Do you want to see where you measure up in the spectrum of sleeping? A new telephone survey of 1,000 randomly selected Americans has uncovered the fact that problems during the day remain on people’s minds when it comes time for them to sleep at night. It turns out that health problems and worrying cause sleep disturbances for people over the age of 50.
In the survey, about one in four people reported that worry levels disrupted their sleep in the past month. That’s 25% of all people who have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep because of the mind’s preoccupation with worrying. It was, not surprisingly, more common for this to happen among those who care for a chronically sick friend or relative.
Some other big sleep stealers included being overweight and having certain health conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, and cancer. But incredibly, these serious problems were not as symptomatic of sleep loss as worrying was. Although people with these conditions generally got fewer than seven hours of sleep at night, only about 10% of them said their condition was responsible for their sleep problems.
As a matter of fact, the real scorcher was sleep disturbances caused by the bladder. The urge to urinate in the middle of the night caused the most sleep disturbances. In all, 43% of survey participants said that they routinely got up during the night to use the bathroom.
One problem we certainly don’t have is getting too much sleep — only three percent of the participants said they thought they did. Meanwhile, 30% said they didn’t get enough sleep during the entire month. One in five people got less than six hours a night (while the generally agreed upon standard is eight hours). Nearly half of the people felt that their bodies physically required more sleep at their current age than they did during their 20s.
Also, one-quarter of the participants believed they had a sleep problem and many reported visiting their doctor to figure out what it was.
Participants tried everything in order to sleep. Nearly half of those who went to a doctor were being treated with prescription drugs. Others took over-the-counter drugs or were enrolled in cognitive behavioral therapy in order to try to teach their mind and body to sleep. Only participants who were trying to correct their sleep problems reported this.
Meanwhile, a third of the participants surveyed were using at least one sleeping aid to occasionally help them drift off. In order of popularity, these included audiotapes, over-the- counter drugs, allergy or cold medicine, herbal remedies, prescription drugs not intended to help them sleep, or alcohol. The last two, for the record, are not good ideas at all.
This all goes to show that if you have trouble sleeping you’re far from alone. Pinpointing the problem may be as simple as determining what your worries are all about and doing whatever you can to relax and separate your stressful day from what you need the most — a peaceful night’s rest.