Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Sleep and BNL for those with problems sleeping

I've never been a huge BNL fan, but right now, for some strange reason, I have one of their songs circling round my brain. I went to their concert two years ago (a young woman invited me, and at that point I would have gone to a country concert, a rodeo, probably even a pop concert, as long as she asked me). Whatever else one may say about BNL, they put on a great show. But their song about sleep...I'm sick about thinking about sleep. Why? It's my job. Not sleeping (unfortunately), but watching people sleep. I'm also sick of people finding out what my job is and saying, "I need to talk to you about that" and then never talking to me about it. If you're one of those people, read the following and then come and talk with me.

1. Lose weight already. Americans are fat. Even skinny guys like me are succumbing to a sugar and bacon diet, and fat people tend to snore more and have worse sleep (it's called sleep apnea). Now if you're thin already, don't try to lose more weight. You'll end up looking like a friend of mine who's an inch taller and 50 pounds lighter than me (and I'm not technically overweight). Super-skinny's not healthy either (although this friend is in better shape than I am). There are other options to getting a good night's sleep if you have apnea, so talk to a doctor. If everyone were a healthy weight, I'd be out of a job.

2. Stop watching TV or doing stuff on the computer right before you get into bed. Bright lights and sleep don't go well together. I could get into a long lecture about how we've adapted to sleeping while it's dark and staying active while it's light, and how our bodies and minds react to darkness and light, but I'd have to use the 'e' word, and I'd rather not get too much hatemail just yet.

3. Keep regular hours. OK, so I'm a hypocrite...I work graveyard. Somebody's got to do it. 'Regular hours' doesn't mean 5 hours on the weekdays and 12 on weekends...and no, chances are you don't do best with just 5 hours sleep. (I had a mission comp who insisted he was the exception; that explains more than I have time to write here).

4. Reserve the bedroom for sleep and sleep only (as long as you're single). Whenever possible, don't sleep in places other than your bed.

5. Big surprise...alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine are bad news. Caffeine has a half-life of 8 hours--that means that 8 hours after that last Coke, half of the caffeine is still in your system, keeping you awake. 16 hours later, 25% of it's still there. Watch your sugar intake too.

6. If noise (like a snoring roommate) is keeping you awake, try earplugs or white noise ( a fan or anything that provides a consistent sound to drown out the snoring).

7. Sleeping pills can be addictive, and with use they rapidly become less effective. Follow the instructions on the bottle, and don't take them too often.

8. If you're still having problems, see a doctor. I had a mission companion (a different one than mentioned before) who would fall asleep during morning study and even during appointments. It drove him crazy. He tried everything. The mission president said "just try standing up." Great way to solve the problem...except it didn't work. In any case, the focus should be on prevention (getting enough quality sleep) and not cute ideas like 'standing up'. After the mission, he went to a doctor and finally found out what was happening. There is no complete cure for narcolepsy, no way to prevent it, but once he knew he had it, he could learn how to deal with it.
Diseases like this are fairly rare. More common is insomnia. The above ideas can help. Poor sleep can affect your physical health, your energy level, your intellect, your mood...see a doctor and get it fixed.

I should probably have some sort of legal disclaimer...I'm not a doctor...talk to your doctor before doing anything I've mentioned even though most of it is common sense...I can not be held liable for injury or death as a result of the above recommendations...

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