10 tip tips for regaining your restful sleep
Reliable figures are hard to find but a UK study involving 2363 randomly selected adults indicated that 37% suffered from insomnia and results from the Great British Sleep Survey involving many thousands individuals showed a significant increase in reported cases of sleep disturbance. May be as a result of the stressful times we are living in insomnia looks to be affecting 51% of us with women accounting for 75% of the cases.
So, with this in mine here are our 10 top tips to re-start your natural sleep cycle
1. TV at bed-time
It’s all too tempting; a warm bed and the TV remote! Even though you feel you are resting your brain is having to process a lot of visual and sound information. This is known to stimulate the brain and prevent the natural wind-down process that occurs as we make tracks for bed. The same can be said for taking your computer to bed or flicking around with your smart phone or tablet devise.
2. Turn the clock around
We all clock-watch enough as it is during the day so there is a tendency to take the habit to bed! There is nothing worse than watching the time tick away and doing the mental maths on how long you have to go until it’s getting up time again. Take the brave step and turn the bed-side clock around so you can’t see the display. If you have a bight alarm clock display either get one you can dim the display on or place a towel over it. If you have a ticking click, get rid of it!
3. Re-train your body clock
There is no escaping the fact that humans like routine. When it comes to sleep this is often overlooked. Try and get to bed at a regular time each night and rise at the same time each morning, even on weekends. Training your body to expect sleep and a given time and to awake at a given time can be a powerful way top access those lost natural sleep rhythms. However, don’t forget that going to bed too early is just as bad as going to bed too late.
4. The sleep-food connection
While avoiding heavy meals before bed would sound obvious, many insomniacs forget to take note of this simple bit of advise and hit the sack within hours of eating their biggest meal of the day. Eating at dinner at around 6.00pm and making tracks for bed at around 11.00pm would be reasonable. Some people do find that a light snack taken about 1 hour before bed can help their desire to sleep. Choosing something containing complex carbohydrates such as a non-sugary cereal and milk or crackers with young (not matured) cheese. Carbohydrate and dairy based foods contain compounds that may enhance our natural sleep inducing chemistry.
5. Know your stimulants – and avoid them!
Coffee is the best-known sleep robber of all. It’s effects can last longer than you think especially of you are a habitual coffee drinker during the day. Don’t forget that caffeine is also found in chocolate, hot chocolate, fizzy energy drinks, colas and even some pain killer drugs. If you turn to a nightcap because it helps to relax you… think again. After the initial sedating effects, alcohol actually causes more frequent tossing and turning and bouts of awaking; it give you a restful night. Just like caffeine, nicotine is another stimulant. Smoking close to bed-time will buzz up the nervous system and aggravate any pre-existing insomnia. In general, avoid all stimulants a good 4 hours before bed; best still, give them up.
6. Address daytime stress
Avoid taking your stress to bed; easier said than done. Our natural mechanisms are designed to keep us alive in times of stress and sleeping if not the best way to keep alive when being threatened so is it any wonder stress inhibits sleep! Managing stress during the day is vital and we have written on this in previous issues but using a supplement called phosphatidylserine around 40 mins before bed had been shown to calm the sleep disrupting effects of the stress hormone known as cortisol. In the relaxed state, cortisol levels naturally fall at bed-time and rise to help us wake up in the morning. This cycle can become reversed when you are stressed. The regular use of phosphatidylserine before bed may help to re-regulate this situation. Phosphatidylserine is a natural extract derived from the soya bean.
7. Get comfortable
One if the biggest triggers for disturbed sleep is pain and one of then commonest causes is lower back and / or neck pain. If this affects you try sleeping on your side, putting a pillow between your knees and sleeping with your knees slightly drawn up to your chest; almost in the foetal position. This places the least stress and strain through the joints, discs and nerves of the lower back. When it comes to your neck, use a pillow that is thick enough to keep your neck in the correct alignment; not tilting away from or towards the bed if you are side lying or just enough to fill the gap between the base of your skull and the shoulders in order to support the length of your neck at night.
8. The allergy connection
Respiratory allergies can be triggered or aggravated by the presence of naturally occurring dust mites. All beds have dust mites because all of us shed skin cells on a continuous basis; this forms the bulk of what makes up dust. The house dust mite eats the cast off skin cells but the little fellows also aggravate allergic conditions that can cause breathing issues and trigger a broken sleep pattern. A similar situation can occur if your cat or dog decides to next in your bed during the day!
9. Be bladder aware
Night time trips to the loo will play havoc with your sleep. If you have a sensitive bladder start reducing your fluid intake a good few hours before bed. Don’t forget, that a good proportion what goes in has to come out and this inevitably occurs during the night of you are drinking water or any fluid come to that, too close to bed. Conditions such as irritable bladder, interstitial cystitis and prostate disorders all have to be taken into account when the sleep pattern is broken.
10. A problem shared
While there are many more simple causes for broken sleep there are some medical problems that need to be considered if you sleep problem is not helped by these simple lifestyle suggestions. Problems as diverse as depression, gastric reflux, sinusitis/rhinitis, nasal polyps, drug side effects, sleep apnoea, asthma, COPD and arthritis can all impact on your rested nights sleep. Consider discussing your sleep with your doctor or health professional.
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