A good night sleep is the foundation for health and wellbeing. There is more and more evidence of how lack of sleep can contribute to poor physical, mental and emotional health. Insomnia is an inability to sleep. This can include an inability to get to sleep, trouble staying asleep, or poor quality sleep.
Insomnia and trouble sleeping is not a disease condition, instead it is a symptom of something else occurring within the body biochemistry. Short term insomnia is typically caused by stressful events such as deadline at work, or family issue. The sleep pattern generally returns back to normal after the event has passed. The causes of long term insomnia or sleep issues should be addressed so that the reason can be corrected.
Restful sleep is important as it is when the body repairs itself, recuperates and detoxifies from the day’s events. During your sleep nerve toxins are neutralized during sleep, cells divide, tissue synthesis occurs and growth hormones are released. This helps with energy restoration, muscle development and repair. Lack of sleep can lead to poor immunity, poor memory, mood changes, reduced alertness, anxiety, depression, increased risk of some cancers, weight gain and increased blood pressure.
Lets look at tips to promote restful sleep:
- Avoid napping during the day. Staying awake during the day means that you will be more tired when you do go to bed at your bedtime.
- Reduce smoking and alcohol as both of these can interfere with sleep patterns.
- Avoid stimulants such as tea, coffee, or caffeinated beverages (eg coke, energy drinks) as these will disrupt the adrenal glands and create a vicious cycle. Caffeine reduces the hormone melatonin – a hormone which helps to regulate sleep patterns.
- Sugar foods before bedtime can disrupt sleep patterns due to the effect of the blood sugar high. High sugar levels is linked to high serotonin levels. Serotonin is a hormone produced during the day to help create wakefulness. When serotonin levels are high, Melatonin levels are low. Melatonin is the hormone that regulates our sleep. We need high levels of melatonin at night.
- Avoid exercise before bed. Exercise creates an endorphin high which stimulates energy levels.
- Get up at the same time each day, no matter how much sleep that you had during the night. When you ‘sleep in’ to compensate for the poor night sleep it creates a disturbance for the following night. Your body clock will be disrupted.
- Avoid watching TV, reading a book or being on the computer before bed or in the bedroom. Television and computers can be stimulating and create an environment to engage the brain.
- Limit activity in the bedroom to sleeping and loving. Take TV’s and computers out of the bedroom.
- Dim your room prior to sleep, spend some time relaxing in a dimly lit room (not your bedroom). Melatonin (sleep hormone) is produced in darkness.
- Ensure that your bedroom is dark, so as to improve the levels of melatonin. If you have street lights shining in your room then get thick curtains to black out the lights. There are black out curtains and black out screens that can be attached to your windows.
- I also suggest that people take clocks out of sight. Non-sleepers or insomniacs tend to keep looking at the time and get frustrated that they are not asleep yet. I know that my husband (during his bad sleep time) would comment about how many times he looked at the time. I set an alarm to wake up in another room eg ensuite. The clocks also give off light that can interfere with Melatonin production.
- If you can’t sleep, then get up and go into another dimly lit room and practice some relaxation techniques or play some relaxing music until you feel sleepy again. Then go back to your bedroom.
- Have a bedtime routine – create an environment that is relaxing. We create routines for our children to help them know when it is bedtime. The same can happen for adults.
- A warm bath 20 minutes before bed with Epsom salts and lavender essential oil can help relax your body in readiness for sleep.
- A glass of warm milk 20 minutes prior to bed can help. It contains magnesium and calcium which have a relaxing action. Tryptophan is an amino acid that is a precursor to melatonin.
- Ensure that your room is cool and has fresh air.
- Check your mattress for comfort. Uncomfortable mattresses can cause you to wake during the night.
If you have a noisy environment, consider comfortable ear plugs to reduce external noise.
Try these tips before you use pharmaceutical or natural sedatives. Remember to create a calm environment. Getting frustrated whilst you employ these tips will only hinder your efforts. If you are still finding it difficult to establish good sleeping patterns then see a health professional to help get to the cause of your sleep and insomnia issues. Once at the cause you will find that you can successfully re-establish your restful sleep.