Everyone experiences trouble sleeping from time to time and this can be the result of a number of different factors.
A problem may occur when regular disturbances happen frequently, and these can begin to affect daily life too. If left unchecked, this can lead to a sleep disorder.
Sleep disorders are not just a simple diagnosis of lack of sleep, but all the negative symptoms that can be associated with it, namely poor energy, mood and health markers.
Many sufferers from sleep disorders tend to have an underlying medical or mental health problems, while those with sound health tend to sleep well.
Just like eating disorders, many people go untreated and have difficulty linking their symptoms to a problem. Also, for those who cannot resolve their sleeping habits themselves, they should seek out the help of someone trained in sleep medicine.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Everyone will have the odd poor night’s sleep leaving them sleep deprived for a short time, but if this becomes a chronic problem then a sleep disorder is likely.
You may be sleep deprived if you:
• Need an alarm clock in order to wake up on time
• Rely on the snooze button
• Have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning
• Feel sluggish in the afternoon
• Get sleepy in meetings, lectures, or warm rooms
• Get drowsy after heavy meals or when driving
• Need to nap to get through the day
• Fall asleep while watching TV or relaxing in the evening
• Feel the need to sleep in on weekends
• Fall asleep within 5 minutes of going to bed
We may all feel these symptoms from time to time, but if it leads to regular occurrences of the below effects, the person is likely to be chronically sleep deprived.
The effects of sleep deprivation include:
• Fatigue, lethargy, and lack of motivation
• Moodiness and irritability
• Reduced creativity and problem-solving skills
• Inability to cope with stress
• Reduced immunity; frequent colds and infection
• Concentration and memory problems
• Weight gain or difficulty losing weight
• Impaired motor skills and increased risk of accidents
• Difficulty making decisions
• Increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems
Our biological clocks can sometimes be knocked out of sync, which can throw our typical sleeping patterns off. Jet lag, insomnia and shift work are common ways to disrupt this system.
How to Sleep Better
Those people with poor sleeping habits or disorders commonly share the same bad habits. What’s that saying.. ”we are what we do repeatedly every day”?
There are a number of sleep-promoting techniques and considerations that can be easily integrated into someone’s evening routine.
GET A ROUTINE
Syncing with the bodies natural clock, the circadian rhythm is one of the most effective (and natural) methods we have to getting a good night’s sleep.
Getting into a strict and consistent routine of going and getting out of bed at the same time each day will have major benefits.
It’s also important to experiment with different sleep and wake times, as various set ups will benefit people differently. So not only find the ideal length of sleep, but also the times this sleep should start and finish.
CONTROL THE SURROUNDINGS
On top of finding the best sleeping routine, we can naturally encourage the body to feel more alert or relaxed. A hormone known as melatonin is released when we are in dark surroundings, as it helps the body regulate the sleep-wake cycle.
If we are exposed to little to no sunlight during the day, we can release melatonin making us sleepy during the day.
In a bright environment, melatonin production is suppressed. The same occurs at night when we do want a release of melatonin to induce sleep. If we are exposed to bright light or blue light omitted from screens just before bed, it can slow down the release.
The goal should be to spend more time in daylight during the day, with less exposure to it (including artificial light) at night.
KEEP THE BEDROOM FOR SLEEP
Ensuring the bedroom is optimized for relaxing, unwinding and sleeping is essential. The bedroom should therefore become a place to be associated for sleep which will send a powerful signal to help us nod off.
Other important factors here are:
• Eliminating any noises that may disturb our sleep
• Keeping the bedroom at the right temperature
• Removing any electronic equipment
• Ensuring the room is dark enough
• Ensuring the bed is comfortable enough
IMPROVE NUTRITION AND EXERCISE HABITS
Good nutrition habits can drastically improve sleep quality, particularly in the last hours before bed. Some important considerations are:
• Avoid eating large meals before bed
• Avoid drinking too much liquid
• Avoid caffeine in the latter part of the day
• Avoid alcohol before bed
A small bedtime snack containing a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrates can be ideal to help people fall asleep, as that feeling of being satisfied can help the body rest.
Daily exercise can also lead to improved sleep, while exercising too late may disturb the body’s natural wake-sleep cycle as it can act as a heavy stimulus on the body.
REDUCE STRESS AND RELAX
Stress related to family, money, work or other day-to-day difficulties can be a common sleep disruptor. Managing these stressors and using pre-bed relaxation techniques can be effective in aiding a better nights’ sleep.
Some common techniques are:
• Write down any problems or issues
• Conduct some deep breathing techniques
• Use progressive muscle relaxation techniques
• Avoid any stressing tasks or thoughts before bed
• Keep the bedroom clean and tidy
• Have a hot shower or bath
• Do something you enjoy before bed
We now know the impact sleep can have on the body and health. By upgrading our knowledge around this important topic, we can see drastic improvements in those with sleep disorders and those who are sleep deprived. If you need some quick tips on how to get started with a healthier lifestyle, check out our article: 10 Tips for a Healthy Balanced Body!