Sleep: Where Art Thou?

“Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” – Thomas Dekker
“The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep.” – E. Joseph Cossman
What do we know about sleep? A lot, and yet very little! There are literally thousands of books and articles about sleep, why we need it, how much, how to get more, what happens during sleep, etc., etc. Yet, despite all the experts out there, many of us, particularly Elders, find it challenging to get a good night’s sleep! But here’s what I have figured out about my own sleep, or lack there of.
Not sure when I first started being sleep challenged, perhaps in my pre-teens. It crept up on me some time before I was a teenager, adjusting to the hormone and acne fluctuations and other trials and tribulations one’s body and mind goes through preparing for adulthood.
My sleep pattern could be called night owl syndrome. It didn’t seem like a problem at the time, except getting up in the morning for school, which was like trying to raise the dead. As an adult I’ve often wondered why I didn’t want to go to bed until the wee hours of the morning. Actually, it was at least after midnight, when my parents had already been sawing their proverbial wood for several hours.
Night Owl Syndrome
Here’s one theory about my night owl syndrome. Staying up late, after everyone else is tucked in bed, is a great escape! There was a lot of stress at times in our childhood home, often because of the drinking and fighting that was common. Once alone, the pressure to try ignore, avoid or solve family conflicts, which was almost impossible as a child, was gone! Peace at last!
Night owl strategies are actually an effective way to escape not only family chaos, but also most of the rest of humanity too. It’s a lot safer to hide in a book at night or passively watch the world unfolding on TV or get lost in the superficial world of social media. Unfortunately, there’s a big price to pay in the long term. First, the resulting sleep deprivation when we are forced to face the world in the morning for school, work or other commitments, can take its toll on us mentally and physically. It also can become an entrenched pattern, long after family or other conflicts and pressures have faded into history.
Unless one’s work depends on solitude, such as writing, painting or other creative careers, we miss out on a lot of life and opportunities plus family and friend time, if we sleep until noon or beyond most days.
Of course not everyone has night owl syndrome, some have early bird syndrome. Getting up in the wee hours before the world comes to life, can also be an escapist strategy or an effective way to find time to accomplish important things! It all boils down to what we do with our late night or early morning alone time. Only you can decide if this time is an escape from life or a way to accomplish great things.
Even if you are not a night owl or an early bird, you are likely to face sleep challenges and deprivation as you venture into your twilight years. Sleep deprivation can be a serious problem for seniors, already dealing with aging bodies and minds. Lack of sleep may increase your risk of the following:
Depression: Sleep disturbances have been linked to depression. In one study, it was determined that 40% of people suffering from depression have trouble falling and/or staying a sleep
Type 2 diabetes: Lack of sleep may also affect our body’s production and sensitivity to insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar levels. One small study reported that one night of sleep deprivation, where subjects received only 4 hours, was enough to trigger insulin resistance, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
Stroke: Poor sleep can also contribute to atherosclerosis, thickening or hardening of the arteries caused by a buildup of plaque, that can cause a stroke. A study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham reported that the risk of stroke was four times higher for people who slept six or fewer hours a night than it was for those who slept at least seven hours.

High blood pressure: According to a report published in the journal Sleep, people who got less than six hours on average a night were 66% more likely to have high blood pressure than those who slept more.
Heart disease:  Besides increasing your risk of high blood pressure, sleep deprivation appears to cause inflammation in the cardiovascular system, which can lead to heart disease.
Immune system: Sleep loss can also weaken our immune system. One study showed that people who got six or fewer hours of sleep per night for a week were four times more likely to catch a cold than people who had more sleep.
Anxiety: Studies indicate that sleep issues can lead to anxiety which makes it even more difficult to sleep, perpetuating a harmful cycle.
Impaired cognition: Not getting enough sleep may also hamper your attention span, motivation and memory, according to a report published in the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment.
And you thought poor sleep just made you feel extra tired and grumpy. It is a serious threat to your health and longevity. If you would like to see more articles about sleep, be sure to let our Team know on our Caring Connections forum and we will gladly investigate and report on non-drug strategies for achieving better sleep. Stay tuned.
Do you, or did you in the past, have challenges with getting enough sleep? What did you do about it? Did it work?
Please post your comments, questions and suggestions in our Caring Connections forum under the Mind category, about your own challenges with sleep. By doing so, you can help other Thrivers answer the question, “Sleep: Where Art Thou?”
You can also tag your comments ‘Sleep’ to make them easier to find.
To go to Caring Connections, click on the button below:
[Insert Caring Connections button]