OFFBEAT: Something to sleep on ... if you can

The clock reads 2:15 a.m. In five hours the alarm will go off. That leaves a lot of time for tossing
Cory Frolik
May 24, 2010


The clock reads 2:15 a.m.

In five hours the alarm will go off.

That leaves a lot of time for tossing and turning, doomed attempts to get to that moment — you know the one — where the world melts away and into the folds of slumber you are thrust.

But nothing works tonight.

What’s more, nothing has worked for weeks — months, even? — like the Sandman went on an extended vacation.

You revert to the old reliable routines.

A glass of water is fetched. A light novel is picked up and skimmed. Sheep are counted. Then it’s ceiling tiles.

No good, still awake.

What’s going on, you want to ask, but you already know the answer.

Always thinking about that account balance.

Always thinking about those mortgage payments.

One-third of Americans report having trouble getting shut-eye these days because of the economic crisis and general financial anxiety, according to a study released this month by the National Sleep Foundation.

Evidently the crumbling financial system isn’t just turning some people into penny-pinchers — it’s turning them into insomniacs.

This is not good.

Not just because zombiefied people take longer to order at fast-food restaurants, holding up the line.

Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to a whole host of medical problems, including obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and vulnerability to addictions, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention

“Sleep is as fundamental as diet and exercise to human health,” said Dr. Michael Leslie, medical director of Fisher-Titus Medical Center’s Sleep Disorder Lab.

Aside from health issues, being sleepy negatively affects productivity — and weakened productivity is not what you want in a sluggish economy.

With employers slashing payrolls all across the region, the employees who survive the cuts are often asked to do more.

The same amount of work falls on the shoulders of a leaner workforce. Heavy eyelids and poor concentration will not help with finishing, correctly and efficiently, greater workloads.

 While workers can be forgiven for not sleeping well because of economic stresses, there’s no excuse for failing to seek medical help in extreme cases of sleeplessness. And there are some practical things the sleep deprived can do to help usher along the zzz’s.

The Fisher-Titus sleep lab recommends creating relaxing sleeping conditions: windows are covered to make it dark, the bedroom is kept cool and quiet, and bed covers and pillows are soft and comfortable.

Also, it helps to associate your bedroom with only sleep and possibly adult intimacy. It’s wise to remove work materials, computers, televisions and other distractions.

Exercising is a great way to tire the body out, but exercise routines should be finished up three hours before bedtime. Also, avoiding caffeine for eight hours before bed is advised, and alcohol consumption should stop several hours before bed.

Obviously, these are not profound ideas, but sleep experts sometimes say the simplest things do work.

And here’s something relaxing to think about on those tortured nights: In 2005, only about half of employees reported being satisfied with their jobs, according to a survey by the Conference Board.

I imagine job satisfaction is way up these days. Little irritations — no free goodies in the break room or low mileage reimbursement — seem pithy now that the job market is contracting.

Just being employed today, in this economy, is a comforting thought.

Who needs teddy bears and security blankies to cozy up with when you have a job?

But that’s just my two cents. I could be wrong.

After all, what do I know?

I haven’t been sleeping all that well these days.