How do you know whether you’re routinely getting enough sleep? While a clinical sleep assessment is needed to thoroughly address this issue, an easy rule of thumb is to answer two simple questions.
First, after waking up in the morning, could you fall back asleep at ten or eleven a.m.? If the answer is “yes,” you are likely not getting sufficient sleep quantity and/or quality.
Second, can you function optimally without caffeine before noon? If the answer is “no,” then you are most likely self-medicating your state of chronic sleep deprivation.
Both of these signs you should take seriously and seek to address your sleep deficiency.
In general, these un-refreshed feelings that compel a person to fall back asleep mid morning, or require the boosting of alertness with caffeine, are usually due to individuals not giving themselves adequate sleep opportunity time, at least eight or nine hours in bed.
When we don’t get enough sleep, one consequence among many is that adenosine concentrations remain too high.
Like an outstanding debt on a loan, come the morning, some quantity of yesterday’s adenosine remains. You then carry that outstanding sleepiness balance throughout the following day.
Also like a loan in arrears, this sleep debt will continue to accumulate. You cannot hide from it. The debt will roll over into the next payment cycle, and the next, and the next, producing a condition of prolonged, chronic sleep deprivation from one day to another.
This outstanding sleep obligation results in a feeling of chronic fatigue, manifesting in many forms of mental and physical ailments that are now rife throughout industrialized nations.
Other questions that can draw out signs of insufficient sleep are: If you didn’t set an alarm clock, would you sleep past that time? (If so, you need more sleep than you are giving yourself.)
Do you find yourself at your computer screen reading and then rereading (and perhaps rereading again) the same sentence? (This is often a sign of a fatigued, under-slept brain.)
Do you sometimes forget what color the last few traffic lights were while driving? (Simple distraction is often the cause, but a lack of sleep is very much another culprit.)
Of course, even if you are giving yourself plenty of time to get a full night of shut-eye, next-day fatigue and sleepiness can still occur because you are suffering from an undiagnosed sleep disorder, of which there are now more than a hundred.
The most common is insomnia, followed by sleep-disordered breathing, or sleep apnea, which includes heavy snoring.
Should you suspect your sleep or that of anyone else to be disordered, resulting in daytime fatigue, impairment, or distress, speak to your doctor immediately and seek a referral to a sleep specialist.
Most important in this regard: do not seek sleeping pills as your first option.
In the event it helps, I have attached a picture questionnaire that has been developed by sleep researchers that will allow you to determine your degree of sleep fulfillment.
Called SATED, it is easy to complete, and contains only five simple questions.