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Adult Sleep During Wartime

Are you experiencing sleep disturbances? Do you have trouble falling asleep? Do you wake up in the middle of the night and struggle to go back to sleep?

Since October 7, 2023, nearly all of us have experienced restlessness, concerns, sadness, constant pain, and stress that manifest themselves through sleep disturbances, among other things.
Medical literature shows a significant increase in sleep problems among more than half of the individuals who experienced trauma.

Why is sleep so crucial for us?

Healthy sleep benefits us in many ways: it enhances our mental resilience, expands our life expectancy, strengthens our immune system, prevents car and work accidents, and reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and dementia.
Healthy sleep preserves and enhances vital capabilities that may help us on all levels, such as individual life and family life, and assists decision-makers in the citizenry and security establishment. Healthy sleep helps improve our decision-making capacity and preserves reaction time and physical fitness, as well as short-term memory, emotional regulation, and the ability to work and live together.

What is healthy sleep?

Healthy sleep is continuous sleep for 7 to 9 hours at night for an adult.

What are sleep disturbances?

The most common and relevant sleep disturbance during this time is sleeplessness. Namely, the difficulty of falling asleep, waking for prolonged periods of time during the night, and waking before the desired time in the morning.

Which sleep disturbances are caused by emergencies such as the current war, and why is it essential to address them?

It is extremely important to address sleep disturbances promptly to prevent the deterioration of severe and prolonged mental issues such as PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). Other disruptions that may occur during wartime include nightmares, difficulty sleeping in unfamiliar environments, and sleep deprivation due to increased workload and caregiving for children, the elderly, or individuals facing other medical challenges.

What happens to us when we are tired?

  • We are unable to judge our alertness and functioning level, especially when we suffer from prolonged sleep deprivation: we assume we have gotten used to the lack of sleep hours, while our actual functioning deteriorates.
  • An accumulated sleep deficit does not go away in one night of normal sleep.
  • Activity and decision making in the middle of the night, when we are usually asleep, are often less effective and even dangerous.

What does it take to get a healthy sleep?

  • Healthy lifestyle, including regular physical activity at a convenient time of the day.
  • Refrain from alcoholic drinks and coffee before bedtime.
  • Avoid a rich meal before bedtime or going to bed hungry, as it can stimulate hunger and disrupt sleep.
  • To regulate and enhance the biological clock, expose yourself to sunlight for half an hour in the morning and for a short period in the middle of the day.
  • Bathing before bedtime helps the body relax and fall asleep more easily.
  • To overcome light or noise disruptions, wear a blindfold or earplugs and turn on ambient noise, such as soothing nature sounds.
  • Do not use screens in bed, and do not fall asleep with the TV on.

What should you do if you still struggle to fall asleep?

  • Imagine a soothing place or experience: breathe from the abdomen, exhaling longer than inhaling. Consider gradual muscle relaxation from the legs to the head. Meditation and mindfulness techniques can also be helpful.
  • If you do not fall asleep within 15 minutes, do not stay in bed. Instead, go to another room with minimal lighting and engage in a non-screen activity until sleepiness prevails. Then, return to bed.
  • If you cannot overcome sleeplessness despite following this advice, seek medical attention. A healthcare professional can refer you to cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTI), an insomnia therapist, a psychologist, or a specialist caregiver.

Sleep well!