By Dr. Lisa Shives (The Sleep M.D.)
There are countless things that can steal your good night’s sleep. Among them are food, alcohol, caffeine, and even a nap in the afternoon. One thing that we don’t think about until the situation arises, however, is news and world events.
Early this month, the United States announced a major development in its war against terrorism. The official announcement from President Barack Obama came on a Sunday night at about midnight on the east coast of the country. The network TV news operations had been on the air talking about it, in some cases, for more than an hour before that. This meant that anyone who was transfixed by the story and had to get up early in the morning for work or with kids was awake well past their bedtime. On top of that, many may have had trouble sleeping even after they turned off the TV. Big news like this has a habit of making the brain shift into overdrive, making slumber difficult.
This is just one example of how the news can steal your sleep. Some other examples include extreme weather (even if it’s not in your neighborhood), elections that run into the wee hours of the night, and even sporting events. This is television programming ikely don’t want to record and watch at a more convenient time. So, what can a person do?
Losing sleep on one night isn’t something to be concerned about, so long as you make sure you don’t follow it up with another bad night’s sleep after that. Try to go to sleep earlier than usual for the next couple of nights to make up the “sleep debt”. Also, there may be a temptation to guzzle coffee and other caffeinated beverages while you’re exhausted. Resist the urge to have them in the afternoon, however, as they may keep you awake when you can finally get some shut-eye.
If you turn off the TV and find that your mind is racing, you might be better off reading a calming book or magazine for 15 minutes before you try to sleep. While it will keep you up later, it may lead to you falling asleep sooner because you’re not laying in bed with the lights off and your eyes wide open … still thinking about the news. Some deep breathing exercises or even light meditation may help significantly. Try using a white noise machine that has an option for beach or forest sounds, and imagine yourself in the places where those noises came from.
In the end, it’s up to you to decide if a news event is worth losing sleep over. If you decide to stay up even though you won’t get enough rest, do the best you can to mitigate the lost sleep.
Dr. Shives works with SleepBetter.org to provide a medical view of sleep issues. She is one of only a few practitioners with a fellowship in Sleep Medicine in addition to board certification by both the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Sleep Medicine.