As a saying goes, your eyes may be the mirror to your soul, but they also help control your sleeping and waking habits by sending signals to your brain. Sunlight in the daytime charges you up for your daily life challenges, and the lack of light at night informs your brain to shut things down and put you to sleep. That is, of course, if everything is working properly.
Your brain maintains an internal clock, based on the cycles of the sun, that tells you when you should be up and about and when you should be down and out. Specifically, this clock is a small part of the brain called th suprachiastmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus. Abnormalities related to this clock are called circadian rhythm disorders. (Circa means “about” and dies means “day.”)
Numerous factors in life can disrupt your circadian rhythm. Unusual work hours, jet lag, stress, anxiety, depression, certain medications and not least of all, life-style choices can all contribute to poor sleep. Delayed sleep syndrome is one such disorder in which you fall asleep too late and wake up too late. Advanced sleep syndrome is just the opposite — you fall asleep early and wake up too early.
Perhaps half of all Americans have sleep issues. We’re a society that emphasizes and rewards long hours and hard labor, which by themselves might not disrupt your sleep, but when they add up to stress and anxiety and other issues, your sleep can definitely be jeopardized — especially if you take your work home with you and slave over it on a computer or laptop into the wee hours.
Aging can also play a factor. As we age, our sleep habits — inded, our ability to sleep well — can change for the worse, and we may find ourselves having to make up for a lousy night’s sleep by napping in the afternoon, or during lunchtime at work.
Many of our sleep problems can be “cured” by a thorough self-examination of what we’re doing that might interfere with our sleep. This self-examination is all about our sleep hygiene — or lack thereof. Do we do things such as watching TV in the bedroom or working on electronic devices late at night that wreck our circadian rhythm instincts? Do we eat, drink or smoke too close to beddy-bye?
It’s not always that easy to “cure” ourselves of our bad, sleep-wrecking habits, so it’s probably a good idea to seek out professional help when you know you have self-induced sleep problems, and especially if you have sleep problems whose source you can’t identify. You may have a very treatable sleep disorder that’s ruining your nights and days. Whatever is causing you to have sleep issues, get help fast. Sleep is too important to your health and well-being to miss out on.