Friday, 26 August 2016

Sleep!! I Need You…

Everyone experiences trouble sleeping once in a while, I for one have been having more than a few issues with this. When occasional sleepless nights turn into a regular occurrence of many nights in a row with interrupted sleep, then you, like me, may have a sleeping problem.
When you don’t get enough sleep for an extended period of time your tiredness impacts every part of your life. Physically, you might notice a decrease in your productivity and daily activities. Emotionally, you may experience relationship problems or a change in your personality. Mentally, a chronic sleep problem can create stress and anxiety.

There are three categories of sleep deprivation and insomnia. The first stage, called “initial” insomnia, is when you first realise you’re having difficulty achieving a sleep state and occurs when it takes longer than a half an hour to fall asleep. “Middle” insomnia is when you have difficulty staying asleep. Once awakened, you stay awake into the early hours of the morning. The most severe level of insomnia is “late” or “terminal” insomnia. This is when you wake up early in the morning and stay awake after sleeping less than 6 hours.

Habits at Bedtime

It is essential that your brain has consistency by creating a bedtime schedule so that your body can learn how to fall asleep without medication. Create a sleep strategy to determine the best routine, and plan to follow the routine for one to two weeks before making any alterations.
Moving through a regular bedtime process will signal to your brain that it’s time to go to sleep. The desired end result of having a sleep strategy is regular sleep that’s restful and refreshing.
Plan to get 7-8 hours of sleep nightly, and don’t allow yourself to oversleep. If you wake up the same time every day you’ll soon establish a routine.

Your Sleep Environment

In addition to a regular bedtime schedule, another important factor to consider is your environment. The more comfortable and relaxing your sleep space is, the better your chances for falling asleep and staying asleep.
Here are some of the things I have found helpful.
  • Get rid of all annoyances and interruptions. There is nothing worse than trying to fall asleep whilst there is activity or distractions around you. Some may find this hard to do but, turn your mobile phone off!! I did, I always made up excuses for why I needed to leave it on. Having a TV in your bedroom can be a comfort to have, but turn that off too.
  • Control the room temperature. Having cooler air is typically more comfortable for sleep, but don’t have it to the point where you’re spending the night trying to warm yourself up. Overheating yourself is also a hindrance to sleeping…and waking up sweaty, YUK!
  • Room ventilation. Crack a window slightly to allow for air flow. The circulating fresh air will help you breathe deeply, and provide oxygen that is essential for good sleep. I had it recommended to me to sleep on 2 pillows as it helps to open the airways.
  • Try using a CD player to play soothing background music. This can be good for some, but I found that I’d have a certain playlist set for nighttime and waited for my favourite to play. I can hear some of you saying “Well put that song first” the problem with that was ALL the songs on my playlist were favourites J
  • Your circadian rhythm, (“circadian” has been a word I have loved the sound of since I was little and seen Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, a well-known Australian Science communicator, do an ad on TV and was talking about microsleeps) your body’s internal clock, relies on light and dark patterns to determine when to signal your body to fall asleep. Keep your room as dark as possible to help your body settle into a sleep state. Use mini-blinds and thick curtains to block light from windows. Try wearing an eye mask to block any remaining light.
  • Make clocks less visible. Having a clock by your bedside might be adding to your sleep problem. If you are watching the clock all night long, face it toward the wall so that you can’t see the time. Constantly looking at the clock only makes you think about sleep, and lack of sleep, which continues the cycle of sleeplessness.

  • Comfortable sleepwear. Wear the most comfortable clothing you own. Non-constrictive clothing won’t wake you in the middle of the night.

Physical Activity

Getting exercise during the day is an important factor in how well you sleep at night. If you are physically active during the day, your body will be able to relax and fall asleep easier. Exercise helps your body deal with daily stress and anxiety. It impacts the chemicals in your brain, and how much you exercise is directly linked to your physical and emotional health. Regular exercise will help you fall asleep and maintain a sleep state because your sleep cycles become more consistent and the transition between them becomes more seamless. Try to work exercise into your life daily to avoid sleeplessness.

When getting physical activity, plan to exercise more than 3-4 hours before bedtime. For the best sleep benefit, be physically active in the late afternoon or early evening.
If adding 30 minutes of exercise into your daily schedule is too tough, try adding small blocks of physical activity. Making small changes, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or purposely parking further away from your destination will help you live a healthy, energetic life.

Physical activity is something that not all can manage due to injuries, disabilities or lifestyle. Meditation is another option that can possibly help you, if you would like to learn more on how to meditate, please check out my eBook available through Amazon My Mini Meditation Manual (Available free for this weekend)

Another simple and free alternative is breathing techniques, though this can also be incorporated with meditation. Breathing is the simplest and easiest way to find complete relaxation and stress reduction. The more deeply you breathe, the more serene you will become. The following relaxation tips have been what I have found to work the best for me and help my body wind down and get ready for sleep. This is a big part of my nightly routine and who knows, maybe it could help you.

Before going to bed try this relaxation technique.
Lie down with your back to the floor and your arms at your side, palms facing upward. Your feet should be comfortably apart. With your eyes closed, mentally concentrate on each part of your body, tensing then releasing each group of muscles. Starting at the top of your head, release tension as you move slowly down your body. Feel your forehead, eyes and mouth. Work through your shoulders, neck and back. Move down to your toes, then bask in the relaxed state you have achieved. Focus on your breathing, making sure breath is coming from your stomach. Breathe deeply and slowly, letting go of all your concerns and stress. When your body knows it’s okay to let go of your worries and stressors, you’ll be able to go to sleep naturally.

When you first get into bed;
Lie down and breathe deeply through your nose. Imagine the air moving into your stomach. On your next inhale, breathe in for four counts. Exhale slowly through your pursed lips, while counting to eight. You will feel the tension leave your body with every exhale. Repeat this technique six to ten times for immediate relaxation. Practice deep breathing daily to develop a healthy habit of regular relaxation. Calming your mind will help you fall asleep.
There are many other techniques for breathing and relaxation. Through your own experimentation and practice, you can find one that works well for you.

Over the years of insomnia being a regular visitor to both myself and one of my sons, I did some research into natural products that can assist with overcoming temporary sleeping dilemmas.
In my next post, I’ll write about what I have found and which ones helped us the most.

I’m certainly not a doctor, and as with any medical concern, don’t hesitate to contact your GP to discuss your sleep problems and determine if your symptoms may be related to your general health. Your physician can guide you through traditional channels, as well as the natural remedies detailed in the book. The main priorities are handling your sleep-related problems, and protecting your overall health.

Do you suffer from lack of sleep? What have you found that helps you the most?
I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

Til next time,
Stay safe, stay smiling J