Fatigue is a worldwide problem. Recent data indicates that, in America alone, some 3.3 million patients each year visit their doctors for insomnia. Older individuals have been thought to be at greater risk for insomnia. Around 34 percent of Americans over 65 years of age have problems with insomnia, but sleeping difficulties are also commonly found in adults around 17 to 30 years of age. About 3000 individuals were studied regarding problems with sleep, such as difficulty falling asleep, waking up frequently, “disrupted sleep”, napping during the day, nightmares, and waking up too early or still tired. Only 36 percent of those studied appeared to be free of these indicators.
Sleep deficiency impairs the performance of the frontal lobe. It has been proven that driving while impaired by fatigue can be as lethal as driving under the influence of alcohol. Without sufficient sleep, reaction time is reduced, which increases the risk of both fatal and nonfatal accidents. The ability to multitask is also hindered. It is even difficult to learn new skills without getting appropriate sleep (around 8 hours, including the REM [Rapid Eye Movement] period). Sleep deprivation also increases the risk of depression. Feelings of despair are closely linked to sleepless nights, and people with insomnia are around 40 times more likely to fall into depression than those without this disorder.
The average individual needs 7-8 hours of sleep to function properly. Some need as many as 9 hours. Babies and children need even more. Many may reach for a coffee or energy drink to keep themselves awake or to give themselves a boost, but caffeine reduces melatonin, which is necessary for the good quality sleep that assists in coping with stress, strengthens the immune system, and delays some effects of aging. Alcohol, tobacco, antidepressants, vitamin B12 supplements, and sleep aids are among a few other substances that reduce melatonin. Stress also reduces that necessary sleep agent.
Melatonin can be produced naturally. Bright sunlight increases melatonin production. Exercise boosts melatonin. Barley, bananas, tomatoes, ginger, rice, corn, and oats all contain melatonin. An individual wanting to increase his or her melatonin (for a good night’s rest), will want to add these foods to his/ her diet, as well as get plenty of exercise outside in the sunlight, during the day.
For an improvement in sleep, you may also want to try sleeping in a comfortable bed in a cool, dark, quiet, and tidy room. Sleeping in complete darkness is best for melatonin production. Proper circulation of fresh air may also improve sleep. Try opening the window if it is not too cool outside, or using a fan.
[Sources: Proof Positive; The Lost Art of Thinking; Depression: the Way Out]