If you are having trouble sleeping, you’re certainly not alone.
The Sleep Health Foundation estimates that more than half of adult Australians are suffering from at least one chronic sleep symptom that is affecting their ability to live a healthy, happy life.
For those suffering from a chronic condition, including pain, lying awake at night is all too common and something they desperately want to change.
Lack of sleep can negatively affect many aspects of your life. Some of these may sound familiar.
- Lack of focus. Lack of sleep can result in problems with concentration, not only with intellectual tasks but also with physical activities. You simply cannot give your best if you are not really “there.”
- Increased inflammation. Pain levels worsen with lack of sleep. You may also find your mood lowered, or that you wear out sooner because of mental and physical fatigue. Not surprisingly, sleep deprivation can also lead to an increased risk of injury.
- Increased fat gain. The less you sleep the more you eat because you’re tired and you can’t control impulse eating. Unfairly, lack of sleep also causes your body to burn less fat. So if you’re sleepless, and your clothes feel tighter, you’re not imagining it.
- Impaired muscle gain. The reasons are complex; but include a decrease in testosterone production, as well as increased fatigue (i.e if you cannot exercise as hard, or as long, you limit your potential for muscle growth).
- Increased risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Lack of sleep can impair insulin signaling and decrease glucose metabolism. Glucose is a main source of energy for the body.
But don’t despair. There are things you can do to improve your chances of a good night’s sleep. They include:
- Schedule enough time for sleep. Make sure you go to bed early enough to be in bed for around eight hours. For restless sleepers, this will provide enough time to achieve six to seven hours of actual sleep.
- Go to bed at around the same time every day. This habit both improves sleep quality and reduces the time it takes you to fall asleep.
- Relax and turn off screens at least an hour before bed. Blue light (produced by a computer, mobile phone, and TV screens, as well as by the sun) can keep you awake even after they are switched off. Blue light exposure in the evening can reduce the production of melatonin and that means poorer quality sleep.
- Minimise the noise in your bedroom. If that is not possible then try earplugs, or distract yourself from the noise by listening to relaxing music or bedtime stories on an audio App.
- Get your bedroom temperature right. Your body needs to cool down to sleep. his will help you fall asleep faster and move you into a deeper sleep faster. The act of sticking your feet outside the blankets is the body’s natural way of reducing core temperature.
- Make sure your bedroom is dark. Use black-out curtains or a sleeping mask to maintain deep darkness during the night.
- Don’t drink caffeine at least six hours before you go to bed, or any alcohol after dinner. People with a caffeine tolerance may still be able to fall asleep but the caffeine will still negatively affect sleep quality. Alcohol can help you fall asleep but you’ll be more restless.
- Avoid evening exercise or eating right before bed.
Supplements to support sleep
Functional medicine can be used to help you improve your sleep quality.
- For people with anxiety who have trouble falling asleep eat a variety of healthy foods high in magnesium g., leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fish. If your diet does not provide you with enough magnesium, a bedtime dose of 200–350 mg of magnesium (in a form such as citrate, gluconate, or glycinate) will support sleep.
- For people who have trouble staying asleep add glycine (3-5 grams) or valerian (450mg valerian extract) half an hour before bed.
- Oral melatonin can also help relieve insomnia. Take between 0.5 mg to 5 mg half an hour before bed. Start at 0.5 mg and increase by 0.5 mg each week until you find the lowest effective dose that works. Melatonin’s main benefit is its ability to decrease the time it takes to fall asleep. If you fall asleep easily, it is not necessary to supplement melatonin.
For more help to sleep well and improve your health, or to talk about your specific condition book a free 20-minute appointment with Dr. Shelley Cavezza, PhD by clicking here