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There is nothing as frustrating and stressful as insomnia. The impact of sleep deprivation can be devastating. If you struggle to get to sleep or stay asleep, this article is for you!
Sleep is a dynamic process during which activities associated with health and wellbeing take place. Sleep is linked with mood, memory, thinking processes, the endocrine and immune systems. Levels of the hormone cortisol drop in the evening and increase during the night to promote alertness in the morning. Sleep can also balance our appetites by helping to regulate levels of the hormones ghrelin and leptin, which play a role in our feelings of hunger and satiety. So when you haven’t had enough sleep, you may feel the need to eat more, which can lead to weight gain.
There is growing recognition of the importance of sleep to good health, with insufficient sleep linked to obesity, cardiovascular disease, increased risk of mortality, depression, and increased risk of injury and/or accidents (including motor vehicle accidents). As a result, sleep can have a significant impact on our overall quality of life. So the one-third of our lives that we spend sleeping (or not sleeping!) plays a direct role in how energetic and successful the other two-thirds of our lives can be.
The bed is a bundle of paradoxes:
we go to it with reluctance,
yet we quit it with regret;
we make up our minds every night to leave it early,
but we make up our bodies every morning to keep it late.
– Charles Caleb Colton
What can Affect Sleep?
Sleep may be affected by diet, substances, worry, exercise (later in the evening) and medication.
Often people use substances such as alcohol to assist their sleep, and as alcohol is a depressant or sedative, it can help people get off to sleep. However, drinking moderate to large amounts of any liquid before bed will probably mean a trip to the toilet during the night. Also, alcohol can dehydrate the body, meaning you may wake during the night due to thirst signals from the brain.
Caffeine, being a stimulant, ideally should not be consumed after 5pm. It is important to know that caffeine can be found in many things other than coffee. For instance tea, soft drinks, energy drinks and even some medications can contain caffeine.
Nicotine is another type of stimulant, and therefore smokers may find their sleep is disturbed. Heavy smokers will also find that the body becomes tolerant to an intake of nicotine at regular intervals during the day and will expect this at night as well.
Medications can have different effects on the body. Some may be stimulating and some may make you drowsy. It is important to check this with your doctor and develop an appropriate medication schedule to ensure optimum sleep (e.g., you should check with your doctor the best time of day to take a particular medication).
Medical problems such as pain, arthritis, headache, and diabetes can all impact your sleep and professional help should be sort for specific strategies such as cognitive behavioural therapy or acceptance and commitment therapy.
How to Make Sleep Better
Sleep responds well to a routine, and you should try to practice a regular bed routine. It is important to have a getting to bed routine and a waking up protocol.
Getting to Bed Routine
Try to get to bed at roughly the same time each night.
Develop regular rituals to move yourself toward sleep: no big meals or caffeine in the hours before sleep time; exercise during the day but no exercise in the hours before sleep time; “Move toward calm” with cleaning teeth, dressing for bed, turning down the covers, all in the same order.
Try a warm shower before bed.
Bed should be associated with sleep and sex only. Other physically or mentally stimulating activities such as reading, talking on the phone, watching TV, and eating, should be avoided.
The bed and bedroom should evoke in you a feeling of calmness and relaxation. It should be dark, quiet and comfortable.
REMOVE THE TV FROM THE BEDROOM!!!!
If You Can’t Sleep
If you don’t fall asleep straight away, get up and do something boring and non-taxing in another room (try not to turn too many lights on). Stay there until you feel sleepy. Sleep comes in waves (remember the non-REM and REM sleep cycle), so you will feel sleepy again!
If you have a clock in the room, turn the display away from you so you are unable to see it during the night.
Worry is a major contributing factor to insomnia. If this is a problem for you could try:
**Writing down the worries or problems,
**Writing down the next step towards solving the problem,
**If you are keeping yourself awake, remind yourself that you have the problem in hand, and that going over and over it is not going to help now,
Waking Up Protocol
Having a regular waking time every day is very important for your circadian rhythm.
Don’t hit the snooze button on your alarm! No matter how tempting it is. You will feel better if you jump out of bed as soon as your alarm goes off rather than getting an extra 5 – 10 minutes of disturbed sleep.
Sleeping in is often the first step on a slippery slope to sleep disturbance.
Try not to nap during the day. This will affect your circadian rhythms.