up and stay ahead in life.

    Learn more tips about how to be more punctual here: How to Be On Time Every Time

    11. Being in Bad Relationships

    Are you always dating the wrong guys/girls? Do you end up with jerks all the time? Well, you may not be able to stop yourself from meeting bad partners but you can certainly stop yourself from furthering contact with them, spending time with them, or even… entering into a relationship with them.

    I used to invest myself in this guy who was nothing but toxic for me. After a good five months of experiencing nothing but getting burned over and over again, I realized that he was a total waste of my time and I deserved better. I decided to cut him off, and it was soon after that I met my soulmate.

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    Learn about why you shouldn’t stay in a bad relationship and how to deal with it if you’re in one: Why Trying Hard to Stay in an Unhappy Relationship Is Not Love, but Fear

    12. Leaving Things to the Last Minute

    Burning the midnight oil isn’t fun — it’s exhausting.

    Those of you who got through college by burning the midnight oil would have learned this the hard way. Not only is it damaging for your body, it is also mentally draining as you’re constantly in a hyper-tense mode, feeling anxious about whether you can finish your work on time.

    Start today on a new note. Rather than react to your deadlines, be proactive about them by planning ahead, identifying what needs to be done for the week, and getting things done in advance.

    By staying ahead of your tasks, you can also use your extra time to plan ahead in your life and get more things done.

    Take a look at this guide and learn how to stop procrastinating: Procrastination – A Step-By-Step Guide to Stop Procrastinating

    13. Focusing on the Negatives

    In every situation, there are two ways you can react: zoom down to the problem areas and crib about how things aren’t the way you want, or celebrate the areas that are going well and work on making everything better.

    Many of us see the importance of doing the latter but in practice, we do the former. Why though? Criticizing and focusing on the negatives is easy but it doesn’t empower nor inspire us to be better.

    Make a change — for every negative encounter you run into, I challenge you to identify three things that are good about it. Practice doing this for one week, and by the end of the week you’ll find that your first instinct is to think positive, not negative.

    And here’re even more ways to help you stay positive: 11 Tips for Maintaining your Positive Attitude

    The Bottom Line

    So here you find the 13 most common bad habits and their consequences on your mind and body. The good news’ you can quit them all.

    Just spot out your own bad habits and take my suggestions to quit them. Then you’ll find your life a lot healthier and happier!

    Need more tips to break your bad habits? Check out these articles:

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Reference

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