Sleep is often given the back seat due to our increasingly busy lifestyles. We often forget how a good night’s sleep can make us feel great physically, mentally and emotionally!
WHAT IS SLEEP?
Normal sleep passes through a number of 90 minute cycles throughout the night, featuring different stages of sleep depth. When you first fall asleep you will experience light sleep (stage one) from which you can easily wake up. As your sleep continues, you’ll descend into a deeper sleep (stage two, three and four). Stage four, which usually occurs about 40 minutes after falling asleep, is the deepest part of your sleep cycle. It is very difficult to be woken from this stage and if you are, you will feel confused and groggy. After a time in this deep sleep, you will re-enter stage three, then two, then back to stage one. In between each cycle includes a state called Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, otherwise known as dreaming.
BENEFITS OF A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP
Sleep allows your body to recuperate and repair, important for your emotional state and your ability to react to situations and make decisions. It is also vital for clear thinking, learning and memory. Generally adults require 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. However some people may need more or less than this amount. Getting too little sleep creates a ‘sleep debt’ which must eventually be repaid. And the lack of sleep affects our mood, energy levels and ability to deal with situations.
WHAT CAUSES SLEEP PROBLEMS?
Sleep difficulties or Insomnia can be caused by many things such as:
- Specific events such as losing a job, death of a loved one, divorce or moving home
- Working unusual or irregular hours (shift-work)
- Worrying about not being able to sleep
- Health issues such as anxiety and depression, restless legs syndrome, pain, sleep apnoea
- Work-related or financial stress or emotional stress
Sleep medicines (also called hypnotics, sedatives or benzodiazepines) can help reduce the time to fall asleep and increase the total sleep time, but not by much and can make the quality of sleep worse. Thus it is best to limit the use of these medicines to occasional use only, or at most 3-4 days in a row at any one time. Sleep medicines may also make you feel sleepy past the time for sleep increasing the risk of falls and of motor vehicle accidents if you drive.
- Nature’s Own Complete Sleep contains Zizyphus which is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for its mild sedative action to calm the nerves and mind, and Lactium which is a naturally-occurring peptide that has anti-stress properties, and can help aid relief of stress symptoms.
- Swisse Ultiboost Sleep contains ingredients shown to decrease the time taken to fall asleep, assist with reducing symptoms such as mild anxiety and stress and minimise sleep challenges.
- Totally Natural Sleep More contains Hops for mood and restlessness (it may even enhance the quality of your sleep); Passionflower for nervous tension, anxiety and irritability; Ziziphus may act as a relaxant and may assist you with stress related symptoms; Piper Mythysticum may improve your mood; and Theanine is an amino acid which may counteract the toxic effects of excessive stress.
The best solution to improve sleep is to adopt good sleep hygiene practices!
GOOD SLEEP HYGEINE:
Good sleep hygiene can help to promote good sleep, but what is good sleep hygiene? Good sleep hygiene is habits that can help us to sleep. These can include:
- Only try to sleep when you actually feel tired or sleepy, rather than spending too much time awake in bed.
- Establish a regular bedtime and wake time by going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning, even on weekends. Try to get some sunshine as soon as you wake up. This will help set your body clock.
- Before going to bed, do something that relaxes you and takes your mind off any worries. If you are prone to worrying, write problems down before going to bed, together with possible solutions.
- Finish eating 2-3 hours before bed as digestion competes with sleeping. If you are waking up with ‘night hunger’, eat a light protein snack before you retire.
- Avoid drinking alcohol for at least 4-6 hours before bed - it helps you fall sleep but causes disturbed sleep and over-heating during the night.
- Don’t engage in strenuous exercise before sleeping as it raises the body temperature.
- It is best to avoid consuming any caffeine (in coffee, tea, chocolate, cola drinks) or nicotine (cigarettes) for at least 4-6 hours before going to bed as these substances act as stimulants and interfere with ability to fall asleep.
- Don’t watch TV, read a book or think about problems. If you must do these things, go to another room to do it until you become sleepy.
- Keep your bedroom quiet, dark and conducive to sleeping. Use lighter-weight bed coverings and turn off central heating - becoming over-heated can disturb your sleep.
- Don’t stay awake for long periods in bed. If you aren’t asleep within 15 minutes of getting into bed, try getting up and doing something relaxing until you become sleepy again. Sleeping is like surfing, wait for the next 'sleep wave’ before trying to catch some shut-eye.
- Check for tense muscles when you go to bed and consciously try to relax them.
If symptoms persist please speak to your health care professional.