By: Jean Johnson for Fibroids1
The latest study on 40,000 men and women in Taiwan says if you’re female, going back to school might bring on a better night’s sleep. Indeed, higher educational achievement improved women’s sleep at night, even though in men it had the opposite effect. More, researchers concluded that insomnia was more pronounced in individuals that were older, divorced or separated and living with children at home. That combined with low educational and income status, and poor health including a tendency to smoke predisposed both men and women to rising in the morning feeling decidedly unrefreshed.
Further, as far as the genders go, the study showed that social factors tended to weigh more heavily on women. Low educational status, for one, along with unemployment and being divorced or separated was seen in women who reported suffering from insomnia.
What is insomnia?
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States recognizes insomnia as the debilitating problem it is for many and defines the condition as: 1) difficulty falling asleep, 2) waking up frequently during the night with difficulty returning to sleep, 3) waking up too early in the morning, and 4) having unrefreshing sleep.
More, the NIH’s National Center on Sleep Disorders Research (NCSDR) notes that although insomnia is found in all ages and genders, post-menopausal women and the elderly seem to bear the brunt of the condition. That said, researchers state that “the ability to sleep, rather than the need for sleep, appears to decrease with advancing age.”
More waking hours precisely at the time life seems to be sweeping by too quickly? Sounds like a deal. But if sleeping less is not a natural result of entering one’s golden years, and instead genuine insomnia leaves one too fatigued for normal life, the situation needs an overall.
In addition to short-acting sleeping pills available from physicians that must be highly regulated and consumed only for brief periods, there are three techniques the NCSDR recommends.
Relaxation therapy is first on its list although experts admit that “it usually takes much practice to learn these techniques and to achieve effective relaxation.” For the intrepid – or those who already do some form of meditation or yoga – this route through which anxiety and body tension is reduced or eliminated might be on target. The idea, according to the NCSDR is that “the person’s mind is able to stop ‘racing,’ the muscles can relax, and restful sleep can occur.”
Sleep restriction is also a way into resolving sleepless nights according to the sleep disorders folks. “Some people spend too much time in bed unsuccessfully tying to sleep. They may benefit from a sleep restriction program that at first allows only a few hours of sleep during the night. Gradually the time is increased until a more normal night’s sleep is achieved.”
Finally the NCSDR suggests an approach it labels reconditioning. This means, “not using their beds for any activities other than sleep and sex.” Also as part of the reconditioning process, the person is advised to go to bed only when sleepy and once down if they find themselves wide-eyed, they are supposed to get back up. Naps, of course, are to be avoided until eventually, say the experts, “the person’s body will be conditioned to associate the bed and bedtime with sleep.”
Forty-something Dolores Cooper of Phoenix suffers from insomnia. “It’s no joke,” she said. “I’m just tired all the time. And I work full time and am taking graduate study in communications as well. It can be a nightmare. So, so far going back to school hasn’t helped me.”
“Just pick up one of your textbooks and start reading,” Cooper’s husband said with a laugh. “I know when I was in college and wanted a nap I’d for sure fall asleep if I started reading one of those tomes.”
Ms. Cooper rolls her eyes. “Easy for him to say. Nothing wakes him up,” she said. “But I do think that tonight I’ll try some meditation before bed. Even if it doesn’t help the sleep, it will settle me down so I can at least rest.”
Clearly the idea of getting up when she can’t sleep hasn’t taken hold in Cooper’s psyche just yet. That more extreme measure might have to wait. In the meantime, though, she’s on her way to testing NSCDR strategies. And perhaps more importantly, she now has tested tools at her disposal should she decide to use them. When one is powerless in the face of the sleep goddesses, it should help to know there’s a tool kit around if one is so inclined.