Recent statistics for the UK show that one third of the population at some stage in their life struggle with insomnia. This means that one third of the UK population are exhausted. Signs and symptoms of insomnia include battling to fall asleep, waking up and not being able to fall asleep again and waking up tired.
Studies have shown that there are many negative effects of poor sleep quality:-
- It is linked to weight gain.
- It impacts some aspects of brain function to a similar degree as alcohol intoxication
- People who don’t get enough sleep are at far greater risk of heart disease or stroke
- There is a strong link between short sleep duration and type 2 diabetes.
- It impairs immune function
- It increases the risk of an accident
- It reduces your ability to interact socially because of a reduced ability to pick up social cues
- It can cause long-term inflammation of the digestive tract in disorders known as inflammatory bowel diseases
- Sleep-deprived people with Crohn’s disease are twice as likely to relapse as patients who sleep well
Good sleepers tend to eat fewer calories, have improved problem-solving skills and enhanced memory performance of both children and adults
Tips for getting a good night’s sleep:-
- Keep to a routine – have a regular bedtime, do not sleep ‘til late, cease napping
- Control your exposure to light – be in a darkened room – cease looking at digital devices 1 hour before bedtime (the blue light reduces melatonin – a hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle)
- Exercise during the day
- Be smart about what you eat and drink – limit caffeine, alcohol and sugar intake
- Wind down and clear your head
- Improve your sleep environment – comfortable bed, warm and quiet
Most of these tips are practical and doable but the hardest one is the ability to clear your head and relax. Many people struggle to relax; this could be because they do not have the skills to do so and also are not giving their mind and body sufficient time to wind down prior to settling down for the night.
The three biggest causes of insomnia that I see with clients who suffer insomnia is the time they spend on digital devices, watching tv in bed and worry.
Worry is a nasty habit that drains your energy and results in the release of the stress hormone cortisol. Continued ongoing cortisol is harmful to you physically and impacts on your sleep because there has been no resolution to the worrying thoughts.
Research has shown that people with high stress levels have more (light) dream sleep and less deep recuperative sleep than people who are not stressed. Dreaming is hard work! For this reason, you will wake up exhausted. If this continues it leads to depression.
Reported cases of depression has risen 1000% since 1945. There have been many reasons attributed to this but just about everyone agrees that we have far more stress in our lives today than previously. For instance, there is far more traffic on the roads today, higher rates of divorce so we have blended families, financial insecurity.
Sleeping tablets might help you to sleep but they won’t treat the cause of your insomnia – your worrying and resultant stress! You can also become dependent on them or become addicted. Often there are side effects such as drowsiness too.
Take my client Sue for instance. She told me that she would lie awake at night worrying about all sorts of things. Her mind just kept going on and on and it made her feel very anxious.
“I understand your pain”, I said, “I come across a lot of people who worry about “what if” and many find that it is just a nasty habit that traps them in misery”. I couldn’t help also saying “I bet that even though you spend a lot of time thinking about real or potential problems you don’t actually come up with a solution!”
That’s because our highly stressed brain cannot make creative logical decisions. We first must learn how to break the habit of continuous worry and calm down; only then can you use your calm brain to find solutions.
Along with nutrition and exercise,
good sleep is one of the pillars of health
We cannot achieve optimal health without taking care of our sleep