Scientists have never found a way to determine how much sleep each person needs, so judgments about sleep need remain subjective.
But there is quite a range in sleep ability, or how much sleep people report that they get.
Waking up on the wrong side of the bed often has to do with being short on sleep, and in recent years scientists have begun offering theories about why this is so.
Rosalind Cartwright’s research suggests that one function of sleep is the down-regulation of negative emotion so we can wake up in a happier frame of mind.
Will a cup of warm milk at bedtime entice the Sandman your way?
Research suggests there’s a link between food and sleep, say the authors of a comprehensive review of the effects of diet on sleep length and quality, and milk is rich in tryptophan, an amino acid important to sleep.
I get a serious case of the munchies when I’m feeling sleep-deprived. A few short nights is all it takes to propel me to the places where the good stuff is. I break into the chocolate, corn chips, cheese, and salted nuts with the zeal of a wild pig rooting for truffles, and I eat and eat.
I came of age when drinking caffeinated beverages was frowned on for people like me. Sleep experts exhorted people with insomnia to “stay away” from caffeine; a story in Working Woman stated that “the stimulant effect of coffee may last as long as 20 hours.”
Warnings like these made me feel guilty about indulging my java jones. Were my two cups of coffee, one at wake-up time and the other later in the morning, keeping me awake at night?
As if it weren’t bad enough that sleeping pills may increase your susceptibility to the common cold and shorten your life, a new study suggests that insomnia and sleeping pills like Ambien and Imovane (similar to Lunesta) increase your chances of developing dementia after age 50.
Is your day brighter yet?
The story on alcohol and sleep is complicated. About 10 to 14 percent of adults in the United States use alcohol as a sleep aid. While it generally degrades the quality of sleep, the use of alcohol does not predict the development of persistent insomnia, say the authors of a large longitudinal study published in January 2012 in the journal Sleep. But—and here’s the troubling part—twice as many insomniacs become problem drinkers as people who sleep well.
Here is one woman’s story of how alcohol led to trouble sleeping and insomnia.
Even people with insomnia sleep well from time to time. “I know on a sunny day after I’ve had a good night, I’m almost high,” Mary, a writer and former teacher, told me as we sat talking over cups of tea.
The day is wonderful after a good night’s sleep. But what about mornings after really bad nights?