10 p.m., known as the “forbidden zone,”
making it difficult to fall asleep, Belenky says.
“What keeps you asleep eight hours is
that your body temperature is falling from
11 p.m. until six in the morning.”
So, is nature on your side? Pity the early
risers working long shifts. If you get up
at 2: 30 a.m., get to work at 3: 30 a.m. and
get off work at 1 p.m., you are ready to
sleep as circadian rhythms are raising your
Are you plagued by racing thoughts, and can neither turn off your mind nor stop worrying when trying to fall sleep? WORRY AND SLEEP
“Anxiety or depression could be keeping
you awake,” says Dr. Robin Haight, a
licensed clinical psychologist in Vienna,
Va., adding, “Sleep disregulation can
make a wide variety of anxiety problems
or depression worse.”
Adults juggling a lot of balls may seem to
be fine, but really they are suffering, she
says, adding, “Sleeplessness may be
how the anxiety manifests itself.”
So what can you do if too many
responsibilities and troubling thoughts
are keeping you up? “Take a break, even
for half an hour, and get a little nap,”
Haight says. “Close your eyes, decrease
stimulation. Go to a quiet room. Lower
the lights. Even 20-30 minutes during
your body’s natural temperature dip can
help you recharge.” A little sleep can be
If all else fails, therapy can help bed
down anxieties, she adds. After all, if bad
body temperature, making falling asleep
more difficult. And circadian rhythms work
against those working night shifts, too. If
you work from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., and fall
asleep at 8 a.m., circadian rhythms will be
raising your body temperature, making it
difficult for you to sleep much beyond
1 p.m., or for more than five hours.
As we age, circadian rhythms shift,
making us earlier risers, Belenky explains.
behavior in kitchens can provoke anxiety,
who doesn’t need a little help from time
to time in a world fraught with fear of the
future and pain from the past?
“Machismo and abusive behavior
can undermine a person’s sense of
worth, triggering underlying anxiety or
depression and reactivating unresolved
childhood traumas,” Haight says.
A yelling chef can remind you of an
abusive parent or teacher. A disapproving
coworker can revive early feelings of
inadequacy or not being good enough.
And these unresolved feelings can fill
you with anxiety, keeping you up at night,
even if they are not conscious.
“If you get injured on your body, you can
slap on a bandage, and the wound may
fester, stay infected and never really repair
itself. With therapy, you open the bandage,
clean the wound and let it heal,” Haight
explains. “Yes, you may have a scar, but the
good news is the wound will no longer hurt.
“Sleep should be restorative, not just one
Circadian rhythms also diminish in strength
with age, so there can be periods of
drowsiness during the day and wakefulness
at night, unlike the consolidated periods
of sleep and wakefulness experienced by
Think about it. The more you work, the
less time you have to sleep and the more
difficult it is to arrange your sleep in
accordance with circadian rhythms.
So, how many hours you work, how
many hours you sleep and the impact
of circadian rhythms will determine your
success in coupling enough sleep with
good performance. No wonder Belenky
assures us that our fatigue may well be a
function of factors beyond whether or not
we drink energy drinks or do yoga.
Still, for all those suffering from too little
sleep, he offers a solution. “You can split your
sleep. Two thirds of the world does this, with
people in many cultures taking a siesta.”
Those in jobs that demand unusual
hours, such as airline pilots or doctors,
take siestas while others cover for them,
Belenky explains. And around the world,
diners doze after the afternoon meal.
So, will nap areas be coming to your
restaurant soon, so staff is never caught
dozing over the saucepans? Or how
about hammocks in the back—an idea for
the future as refreshing as watermelon,
lemonade and spritzers.
Ethel Hammer is a writer, lecturer and
cartoonist based in Chicago.