If invigoration product purchases, worth $22 million per year are anything to go by, tiredness is a modern plague. People nowadays average two hours less sleep each night than they did 100 years ago.
A good night’s sleep does wonders for your wellbeing. Quite a bit of research has been done on the benefits of getting enough sleep each night. We feel better, work better, are easier to get along with, stay healthier, have more energy, make better decisions and fewer mistakes. Adequate sleep also helps depression, our weight, prevent accidents of all kinds. It enhances memory by improving the ability to learn and remember how to do things. A one-hour nap helps us to learn and remember, giving weight to the effectiveness of daytime napping.
Less than six hours sleep per night is associated with impairment in day-to-day tasks. Professor Stanley Coren from the University of British Columbia in Canada, author of ‘The Sleep Thieves’ believes that western society is chronically sleep-deprived, making us clumsy, stupid, unhappy, or dead. Symptoms of sleep deprivation are agitation, moodiness, grumpiness, irritability, waking up unrefreshed, problems with short-term memory, attention and concentration. Insufficient sleep in the long term can also lead to health problems.
But what if you do go to bed in time to get enough sleep, but can’t fall asleep, or wake during the night, leaving you permanently sleep-deprived?
There are many strategies for dealing with chronic tiredness:
- Take a 20-minute nap during the day
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol
- Exercise in the evening
- Stop working in the evening. Work in the morning when you function more efficiently.
- Avoid using devices, including TV, at least one hour before bedtime. The glow of screens suppresses the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin.
- Sweetened hot milk before bed stimulates tryptophan, which can induce sleepiness.
- A comfortable set of earplugs, eye mask and lightweight bedding can make all the difference.
- Find a way of destressing that suits you – pursuing a hobby, meditating, listening to music are a place to start.
Sleeping problems can be due to what’s called poor ‘sleep hygiene’- habits that are conducive to falling and staying asleep. Good sleep hygiene habits include relaxing and doing something enjoyable in the evenings and reading before bedtime, to help ‘wind down’. Going to bed at the same time each night is important, but recent research suggests that getting up at the same time each morning is also important. Early waking enables exposure to early morning sunlight, which helps to stimulate the sleep hormone melatonin.
A sleep diary to express thoughts and anxieties help to gain insight into what may be causing insomnia. You can also write about what happened on the nights they did get a good night’s sleep.
An age-old yoga technique helps to relieve tension and stress; the yoga technique of alternate nostril breathing, helps to deepen your natural breathing and release stress. Doctor Gillian Ross, a PhD in behavioural sciences and Yoga teacher, says: “Alternate nostril breathing before getting into bed is a calming centering practice that helps to unwind from daily activities.”
Getting enough sleep when you haven’t been sleeping well, can literally be life-changing. The strategies described here are the result of solid research, so are well worth trying out.