Most of us have trouble sleeping at some stage. Some of us are unlucky enough to have ongoing trouble sleeping which is called insomnia. Lack of sleep can affect long term health by leading to overweight and obesity, poor concentration and conditions such as high blood pressure. I know myself that I have trouble staying focused and I crave unhealthy foods when I don’t get enough sleep. There are medications and supplements that can help with insomnia but let’s take it back a step and look at what else can be done first.
Wind down before bed
A lot of people use smart phones, iPads and laptops before bed and even in bed! This stimulation is not conducive to going to sleep. Firstly if we are doing work on a device there is no wind down/work free time to relax our minds and bodies. Secondly the stimulation from the light and WiFi does not send a “time to relax” message to our brains. In my house no devices or phones are allowed in bedrooms and there is to be “device free time” for the hour before bed. At least this is what we strive for! A warm bath and/or reading a book are great wind down activities before bed.
Stress and sleep
Stress is a big cause of insomnia. Eliminating stress is not usually easy. Insomnia often occurs in those who suffer with depression and anxiety. Treatment of the depression and anxiety as the underlying conditions often improves sleep. Medications and counselling are helpful here as are the general wind down for sleep suggestions.
Most people know that caffeine keeps us awake and this is often a reason for us to consume it. What you may not know is just how long the effects of caffeine can last. Caffeine consumed after 3pm can affect how easily we fall asleep at bedtime. In some people drinking tea or coffee or having soft drink after 10am can be a problem. Unfortunately chocolate also contains caffeine! Cutting back on caffeine, especially in the latter part of the day, is a good idea if you are having trouble sleeping.
A glass or two of wine has made me fall asleep many times. Unfortunately alcohol affects our sleep cycles so even though we may fall asleep easier and sleep for a while the quality of sleep is poorer and so we are not refreshed the next day. To prevent alcohol affecting sleep it should be consumed at least three hours before bed.
Don’t eat large, spicy or fatty meals close to bed time. These things can cause indigestion which can cause pain and discomfort. Eat three hours before bed at least. If you tend to suffer with indigestion try having a larger meal in the middle of the day and a smaller meal at night.
Medications and supplements
Certain medications and supplements can affect sleep in different ways. If you’re unsure when you should take yours ask your pharmacist so you can get the best out of your medication and a good night’s sleep.