Do you often find yourself watching the clock throughout the night? When you finally do fall asleep, do you suddenly wake for no apparent reason? If the answer is yes, you may be suffering from a sleep disorder. Many adults suffer from insomnia, and though there are a number of causes, stress and anxiety are the main culprits.

You're Not a Lazy Bones

Believe it or not, sleep is a big deal. If you don't get enough, it can affect your physical health, your emotional well-being, and your ability to concentrate. You need regular sleep--especially if you're a super-efficient, highly-motivated person in your work and home life. That means getting eight hours of restful sleep every night for the average adult. If you're unable to this on a regular basis, you will not be at your best to face your busy schedule the next morning.

While You Are Sleeping

During a good night's sleep, you will cycle through several stages a number of times during the night. During the initial stage, your brain sends out signals for your heart to slow its rhythm. Your muscles relax and your body temperature drops slightly. At this point, you are in a very light stage of sleep and can be easily awakened by a sudden noise. Next comes deep sleep. Though you may talk during this stage, it is much harder to be awakened. Gradually, you will slip into an even deeper sleep. It's difficult to be awakened from this stage, but if you do, you will feel groggy and confused.

Sleeping to Dream

One of the most important stages of sleep is known as rapid eye movement (REM). At this stage, your eyes move back and forth very quickly, though your muscles are relaxed. Your breathing may become irregular and your pulse may increase slightly. This is the dream state, though you don't always remember it when you awake. We don't know for sure why we dream, but many experts believe it is your body's way of processing the day's events, storing important information, and getting rid of the junk.

When Counting Sheep Doesn't Work

If you have trouble sleeping, try to unwind before you go to bed:

  • Enjoy a hot soak in the bath with a relaxing aromatherapy oil
  • Learn some breathing techniques to help you relax
  • Have a warm milky drink
  • Avoid napping during the day, no matter how tired you are
  • Go to bed at the same time each night to establish a healthy routine
  • Exercise during the day to burn off steam
  • Limit your intake of caffeine and alcohol

The Do's and Don'ts of Zzzs

Your bed is for sleeping. Don't use it for watching television, working, or eating. Don't count the minutes while you're tossing and turning. Do get up and sit in another room for a while, read a book, or try some breathing exercises. Do maintain a healthy sleep routine to make sure you're getting enough sleep.