Sleep Guilt and Overcoming It

Written by Paul Wolf

Between the Sheets

Too many of us feel guilty about what we do in the bedroom. We're talking about the forbidden pleasure called sleep.sleep a high priority

Dr. Dement's sleep-management advice:
Make sleep a high priority in your life.
If you have trouble sleeping, see a physician who specializes in sleep disorders.
Go to bed earlier.
Eliminate TV, Web surfing and other forms of stimulation as bedtime approaches.
Don't assume you need less sleep as you age.  

"We are a sick-sleep society," says Dr. William Dement, founder of a sleep disorder center at Stanford University, Calif., and author of The Promise of Sleep. "There is an inappropriate skepticism people have about the value of sleep."

People see sleep as a character issue. Motivated people don't linger in the sack. Good employees don't close their eyes at staff meetings. And leaping up at 6 a.m. on Sunday to pull weeds is the height of domestic virtue.

We approach sleep as a vice to be overcome. We think, "I should get up now" or, "I'm exhausted, but it's not my bedtime yet." Listen to your body, says Dement. Daytime sleepiness is a sign of lack of sleep, not a lack of character. You should get enough sleep to feel wide-awake all day long, he notes.

Lack of sleep often peaks at midlife, when the demands of work and family are high. The average working person, according to Dement, gets 90 minutes less sleep per night than he or she needs. Compounding the problem is the fact that many people think erroneously that as they get older they need less sleep.

Dement stresses that while our sleep requirements change a bit as we age-we may prefer going to bed earlier and waking earlier-we cannot thrive on significantly less sleep.

What is most important is that you have a clear sense of how much sleep you thrive on, and then call it a priority to get that much, he says.

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