Ah, sleep why do you mock us so? We spend all day trying not to indulge you, but when nightfall comes and our heads touch the coolness of the pillow, you leave us high and dry. Instead, our brains activate the No Sleep Code. This may include reliving your top ten embarrassing situations or regretful moments, thinking of better, often more wittier lines to win the argument you had today, mental discussion on possible diseases you may have, compiling a comparative list of expenses to bank account balance or just implanting that irritating Justin Bebbier song in your head – Argh!!!!! Stop!!!!!!
Sleep like most body functions we don’t give it a second though until it goes off the rails. However, in Western Society today many of us are lacking sleep and quality sleep though poor sleep hygiene and habits.
So how can we help the sandman do his job more effectively?
Just have a nap to make up the lack of sleep – right? Well yes and no. Science has concluded that napping can be beneficial to our memory and cognitive function it is often recommended that naps be no longer the 20 or 40 minutes and are most effective when had between the hours of 1 pm and 3 pm.
Exercise is also a great way to help induce slumber. It’s like little kids who run around all day and then sleep like, well babies at night. Many of us are doing sedentary jobs which don’t require much physical movement meaning our bodies are not as tired as they could be. Including exercise, just 30 minutes 3-4 times a week can vastly improve the number of Zzzzz’s and the time to fall asleep. However, caution is issued with intense exercising later in the evening as this may have a counterproductive effect.
Believe it or not, food can also have a big impact on our sleep. When we eat and what types of foods we’re eating can interfere with shuteye. Those of us that wait for the children to go to bed before eating “the good stuff”, may actually be sabotaging our own sleep. Too much sugar in the blood before bed = hyper-activity making it hard for the body and mind to settle. If you are going to indulge in a little late night snacking opt for a small amount of good quality protein – warm milk is always a winner, turkey and cheese rolled up etc.
Undiagnosed foods sensitivities or allergies may also interfere with sleep quality and quantity. Consuming reactive food causes our bodies to be more focused on the “invading” food rather than producing quality a snooze. If you suspect you may be sensitive to certain foods, try cutting them from your diet or having them earlier in the day, alternatively food sensitivity testing can help provide quick and easy results in identifying offending foods.
Alcohol, ah yes alcohol. While excessive amounts may lead to slumber which is the equivalent of a corpse, it is not quality sleep. Come on, no one has woken up from a few too many, feeling alive and refreshed. When we consume alcohol our bodies react by sending the troops to process it over any other body function, so sleep moves down the priority list. While you may “fall asleep” you won’t have the deep restful slumber that you need and may find the around the 1 am – 3 am mark you wake up as you liver function kicks in and tries to make you accountable for your actions.
It’s ok caffeine will save me. When we wake from another night of tossing and turning, to keep us firing we turn to our other buddy caffeine, ah caffeine we love you! Caffeine is our friend right? She keeps us sparking on all cylinders especially for the morning pick me up and at the 3 o’clock slump. Oh, caffeine, however, would we cope without you? Unfortunately when we use coffee and caffeine in this way were are dancing with the devil. Caffeine can affect our system and body function for up to 6 hours after consumption, so if your having a cuppa in the evening or before bed you may be self-sabotaging your sleep. Try to keep caffeine, this includes black, green and white teas as well as coffee to before 2 pm and a super maximum of 2 per day.
Bedroom set up can also affect how well we can catch some zzz’s make sure your bedroom is dark and at the right temperature (not too hot, but not too cold). In suburbia and western society we have TV’s, tablets, computers and alarm clocks making their way into our boudoirs. These combined with street lights and constant traffic noises can severely impact our sleep as they interfere with our bodies natural hormones to regulate sleep. Electronics devices radiate unhealthy artificial glows (and annoying on standby lights) which can disrupt our sleeping patterns. Additionally abstaining from the use of electronics (yes TV and computer/tablets/phones) for approximately 30 minutes before sleepy sleep time will help your body to relax and wind down. Try reading or meditation instead to help induce a restful night slumber. I know many of us can’t be more than a few millimetres from our phone without having an anxiety attack. If this is you and you do need to have your phone in the bedroom try putting a don’t disturb mode on. This will minimise the amount of sleep disturbance you get from the ting and dings of Facebook, Messenger and other apps.
Lastly to help those natural sleep hormones try and wake naturally rather than to an alarm. If you do need to use an alarm try one that gently wakes rather than one that puts you into fight or flight mode every morning because it sounds like a truck is about to reverse over you. When you wake – GET UP! Don’t lay in bed, and try and get some sunshine as soon as possible.
Allison Faulkner is a qualified and accredited Naturopath, also holding additional qualifications in Nutritional Medicine. She runs a Naturopathy and Wellness clinic in Albion Park, NSW.