If you're struggling to get the required amount of shut-eye each night, these tips could come in handy
We’ve all been there. Those nights when you simply cannot get to sleep. You try everything, from taking the covers off, to putting them back on again. Checking your phone in the hope a quick scan of the news pages might send you off when in reality all it serves to do is make you even more awake and alert. Even going as far as trying out old wives’ tales such as counting sheep (be honest, has that ever worked for anybody?), but nothing changes. You lie there, minute after minute, hour after hour, with your eyes wide open, until you inevitably drop off five minutes before your alarm is due to spark into action. From that point on, the day is simply one long struggle.
Insomnia is no laughing matter. At least one in three people suffer with at least a mild form of the sleep disorder, of which there are two different types. Primary insomnia is when a person is experiencing sleep problems which are not directly associated with any other health condition, while secondary insomnia means a person’s sleep struggle is linked to something else, most commonly a health condition, medication they are taking or a substance they are using.
The disorder varies in the length of time it lasts and the regularity with which it occurs. Short-term (acute) insomnia can affect people a few times per week, while long-term (chronic) insomnia is when a person suffers three times a week for three months or longer. A real nightmare (although you need to actually fall asleep to experience one of those).
In terms of its causes, they differ depending on whether you are suffering with the acute or chronic versions of the disorder. For example, some of the possible reasons for experiencing acute insomnia are illness, physical pain, the fact you might be taking medication which interferes with your sleeping pattern or far more basic factors such as noise, lighting or temperature. After all, even the heaviest of sleepers will have experienced problems nodding off on those ridiculously hot summer nights. The causes of chronic insomnia are largely more serious, with people likely to be suffering from that particular version of the disorder for reasons such as depression, stress/anxiety or if you are experiencing significant pain or discomfort.
While a few hours with your eyes wide open each night might not seem like such a big deal, a lack of sleep can lead to serious problems. From fairly basic issues, such as feeling sluggish and tired, to a weakening of the immune system and an increase in blood pressure levels, it’s something which cannot be ignored.
It may be the case that if you are struggling to sleep on a regular basis, you might need to take a closer look at your own lifestyle and make some tweaks. Or, there could be circumstances beyond your control which are playing a big part in your inability to get the required amount
of shut-eye. Here, we take a closer look at some of the main reasons why people can struggle to sleep.
All partied out?
With a thriving social scene out here in Dubai, the opportunities to go out and enjoy yourself are seemingly endless, but while continuous nights on the tiles may leave you feeling as though you could sleep uninterrupted for a week, the reality is that it can actually have the opposite effect.
Drinking too much has an impact on your sleep, both in terms of its pattern and regularity. While the consumption of a few beverages can enhance the speed in which you actually fall asleep, don’t be surprised to find yourself waking during the night.
After drinking, the production of adenosine (a sleep-inducing chemical in the brain) is increased, allowing for a fast onset of sleep. But it subsides as quickly as it arrives, making you far more likely to wake up before you’ve had the amount of rest you actually need.
Another reason for people experiencing a poor night’s sleep following a night out (or in) drinking is that drink can block REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which is widely regarded as the most restorative type, meaning you are more likely to wake up feeling tired and generally
out of sorts.
Another negative is that drinking, in the majority of cases, leads to more trips to the bathroom and further disruption to your sleeping pattern.
It’s not exactly a surprise that people who are suffering with stress or anxiety can often struggle to sleep. If you have a lot on your mind the end of the day, as you lie in bed, is a natural time for all of those thoughts to come to the fore, making it difficult for you to relax and nod off.
Unfortunately, it’s a vicious circle. Failure to get enough sleep at night leads to more stress the following day and even more difficulty getting to sleep again that night. And so it continues. As well as that, the more exhausted you feel, the less able you are to focus on your work and home life, which in turn can lead to even more stress and problems. The brain chemicals connected with deep sleep are the same ones that tell the body to stop the production of stress hormones, which peak in the early part of the evening, just as you should be starting to switch off and relax ahead of a good night’s sleep.
