“It’s Just Lack of Sleep…”

 

When I was in college I adopted horrendous study habits that included “all nighters” and cramming. I also began to nap. I needed them. Between work study at the campus library and going to school full-time, naps were a coveted, hard-earned prize. I felt better after a nap. I could think better, got along better with my roommates, and could better survive the next long night of studying.

My children are 11 months a part. (No… it was not planned that way!) I did various “odd jobs” throughout their childhood so that I could stay home with them when they were babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers. Thankfully, this meant I could nap at the same time they did. Let me tell you nap time may have been a thing of dread for a precocious three-year-old, but they were a luxury I enjoyed! I used a baby monitor even after my kids were not babies so that I could sleep with my good ear on it in order to make sure they stayed in their beds for their naps.

Darn it. My kids grew up and my part-time jobs began insuring I would no longer have a nap. I miss them still. I may not get a nap anymore, but I do make it a priority to get a good night’s rest. There is no magic number for hours of sleep necessary for an adult to function optimally. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep needs are individual; however, experts agree that healthy adults need 7 to 8 hours every night without risking accumulation of sleep debt (National Sleep Foundation, 2010). You may be slack-jawed having just read that. What adult consistently gets 7-8 hours of sleep every night? Few do.

According to the 2008 Morbidity and Mortality Report, 29% of all American adults report sleeping less than seven hours a night habitually. The report clearly stated that, “The importance of chronic sleep insufficiency is under-recognized as a public health problem, despite being associated with numerous physical and mental health problems, injury, loss of productivity, and mortality” (MMWR, 2008, p. 1175). So if we know we need more sleep, but don’t make it a priority… what is really at risk? Actually… a lot. Depression, heart disease, injury at work or when driving, and risk of DEATH may result from habitually losing sleep.

Factor in Invisible Illness or Disability

Let’s say you have an invisible illness or disability. You may argue (albeit weakly) that you get as much rest as other adults you know. I heard a mother with severe hearing loss complain of rarely getting a good night’s rest, “… in spite of being completely deaf at night without the hearing aids. It’s a matter of getting to bed and going to sleep. So much to do!” You may not realize that if you are operating with an invisible illness or disability you actually need more sleep. Don’t take my word for it. Lack of sleep may seriously impact the quality of life of a person with hearing loss (Preminger & Meeks, 2010). I have met people with Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, MS, brain injury, PTSD, hearing loss, balance disorders, and paralysis who have all shared that they do not get as much sleep as they really need to live their best life.

For some, it may be that they are trying but chronic pain or discomfort may limit how much sleep they are able to get each night. For MANY, however, they simply do not take into account that they need more sleep than the average adult. Why do we make excuses for not making sleep a priority? If a doctor told you that you will feel better and perform better if you could make it a priority to get 2 to 3 more hours of sleep each night, would you do it? “Doctor’s orders”? If research and word-of-mouth testimonies give two thumbs up to getting more sleep, why do we ignore this?

I get 8 hours of sleep every single night – and sometimes I get nine! I’m no saint, but honey? Let me tell you I am ALL DEVIL if I do not get enough rest. It is beyond being grouchy too. I’m more insecure because I don’t hear as well. I fall more and sport pretty, but painful bruises. I don’t make time to exercise if I’m tired. My heart needs to exercise. I have a propensity towards depression when I don’t get regular aerobic exercise. My tinnitus is worse. I say “HUH?” more. (Honestly, I do!) Those who know me well… know how poorly I function when I do not get enough sleep. I lack the finesse of it being a cumulative effect too. Instead it shows up immediately. One of the most unselfish, “good for me” things that I do for myself is make 8 hours of sleep a night a priority. It’s a MUST in my daily schedule.

How about you? Do you get enough sleep? I have never met anyone that couldn’t re-arrange LIFE in order to prioritize sleep if they really chose to do so. It is a little embarassing the things we cut out of our life in order to make a good night’s rest a priority. You may cut out things like less time on FaceBook, or surfing the net, or channel surfing on television. If you live with an invisible illness or disability, how about trying a little test. For one month, really strive to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. Journal about how you feel and about the steps you took in order to make sleep a priority. Ask others if they notice any changes in behavior, over all mood, and performance. You just may be surprised how important sleep is to even YOU.

Do you know you need more sleep but simply cannot find those hours? Talk to your doctor about whether or not you have a comorbid sleep disorder in conjunction with your illness/disability diagnosis. It is not uncommon to have difficulties going to sleep and STAYING asleep when you struggle with other issues.

I’m interested in your feedback! Have you found getting more (or less) sleep impacts your disability?

Denise Portis

© 2011 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

————–

Are sleepy workers a threat to safety, productivity?. (2009). Occupational Health Management, 19(2), 20-21. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

National Sleep Foundation (2010). How much sleep do we really need? Retrieved August 22, 2011, from http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need

Perceived insufficient rest or sleep among adults — United States, 2008. (2009). MMWR: Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report, 58(42), 1175-1179. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Preminger, J., & Meeks, S. (2010). The influence of mood on the perception of hearing-loss related quality of life in people with hearing loss and their significant others. International Journal of Audiology, 49(4), 263-271. doi:10.3109/14992020903311396

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