Tired of counting sheep?

9 December 2009

Is lack of sleep giving you bags under your eyes?
Are you so sleep-deprived that the only way you can get through the morning is by drinking a triple espresso?
Not being able to sleep affects everyone at some point in their life and about 10% of the population suffer from insomnia that continues for six months or more. Many experts recommend that we get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night and whilst it is important to make sure that we get enough sleep, it is equally important that we get good quality sleep. The body needs rest, the brain needs sleep… Sleep is necessary to help our brain recover and recuperate from the day’s activities. We have different cycles of sleep to achieve this. These cycles are known as Rapid Eye Movement(REM) and non-REM (slow wave) sleep, and they are meant to occur in a specific order and for the right amount of time. If you are not getting enough sleep, or your sleep cycles are disturbed, then your brain is not getting enough time to rejuvenate and ‘reset’, and you are more likely to suffer some of the following: • Poor concentration • Poor memory • Clumsiness/carelessness • Low mood • Irritability • Fatigue So what keeps us tossing and turning all night? Whilst there are many reasons for sleep disturbances, stress is the most common trigger. Researchers have found that there is often an increase in stress hormones (such as cortisol) in people who have sleeping problems. So if it takes you a while to nod off, or if you frequently wake during the night and cannot fall back to sleep, then it is essential to address your stress levels. Tips for a better night’s sleep… • Get regular exercise (avoid exercising two hours before bed) • Eliminate stimulants such as caffeine and sugar (even reducing them during the day may help) • Try to go to bed around the same time each night • Create a dark sleeping environment • Limit alcohol consumption • Use the bed and bedroom only for sleep and intimacy with your partner • If you can’t sleep, try not to focus too hard on getting to sleep as this creates stress and can perpetuate the situation.