We all know that sleep is one of the most important things our bodies need to stay healthy and charged – yet lack of sleep is one of the most common complaints we have. So, what is causing this trouble with sleep?
Medical conditions that can contribute to sleep disorders include sleep apnea, hypothyroidism, restless leg syndrome, and even acid reflux. But, sleep can also be affected by medications, caffeine, snacking and alcohol.
Another important aspect for good sleep is the environment where you sleep. Is it too bright, is there a television in the room, are you on your phone when you go to bed, is your room too warm or too loud? All of these things can impact your ability to fall asleep and/or stay asleep.
Your routines have likely been altered due to the current COVID-19 stay-at-home regulations, which leave you staying up later or sleeping longer. This change in routine can affect your circadian rhythm (your sleep-wake systems). What happens during your day can also affect your night. You may feel like you have control over your stress or anxiety, however, not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep may be a sign of unmanaged stress and anxiety. You may also be deficient in key nutrients, or dealing with chronic pain that affects the length of time you stay sleeping and the quality of your sleep.
The amount of sleep required for good health varies per individual and age, and the effects associated with insufficient sleep differ just as much. What is consistent is why it is required. Sleep positively affects tissues, systems and organs. It plays a role in brain function by helping to clean the pathways in the brain, and without sleep, the sensory neurons cannot form new memories or learn. During sleep, your blood pressure decreases, providing a much-needed rest to your circulatory system. It also uses this time to repair blood vessels. Lack of sleep negatively affects your metabolism and can affect the part of the brain that controls hunger, causing an increase in appetite and cravings for sugar. Your immune system relies on sleep to keep you healthy, and without adequate amounts, you may find yourself more susceptible to colds, infections or chronic illness. Sleep is required for energy, both physical and mental, and a lack of it can affect judgement, performance, behavior and mood. Study after study has revealed that people who sleep poorly are at higher risk for several diseases and health problems.
The good news is that many sleep disturbances may be managed through changes in habits or the addition of supportive natural sleep supplements.
• Schedule your sleep. Try to go to sleep at the same time every night and wake up at the same time in morning – even on the weekends.
• Your bedroom is your sanctuary. It is not a place to work, binge Netflix or exercise. It is a place to relax and get some sleep. Invest in a good mattress and linens and make your bed as comfy and as inviting as possible. Sometimes white noise can help, so try a fan – the constant hum may lull you to sleep!
• Leave your phone in another room. Studies have shown that blue light emitted from your devices can affect your sleep cycle. Checking your phone for emails and texts also inhibits good sleep.
• Turn off the news. If the headlines are making you anxious, limit what you watch. Maybe catch up in the morning, but stay away the rest of the day, especially before bed.
• Stop the caffeine. It is a vicious cycle – you are exhausted from a sleepless night, so you load up on coffee to get you through the day, and then it is difficult to get back to sleep in the evening. Limit caffeine to the morning and drink herbal teas the rest of the day.
• Get moving. Exercise promotes more sound sleep, but don't do it just before bed or you may be extra alert.
• Try aromatherapy. Some people find that lavender is effective for promoting sleep. Spray a little lavender in the air or on your pillow before going to bed.
• Talk to a Village Green consultant about what supplements are available to support sound sleep. There are many and we can help you pick the right one for your needs. One of my favorites is Pathway Sleep Support. Another one is melatonin. Melatonin can help reset your internal sleep clock and reestablish a normal circadian sleep rhythm. It also helps with insomnia caused by age-related declines of melatonin in the elderly.
Photo from here, with thanks.