It is 2 a.m., you are awake, and your mind is racing. You do not understand how you're still awake. You had a long and exhausting day. You were too tired to even eat dinner. You could not wait to shower and fall into bed, so you did. That was five hours ago. Since then, you have tossed and turned, gotten up to go to the bathroom twice, drank a glass of milk, and watched an infomercial. All you have to show for it is indigestion and information on a weight-loss product that you can pay for in three easy installments of $19.95.
If that scenario sounds familiar, you are not alone. Americans spend long days at work on the road commuting to and from. Our days are often non-stop, with phone calls, emails, and meetings. We grab lunch at our desks and make it to the gym when possible. When we do get additional time, we often spend it either catching up on work or with our families. This leaves catching up with ourselves on the lonely back burner, which can lead to burnout.
Our minds are complex, knowing what we need even when we do not. We need to think about ourselves and focus on personal items unrelated to work. When we do not take time to think about ourselves during the day or to do what is good for ourselves, we are likely to lose sleep at night while our minds are hard at work thinking and processing.
Let's paint a scenario to see these ideas in action. John has been working twelve-hour days for the past two weeks. His wife and kids have been shouldering all the chores at home, and there has been no time to sit down for a simple dinner. On the weekends, John tries to make up for missed time with his kids, but they are teens now and have their own social lives. He has missed every game and practice for the past two weeks, with his wife picking up the slack.
On Monday morning, the beginning of the third week of more long hours, John drags himself out of bed, gets dressed, and, as he is leaving for work, sees a note on the refrigerator: John, when you get home tonight, we have to talk. John feels his stomach sink but does not have time to think about it, so he rushes out the door.
All day, John is busy—his desk and cell phone don't stop ringing. He is in the middle of a very important project that, if all goes well, could mean a bonus, promotion, and raise. Before he knows it, it is 7 p.m. He skipped lunch, hoping to leave earlier, but it just did not work out that way.
When he gets home after his hour-long commute, the lights are off. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he remembers a game scheduled for tonight. He looks at the note on the refrigerator as he makes himself a sandwich. He continues to think about the note while in the shower; he cannot remember the last conversation he had with his wife since she has been in bed each night by the time he arrives home.
He gets in bed, turns off the light, and lies in bed, heart pounding. What does she want to talk about? He fears the worst. He is exhausted. Tomorrow is going to be another long day. However, he finds himself saying, "I can't sleep."
John has not taken time for himself or his family in over two weeks. All the personal thoughts he has repressed for the past two weeks are flooding his mind, triggered by the note. John has been working so many hours he has not had time to talk with his family to explain how important this project is to their financial future. Now, everything is crowding in on him.
A 15-minute break during the course of the day to call his wife would have gone a long way in this situation. However, John did not take the time. Now, due to a lack of actual communication, he is left to lie awake, wondering what his wife is trying to communicate with her note. In the absence of his wife there to ask the questions he would like answered, his mind tries to help him sort it out, but the mind has no more answers than John does. It is going to be another long night.
Most of us have found ourselves in situations such as this before. We get so caught up in our workday activities and professional goals that we temporarily lose sight of those important individuals we are working for. Our minds work overtime at night trying to resolve issues we have not had the time to address during our waking hours, and sometimes our thoughts keep us awake.
Poor sleep can impact more than a family dynamic as well. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, "Sleep deficiency is linked to many chronic health problems, including heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and depression." It's also linked to a "higher chance of injury in adults, teens, and children."
If you need additional support in managing your sleep and creating healthy habits around it, you may benefit from working with a licensed therapist. If making it to an in-person appointment isn't possible due to your busy schedule or fatigue, online therapy is an alternative worth considering. With online therapy, you can get the resources you need to cope with work overload and get back on track to begin sleeping soundly.
Research shows that online therapy is as effective as in-person therapy for treating common conditions like anxiety, stress, and depression – which can all contribute to sleep issues and insomnia.
Why is my body not letting me sleep?
Disruptions in your sleep-wake cycle can make getting a good night's sleep difficult. Your body might struggle to fall asleep because of different factors such as stress, mental health disorders, and physical health problems. Chronic conditions like sleep apnea or chronic pain can also affect your ability to stay asleep.
What to do if I couldn’t sleep?
If you’ve had difficulty falling asleep or waking up in the middle of the night, the most appropriate solution will depend on the cause. You can try creating a relaxing bedtime routine, avoiding stimulants like caffeine in the evening, and minimizing screen time before bed. If falling asleep continues to be a problem, consider speaking with a healthcare professional who specializes in sleep medicine.
Should I go to the ER if I haven't slept in 3 days?
Not sleeping for three days is a serious problem and can negatively affect your physical and mental health. While it may not always require a visit to the ER, it may be appropriate to consult a healthcare provider as soon as possible for medical advice. A healthcare provider may recommend different treatments, such as lifestyle changes and prescription drugs for short-term use.
How do I reset my body to sleep?
To reset your sleep cycle, try to create a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends. Exposure to natural light during the day and reducing light before bedtime can help normalize your sleep-wake cycle. In addition, regular exercise during the day but not before bedtime can promote a good night's rest.
Is it OK to stay up all night if you can't sleep?
Staying up all night when you can't sleep is not usually recommended. Instead, try relaxing activities like reading or listening to soothing music. Avoid lying awake in bed for prolonged periods, as doing this can associate the bed with being awake.
How can I force myself to sleep when I can’t?
It may be counterproductive to force yourself to sleep when you can’t. However, you can encourage sleep by creating a conducive sleep environment: dark, cool, and quiet. You can also try relaxation techniques like deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation. Avoid heavy meals, caffeine, and electronics before bed, as they can disrupt sleep.
What will doctors do for insomnia?
Doctors may first analyze your sleep habits and medical history to see how severe the insomnia is. They might conduct tests to diagnose any underlying sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, or other conditions that may be disrupting your sleep. Treatment for insomnia can include behavioral therapy, lifestyle changes, and, in some cases, prescription drugs.
How long can a human survive without sleep?
While it can be hard to say an exact limit, going without sleep for long periods can have severe effects on physical and mental health. Prolonged lack of sleep can negatively affect mental health and cognitive abilities, such as memory and problem-solving. In severe cases, humans may experience hallucinations, severe mood swings, and impaired judgment after a few days of sleep deprivation.
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