The Trouble with Sleep
Two thirds of adults throughout all developed nations fail to obtain the recommended eight hours of nightly sleep. Consistent insufficient sleep can double your risk of cancer, disrupts blood sugar levels, increases the likelihood of cardiovascular disease, stroke and congestive heart failure and is a key lifestyle factor determining whether or not you will develop Alzheimer’s disease1 Poor sleep affects every major organ within the body and also regulates our appetites.
“The shorter you sleep the shorter your life span”1
Lack of sleep can affect your life in other ways too, e.g. making you irritable, clumsy, moody, forgetful. It can affect your ability to concentrate and reduce your sex life. Insomnia has also been shown to affect your appetite.
The following are some useful tips for getting a Healthy Sleep:
- Aim for a regular 8 hours sleep every night. Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time EVERY day of the week (even weekends). If you’ve had a bad night still get up at your normal time and go to bed at your normal time to reset your body clock.
- Avoid large meals or drinks late at night. The food can cause indigestion which interferes with your sleep and drinking too much can cause you to have to get up for the toilet!
- Don’t nap during the day, particularly after 3 p.m.
- We need darkness to release the hormone Melatonin. Melatonin helps the healthy timing of our sleep. In the evening dim your lights and stay away from screens, especially LED (blue lights) that stop Melatonin and fool your brain into thinking it’s day time.
- Keep your room cool (about 18.5o C). Your brain and body need to drop the core temperature slightly to initiate good sleep. That’s the reason you will find it easier to fall asleep in a room that’s too cold rather than too hot.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Alcohol is a sedative. It knocks your brain out rather than putting it to sleep. It also causes you to wake up through the night and is a potent chemical for stopping your dream sleep (REM – Rapid eye movement sleep.) Caffeine is a stimulant. When you’ve had a cup of coffee in the evening you will not sleep as deeply and even if you sleep you won’t wake up as fresh. The effects of caffeine can take as long as eight hours to wear off fully.
- When you can’t sleep DON’T stay in bed awake. If you’ve tried for about twenty minutes and can’t sleep or if you’ve been sleeping and woke up, get out of bed and go to another room. Make sure the other room is dimly lit and read until you feel sleep then go back to bed. If you stay in bed your brain forms the association of being awake with your bed rather than sleeping.
- Practicing meditation and/or self hypnosis can improve your sleep. If you get into the habit of relaxing your body, you will be able to calm your ‘fight or flight’ response when you wake up during the night. You will learn to quieten the mind as well as the body which will help you fall back asleep. There are lots of Apps available to help with this and the Headspace app is particularly good. Don’t be so busy during the day that you’ve no time to unwind. Listening to music or a hypnotic recording can help as a bedtime routine.
- If you are tossing and turning, get up and write down your thoughts on paper or write a to do list for the next day. Emptying your mind can help you relax.
- Exercise at least thirty minutes on most days, but not later than 2-3 hours before you go to bed.
- Make sure you get out during the day. Daylight is key to regulating daily sleep patterns.
- Book a few hypnotherapy sessions. Hypnotherapy can help get rid of insomnia and teach you how to get back to regular, good quality sleep.
Why we sleep, Matthew Walker , Penguin