Don't overdose on stressful financial news, especially right before bed.
Anyone who’s ever spent a few nights tossing and turning probably knows the basic sleep rules: Relax before bed, set a consistent schedule, and as you’re lying awake at 3 a.m.
, try not to think about things that are bothering you.
But with the unstable economy—and jobs and retirement savings hanging in the balance—you also know that’s easier said than done. Americans are more stressed about finances today than they were just six months ago, and many are losing sleep over it. So is it really possible to push all that emotion aside at bedtime? Or is now the time to get help from a doctor or a sleeping pill?
The answer involves how well you’re able to manage stress, says Mary Susan Esther, MD, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Dr. Esther, who practices sleep medicine at Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Associates in North Carolina, is no stranger to economy-related sleep woes.
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"Charlotte has been really hit recently; Wachovia [is] based here, and so our phones have just been ringing off the hook the past few weeks with people complaining about sleeplessness and insomnia
," she says, referring to the ailing bank that is close to being swallowed up by Wells Fargo. "The economy means our jobs, and that’s always much more threatening than other problems that can seem easier to intellectualize and think through, especially when we’re lying awake and things seem hopeless. It’s our bread and butter, our source of pride, and that hits home a lot faster than other crises."
Stress takes a physical toll
The progressive decline of the economy has been taking a physical and emotional toll on people across the country, according to a 2008 Stress in America
survey released this month by the American Psychological Association. About half of the people polled said they are increasingly stressed about their ability to provide for their family’s basic needs, and 80% say the economy is a significant source of stress (up from 66% in April). Women especially reported worries about money, job stability, housing costs, and health problems affecting their families.
Compared with 2007, more respondents also said they are fatigued, irritable or angry, and lying awake at night as a result of stress. Almost one-fifth of Americans reported drinking alcohol to manage their stress, and 16% reported smoking—two factors
that can affect your ability to get quality sleep.
Another recent survey by BettyConfidential.com
found that women are concerned about issues like "affording groceries and other staples like gas," "losing what took so long to acquire," and "things getting worse in the country and it affecting me." One respondent wrote, "I don’t sleep more than four hours a night. I get headaches. I worry that my kids can’t go to college and my doctor now has me on antianxiety meds. (Thankfully, they are cheap!)" It’s not just U.S. citizens who are affected by the global crisis, either: British website NetDoctor.co.uk
found that one-fifth of U.K. residents surveyed are regularly getting fewer than five hours of sleep a night, and one-fourth wake up more than three times a night. Two-thirds of those reporting insomnia cited money and work as sources of their sleep troubles.