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Mind » Sleep

How To Intelligently Combat Sleep Deprivation

By Catherine Gordon
Updated April 1, 2015

You can easily deal with the occasional sleepless night.
The next day, you might cancel appointments and take it easy while at home if your fatigue is overwhelming.

After all, your mood is bad, your judgment is faulty and even familiar tasks are challenging.
You also feel a successful bedtime coming and know you’ll feel better after a good night’s sleep.

If you work swing or night shifts, have a newborn baby, or are grappling with a stressful event, there is no guarantee that you will sleep well enough to escape deepening fatigue. When circumstances prevent restorative sleep, you’ll experience sleep deprivation.

You Need Sleep To Learn

Sleep deprivation can cause brain deterioration and interferes with memory in older people. Researchers discovered that the brain moves information from short-term memory to long-term memory.

Without deep, restorative sleep, the brain overwrites information left in short-term memory. The process works well unless an important short-term memory doesn’t move into a long-term memory, which can result in devastating effects.

Missing only two hours of sleep, or sleeping less than six hours each night, can leave you too tired to appreciate your fatigue’s depth and how impaired you actually are. You may do poorly on tests, your reaction times might slow, or you may have trouble concentrating and feel antisocial. Some sleep deprivation is inevitable, but there are techniques that can steady your mind for sleep and help you cope with sleep deprivation.

Natural Techniques Slow Your Thoughts

Your sleep deprivation may stem from difficulties, unresolved during your active hours. If your mind starts racing as soon as your head hits the pillow, writing your worries down may help. You will need a small spiral notebook and a larger diary or journal. Throughout the day, notate events or problems that tend to keep you awake in the small spiral notebook.

At the end of the day, but well before bedtime, transcribe your notes into your journal or diary kept in a safe place. Choose those issues you can resolve the next morning and address them throughout the day. Putting your worries in a safe place lets you come back to them when you are ready. Just knowing you can find them will be a huge relief!

You can also distract yourself with mental exercises. Focus on an object in your room and mentally note every detail you can see. Each time your mind starts wandering, bring your attention back to the object. You can use this distraction exercise without an object to focus on as well. Create a mental image of a bouquet, a single flower or any object with details you can visualize and focus on it until you doze off.

Take A Special Vacation

Give yourself a sleep vacation without leaving town. Get a room at a local hotel with its own restaurant and/or room service. Hang the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door, close the curtains and sleep as long as you wish. Hotels with their own restaurants often provide room service, eliminating your having to leave your room for meals. If there is no room service, you can eat in the hotel restaurant to avoid leaving the hotel.

Away from home, you cannot hear noisy children or the laundry running. You can stop thinking about household chores or the ringing phone and sleep comes easier. Camping can also help with sleep deprivation. The fresh air and quiet atmosphere can help you end a stretch of insomnia.

Eat With Restorative Sleep In Mind

Eating foods reputed to make people drowsy can help calm your mind making sleep easier. Tryptophan, found in soybeans, chicken, turkey and salmon, converts to serotonin in the body and is calming.

Pin It Buy tryptophan rich foods at the grocery store or tryptophan supplements with clear dosage instructions online or at your health food store. Talk with your doctor before using tryptophan supplements because tryptophan can react with medications.

The next time thoughts demand attention at bedtime, try changing your diet, take supplements or try a sleep vacation. With practice, you will know exactly what to do the next time you find yourself sleep deprived.

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Table Of Contents

Katherine Hurst
By Catherine Gordon
Catherine Gordon (PhD) has a background teaching and researching analytic philosophy. She is also a practising therapist who works with individuals and couples on issues relating to relationship difficulties, emotional well-being and self-improvement.

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