There is very little worse than looking at the clock at 4:25 a.m. and knowing that you only have an hour before your alarm clock tells you to get up when you haven’t even been to sleep to begin with. Insomnia is a crushing disorder that can quickly move from slightly annoying to debilitating in a short span of time. Some of the symptoms of insomnia include depression, anxiety disorder, irritability, lack of focus, lower performance on the job or at school, slowed reaction time, substance abuse, and increased risk and severity of long-term diseases or conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
While the occasional sleepless night is quite common, insomnia is a prolonged inability to sleep. Your risk for insomnia is greater if you are a woman, older than 60, have a mental health disorder, are under a lot of stress, or travel long distances. If you are not sleeping well, the best thing to do is to improve your sleep hygiene and to consider tracking your sleep with a sleep-tracking device or a sleep-tracking app for your smart phone. If you are interested in improving your sleep hygiene, you can read Brookhaven Retreat’s tips for that by clicking here. If you have adjusted your sleep hygiene and are still struggling with sleep, I would definitely recommend a sleep-tracking device or app. The reason for this recommendation is simple; we are not the best judges of how we are sleeping, as we are asleep during the process.
As a chronic insomniac, I am more aware than most when my sleep is disturbed. Some of my friends, however, feel that anything less than 8 hours per night is debilitating. Of course, I also have friends who feel that they can function with less than 5 hours per night. How is it possible, then, to know if you are getting good quality and quantity of sleep?
For me, personally, a sleep-tracking app is an essential part of my nighttime routine. I use one on my smart phone that I activate before attempting to fall asleep. This particular app uses the gyroscope within the smart phone to track movements during the night. It records my movements and calculates the quality of my sleep on a line graph. It is surprisingly accurate for my use. Every day, while I eat breakfast, I mentally decide how well rested I feel then I compare my opinion of my sleep with the line graph. On days when I feel like I haven’t slept well, the line will remain stubbornly jagged at the top between awake and lightly sleeping. On the other hand, on mornings when I feel like I could conquer the world, the line is nearly ‘flat-lined’ telling me that I was in deep sleep for a good portion of the night.
As my sleep radar is incredibly accurate you may wonder why I feel the need to track my sleep. I track my sleep so that I understand why I feel the way I do. If I feel like I haven’t slept well and the tracker app shows different results, I know to apply some close introspection to my mental health. I ask myself if I have been unduly anxious about sleep. On nights when I am actually not sleeping well, I know that I need to take more care with my bedtime routine and possibly add more relaxation exercises. Not only that but I use my sleep tracker app to check for patterns in my sleep. I compare my sleep journal results with my emotional journal, my food diary, exercise diary, and my personal journal so that I can find clues to my sleeping pattern. Oftentimes, I will sleep better on nights when I have eaten a small supper early in the evening as opposed to a heavy meal or eating late. Stress filled days often lead to sleepless nights.
As I have said in the past, sleep is as essential to life as water, food, and shelter. Don’t just assume you are getting enough and don’t be too quick to think you are not. Stressing about your sleep can create a self-perpetuating cycle of stress and insomnia. Your stress over lack of sleep may not be based on actual lack of sleep. Knowing for certain whether the quality and quantity of you get is enough is just as important to your health as brushing your teeth is to dental hygiene.