“To sleep, perchance to dream” wishes Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
We all crave restful sleep, but not everyone achieves this. Recent research suggests sleep
has immense repair value to us all. The Sleep Health Foundation suggests 33-45% of
adults sleep is affected. Conversely, poor sleep has a role in increasing blood pressure,
increasing blood sugar, increasing body weight by changing certain hormones,
increasing cardiac risk factors, and reducing daytime energy, researchers even suggest
many major disasters were linked to lack of sleep including the Exxon Valdez oil spill,
the Chenobyl nuclear disaster and Challenger spaceship explosion of 1986.
A complex phenomena, sleep disorders plague many and can include insomnia, obstructive sleep apnoea, snoring, restless leg syndrome and sleep behaviour disorders, such as sleepwalking, night terrors and teeth grinding. Studies reveal that less than six hours of good old zzzzzzs can increase the risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease!
Consider these tips to help resort a good sleeping pattern:
- What is your routine like? Keep a strict sleep routine. Always sleep in a quiet and totally dark room without artificial white-blue light, especially radio, phone or computer screens. If you need a night light, use a salt lamp with a red light bulb as this mimics the fire-light colour spectrum which does not affect the natural production of the sleep hormone called melatonin. Melatonin is responsible for our internal circadian rhythms and the release of it can be impacted by natural light. For example, according to theLighting Research Centre the “blue” light emitted by computers, smartphones and tech tablets can be disruptive to melatonin production. So turn off the tech people particularly before going to bed.
- Spend at least 30 minutes each day outside in natural sunlight to reset your body clock. Natural sunlight, first thing in the morning stimulates cortisol production which helps you wake up as nature intended, but research also suggests we need some sunlight throughout the day too, to produce Vitamin D and fire up our immune system.
- Learn relaxation techniques to manage stress. Ask our staff for a Relaxation Fact Sheet or our naturopaths can teach you progressive muscle relaxation at a consultation, and follow up with a wonderful CD on the technique. Our naturopaths also suggest you make a list of your stressors, worries and troubles during the day and write out a timeline for resolving them. That way you won’t take your worries to bed with you. Taking worries to bed is a pointless exercise, as any great solutions you dream up will be forgotten by morning!
- Limit alcohol and caffeine at night.
- Have a calming bedtime routine such as a warm bath or shower, some peaceful music, slow deep breathing or a warm milk drink just prior to bed.
- A Sleep diary can be downloaded at nps.org.au/sleepand taken to you doctor when you fill it in over a week or two.
- An individualized herb mixture from a herbalist is often effective. Herbs can interact with modern medicine so bring your medication list when visiting our herbalists. Herbs we often use include withania, zizyphus, valerian, skullcap, Kava, lemon balm and lavender. There’s lots of herbs but the ideal ones for you are best worked out at a consultation. Talk to herbalist and pharmacist Des Lardner.
- The sleep hormone Melatonin can be prescribed by a doctor. Des suggests the liquid Melatonin drops, taken under the tongue, is often the most effective dose form for Melatonin, as these are absorbed directly into the bloodstream, whereas slow release tablets must undergo “first pass” metabolism in the stomach and liver before they can work, which means a larger dose is possibly needed for tablets to be effective. We can send information to your doctor.
Lack of sleep catches up on you quicker than you might think. We need a decent amount of sleep to allow our body time to repair itself and regenerate energy. So, spare a thought for sleep between the catch ups, parties and family gatherings. Aim for a proper eight hours on most nights and remember that, if you feel sleep deprived, it is okay to say no occasionally rather than burning yourself out completely. Your body will appreciate the break.