For most of us, after a long day at work, sitting in front of the television and catching up on your favourite series, or watching the big game, is the ideal way to unwind. However, can too much TV have a negative effect on the amount of sleep we get? Well, in a word, yes.
Our body clocks are set according to the rise and fall of the sun, which means as the day progresses we begin to produce a hormone called melatonin, which makes us feel sleepier. That continues throughout the night, enabling us to fall asleep until the following morning.
However, the regular use of screens, such as those of a mobile phone, television or tablet, can emit a type of light which prevents the brain from producing melatonin, in turn leading to a difficult night’s sleep.
What makes a good night’s sleep?
Getting enough sleep is one of the best things you can do in terms of your overall health. The fact you will feel energetic and alert means you are far more likely to enjoy a productive day at work, while any exercise you do will be aided by the fact your body has been fully rested, both physically and mentally.
For some people, sleeping comes easily. As soon as their head hits the pillow they are out for the count, unlikely to wake again until shocked into life by the dreaded sound of the morning alarm, but for others it’s far more difficult.
So, are there any tips to maximise your chances of enjoying a good night’s sleep ahead of that crucial 9am meeting? There are a few, some obvious and widely known, like not drinking caffeine in the couple of hours before you go to bed, and others slightly less popular, but nonetheless definitely worth giving a try.
For example, enjoying a relaxing bath or shower shortly before you go to bed is widely regarded as a good way of setting you up for a decent night’s sleep. Regular exercise can also lead to an improvement in your sleeping pattern, and in the modern, social media age, avoiding looking at your phone when you get into bed is another simple yet effective way of boosting your chances of sleeping well.
Natural or herbal sleeping remedies can often act as a worthwhile short-term fix, although prescribed sleeping tablets are probably best avoided, particularly initially. This is mainly down to the fact that it can become easy to depend on them, and even though they may get you through the night, the sleep is not guaranteed to be a deep one, meaning you may feel as though you require further rest during the day.
Instead, look to develop an effective sleep hygiene, which is a collection of habits designed to enable you to nod off more easily, as well as sleep more deeply. There are an array of options, but some of the key examples are sticking to a regular sleep schedule throughout the week, completing some form of exercise at least three times a week, ensuring your room isn’t too hot or cold and turning off alerts for texts and emails on your mobile phone.
Essentially, it’s about getting in to, and maintaining, good habits. Master that and you will be soon be snoring all the way through. Those sleepless nights will soon be a distant memory.
Eating LOADS OF FOOD before bed might not help you sleep, but making these part of your evening meal may give your body a nudge
in the right direction
Not only good for inflammation (there’s a reason your coach wants you eating these after the gym), these nuts are also packed with magnesium, calcium and melatonin.
Studies promoting this aren’t numerous, or wide-ranging, but there have been links made between eating kiwi fruit before bed and improved sleep time and efficiency, including less time to fall asleep. We’ll try anything once…
Not just good for the heart, it seems. Pilchards, herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines and swordfish are just a handful of the species that fall within the category, valued for their vitamin D and omega-3 content.
Your best bet finding them in Dubai is in your supermarket’s freezer, but the rewards include melatonin, tryptophan, potassium and serotonin. Certain antioxidants contained within them have also been speculated to influence sleep regulation.
Download your zeds
3 top apps to help send you off to the land of nod
Designed to help users manage stress and anxiety, Aura features life coaching, stories and music created by therapists and coaches, with tracks as short as three minutes designed to help instantly improve to your state of mind.
Available for Apple and Android
Music, guided meditations, sleep stories – this popular app has a whole load of different techniques.Its top offerings, however, include bedtime stories read by the likes of Stephen Fry and Matthew McConaughey.
Available for Apple and Android
In addition to helping with daily stress, sleep, focus and anxiety, Headspace also hosts SOS exercises for sudden overwhelming moments. Focused around meditations, the app’s philosophy is all about mindfulness.
Available for Apple and Android