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8 Feb 2019
Let’s Talk About Sleep
We all know that getting enough shuteye is essential to our health and wellbeing, but for many different reasons, there may be times in our lives where good quality sleep alludes us!
Many of us agonise over how many hours of sleep we should get, in reality we are all different and the amount of sleep we need varies, and the amount of sleep that any individual needs at a particular time in their life – for example when they are under extra pressure, recovering after illness etc can for a period of time alter how much rest they need. Generally speaking guidelines for healthy adults are between seven and nine hours per night.
Quality of sleep however is probably much more important than the actual number of hours spent sleeping. It is likely to be more of a precursor for how you feel in the morning – do you wake feeling energised and ready to start the day, or do you need several snoozes and many strong cups of coffee to even feel alive?
Of course, how you sleep and how you feel in the morning, can also be determined genetically with whether you are more of a ‘Night Owl’, versus a ‘Morning Lark’, in other words do you prefer to go to sleep early and rise early, or do you naturally tend towards going to bed later and therefore would like to get up later (but maybe your schedule does not allow).
So, with all of that said – how can you make 2019 a good sleep year?
- If you are regularly getting a large amount of sleep, and yet are feeling unwell and unrested over a period of time, then see your Doctor to make sure you are not suffering with anything medical that could account for your symptoms.
- If you go to bed late, and have to get up reasonably early – it can be tempting to make up your sleep deficit at the weekends and during holidays by ‘lying in’, but in the long term, this is actually likely to make you feel worse, and can cause long-term health issues. Medically this catching up of sleep is termed ‘social jet-lag’. It is actually better to expose your body to natural light, as early as you can, helping you to advance your internal clock. Conversely at night, you need to avoid light (including devices that transmit light), so that your body clocks understand it should prepare for and go to sleep.
- Many of us will know that caffeine can affect sleep and sleep quality, but you may not realise how many products it is in from coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate and so on. Studies suggest that if you are sensitive to its properties withdrawing caffeine products from your diet should take place at least six hours before you need to go to sleep, but some people may need much longer. There is a brain chemical called ‘adenosine’, if we have had enough sleep then when we wake this brain chemical should effectively be at zero, it will then rise for each of our awake hours. Caffeine interferes with this process, essentially blocking its effects and keeping us feeling awake.
- Exercise is incredibly important for good health, but many of us will work-out during the evening after work. In some people exerting the energy will make then tired and create a better sleeping environment. But for others exercising too close to bed time can make sleeping much worse. One of the reasons for this is that exercising increases the body’s core temperature, and in order to get good rest the body temperature needs to fall by one degree to create the onset of sleep.
- One of the main issues for poor sleep, is anxiety and worry. Being overly concerned with a lack of sleep or poor-quality sleep on top of existing problems can create a perpetuating cycle. So, sleep specialists generally suggest that you follow good sleep hygiene routines and leave the rest to nature. Hopefully in time your insomnia will pass of its own accord, once you have resolved what is bothering you.