Healthy habits make a HUGE difference to our quality of life.
Let’s focus on one of the most vital of habits and ask the question, how much is enough sleep?
Getting enough sleep is often referred to as having good sleep hygiene.
If you don’t feel that your sleep hygiene is as good as it could be and it’s been this way for more than a month, begin by asking yourself the following:
1. Has poor sleep troubled you or continuing to trouble you somewhat?
2. Have you had any of the following problems with your sleep?
– Difficulty getting to sleep
– Waking up in the middle of the night
– Waking up too early
– Feeling tired and unrested in the morning
3. Do you regularly have a problem with your sleep at least one night out of every week?
4. Is it likely that you might begin to doze off or even fall asleep during the daytime without intending to, or struggle to stay awake whilst doing things?
5. Have you had a problem with your sleep for more than one month?
6. Did you have sleep problems as a child?
There are many reasons and causes for sleep problems, some of which include:
Snoring: Sometimes, snoring is caused by allergies, asthma, or deformities of the nasal. When we fall asleep, many muscles in our bodies relax in preparation for deep rest and rejuvenation. If however, muscles in the throat relax too much, breathing may become blocked somewhat, resulting in snoring. There are other reasons for snoring and if snoring is severe, a trip to your health care provider is a good place to start.
Sleep apnea: This is generally more common among older people. It occurs when the upper airway becomes partially or completely blocked, thus interrupting regular breathing for short periods of time causing a person to awake. It often causes severe daytime drowsiness and if left untreated, severe cases of sleep apnea may be associated with high blood pressure and risks of stroke and/or heart attack. There is a more rare form of sleep apnea, wherby signals from the brain to your muscles decrease or even stop for a short time.
Nightmares: Nightmares are frightening dreams that arise during REM sleep. They can be triggered by anxiety, stress and medication.
Night Terrors: Like Nightmares, night terrors and sleepwalking also arise during REM sleep and seem to occur most often in young children between the ages of 3 and 5 years old. A night terror can, as the title suggests, be absolutely terrifying. Those who suffer can wake up screaming, though unable to explain the fear or even what frightened them.
Depression/Anxiety: Not getting enough sleep is a major symptom for depression, stress and anxiety alike. Insomnia is often the result.
Insomnia: There are many possible causes for insomnia. Stress and anxiety as mentioned are high on the list of possible culprits, especially for long term insomnia. As are irregular sleeping patterns, medication etc.
Symptoms usually include waking up tired in the morning, having not had enough sleep. Difficulty in actually falling asleep or waking regularly in the night. A trip to the doctor is highly advised if Insomnia is affecting your daily life negatively. Often short term insomnia caused possibly by jet lag, an accident or illness etc can often right itself.
Restless Legs Syndrome: This can be debilitating and very upsetting to the sufferer and family members. The discomfort in the legs and feet can become excruciating and usually peaks during the evening and night. Those suffereing feel an urge to move their legs and feet to get temporary relief, often with excessive, rhythmic, leg movements during sleep. This can delay sleep onset and cause brief awakening during sleep for not only the sufferer but partners aswell. RLS is a common problem among middle-aged and older adults.
There are many possible known causes, some of which include nerve disorders, kidney failure, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, pregnancy, and some medications (such as antidepressants). Recent studies show a strong genetic link that researchers have been able to isolate and further investigate. This gene may be responsible for at least 40% of all cases of the disorder.
Narcolepsy: This is a brain disorder that causes excessive daytime sleepiness. There can be a genetic component to the disorder, but the majority of patients report to have no family history of the problem.
Pregnancy: Women can often experience sleepless nights and also daytime fatigue in the first and third trimesters of their pregnancy. During the first trimester, frequent bathroom trips and morning sickness might disrupt sleeping patterns. Vivid dreams and general physical discomfort may prevent deep sleep in the later stages of pregnancy.
Good sleep is essential for optimal health and can affect hormone levels, mood, weight and a host of other areas of life.
The natural sleep cycle begins with Alpha, through to Theta and then to Delta (this is the most critical phase for mind and body rejuvenation) before going back through Theta to Alpha.
The cycle continues throughout the entire night and when you’re repeatedly interrupted and can’t cycle normally through these stages of sleep, you will feel tired and find it difficult to pay attention while you’re awake. Even going to bed later than usual a few evenings a week can incur problems. The results of not getting enough sleep are cumulative and according to Harvard Medical School sleep deprivation can lead to greater risks of chronic health problems.
In addition, here are some tried and tested healthy sleep tips that actually work when practiced on a consistent basis:
Be sure to exercise daily. The more vigorous (just a few short burts work brilliantly) the better.
Introduce a relaxing ritual in a quiet place with low lighting right before bedtime. A soothing soak with candles is a favourite for many.
Decide to make your new regular bedtime routine non negotiable (atleast whilst settling in to a new routine) and try setting the alarm for the same time each morning, regardless of whether its the weekend or not. This will help you regulate your body’s clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
Avoid daytime napping. There is certainly truth that power napping can help you get through the day more productively but if you find that you can’t fall asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short catnaps may help, atleast while you settle into your new healthier sleep routine.
Re-design your place of sleep, so as to establish the conditions you need for a good nights sleep. It is recommended for optimal comfort, that your bedroom is between 60 and 67 degrees. Your bedroom should ideally also be free from any noise that can disturb your sleep. If this isn’t possible, some ear plugs would be a great investment.
Do a ‘comfort assessment’ on your sleeping furniture. Top tip: Has your Mattress exceeded its life expectancy and you’ve over looked it?
We hope you enjoyed and found todays post useful, we’d love to hear of your experiences in the comments section below after implementing one or more of these tips.
“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.”
~ Thomas Dekker