Tired of counting sheep, while willing yourself to sleep in the dead of night? According to the National Institutes of Health more than 30% of people have disrupted sleep.
Until recently I was one of those sleep-deprived people. As a result, I had performance difficulties during the day which I knew could have a detrimental affect on my physical and psychological well-being.
It was already taking a devastating toll on my concentration and my ability to memorise details. I was also moody, impatient and not very nice to be around. It?s very hard to stay positive when you?re exhausted.
Most adults need at least seven hours of sleep every night. I think that, at one stage, I was surviving on less than five.
The deleterious health effects of chronic insomnia include obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Something had to be done.
What causes difficulties with sleep?
Insomnia differs from person to person. Some people have difficulty falling asleep while others may have trouble staying asleep, waking up in the middle of the night and then not going back to sleep.
Most people will experience short term problems with sleep at some time in their lives. Short term insomnia usually resolves itself or can be dealt with by correcting the cause of the problem.
The causes of sleeping difficulties are many and varied. Sleeplessness may result from too much stimulation before bed, watching television or playing on screen games for example. Alcohol and caffeine are stimulants that interfere with your sleep.
The ambient conditions in your bedroom might be the problem or stress and anxiety might be keeping you awake at night. Some medications list insomnia as a side effect. Conditions such as snoring and sleep apnea can also cause insomnia.
Natural remedies to improve your sleep
In my quest to resolve my own problems with insomnia, I found a number of ways in which to improve the quality and quantity of the sleep that I enjoyed.
Listed below are some of the changes which I found to be helpful.
Exercise enhances our health, improves our mood and helps us to sleep better. To benefit at least 20 minutes of exercise is needed every day. The timing of the exercise is also important.
According to recent research, morning exercise is more effective than exercise later in the day. The difference may be related to body temperature. We sleep better when our body temperature is lower.
Exercise increases the core temperature and it can take as much as six hours to drop.
Alcohol, and caffeine intake can severely disrupt sleep patterns. I limit my intake in the interests of a good night?s sleep.
Foods rich in magnesium help to improve sleep because it contains a natural sedative. Whole grains, dark green leafy vegetables and legumes all contain magnesium.
A cool, dark and tranquil encourages deep, uninterrupted sleep. I?ve invested in new dark curtains made from embossed fabric that shuts out the light. Eye covers are also a good solution.
Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day conserves the circadian rhythm, so your body knows when to slow down for the night.
A weighted blanket looks just like a duvet or comforter. As might be expected, weighted blankets are heavier than an average blanket as they are filled with glass or plastic pellets rather than cotton or down. I have one and I can report that the added weight of the blanket makes me feel comforted as though I?m caught in a firm embrace.
The pressure of the weighted blanket is similar to that offered by Deep Pressure Stimulation. It is comforting, reducing stress and anxiety and helping users to quickly fall asleep.
It also improves the quality and length of the sleep as has been reported in the Journal of Sleep Medicine.
The best weight for you will depend very much on your body weight and on the size of the blanket. I recommend that you choose a blanket that is between 5% and 10% of your weight.
Our bodies produce melatonin naturally. It provides a signal that it?s time to sleep.
Melatonin is produced in varying amounts throughout the day. In the morning the production of melatonin is much lower than it is at night.
Melatonin supplements have become a popular means of improving sleep, particularly when the circadian clock has been disrupted. An example of this is jet lag. Melatonin is also known to assist people such as shift workers who need to sleep during the day.
Research has shown that this sleep hormone reduces the amount of time that you need to fall asleep and increases the length of sleep time.
Research has proven that chamomile tea improves the quality of sleep. It can also help to quickly fall asleep. This is because chamomile tea contains the antioxidant apigenin which binds to receptors in the brain causing drowsiness.
Switch those blue lights off. The Sleep Foundation reports that the blue light emitted by cell phones and the television interferes with the release of melatonin, the hormone that induces sleep.
Just reading off a tablet or smartphone just before bedtime may delay sleep and interfere with REM cycles.
A good night’s sleep
Enough sleep is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle.
If you?re not getting enough, a few lifestyle changes, a weighted blanket and nice warm cup of chamomile tea before bedtime may be all you need to ensure a good, restful night?s sleep.
Wendy, founder and editor of WeightedBlanketGuides Magazine, a single mother, personally affected with her family by Insomnia and ASD, is a great advocate of raising awareness, treatments and remedies for these diverse conditions that manifests themselves in infinitely different ways.