As December and the holiday period can be a time of over-eating and disturbed sleep due to too much food and too little exercise, I thought it might be useful to look at some of the causes of sleeplessness or insomnia. Some of my clients complain they either cannot fall asleep when they go to bed or they wake up at around 3 a.m. with their mind full of problems and things to do from home or work that seem insurmountable, during the night, and which prevent them from going back to sleep again.
Consequently, at 6.30am when they need to get up, they feel unrefreshed and tired and certainly not ready for their day ahead.
If this happens to you, then maybe try some of these ways to help you through the night:
- Don’t eat heavy meals late at night. Think about what you are going to eat before you eat it. People who eat small meals at least four hours before bedtime are more likely to sleep well right through the night. A balanced diet consisting of fruit and vegetables, wholegrain carbohydrates, oily fish, nuts, seeds, lean meat and plenty of water can help promote good sleep. Of course, if you drink coffee in the evening, you are probably going to have to visit the bathroom and as caffeine is a strong stimulant, you may take a long time to get to sleep after your Americano or expresso! It has been said that for every cup of coffee after 8pm in the evening, you can lose one hour’s sleep!
- Exercise: naturally not at night, but research shows that some regular exercise during the day can assist you to enjoy a restful night’s sleep, every night.
- Make yourself comfortable: Establish a peaceful routine before you go to bed. Make sure that your bedroom is quiet and comfortable and not too hot. If you have air-conditioning it should be set not higher than about 18 C, or preferably a little lower to be conducive to restful sleep. Obviously, noise should be kept to a minimum with no TV or other music intruding upon your rest. Your bedroom should be an oasis relaxation and peace. You should remove all electronic equipment on standby from your room and that includes televisions, radios, routers, computers, iPads, eReaders, games consoles and, of course, cellphones. Many times clients say to me that they have their phones next to their bed which, of course means that not only are they are disturbed by the charging lights but they are also not consciously switching off at night as they are keeping themselves always on call. And TFT digital lit computer screens have been found to disrupt the sleep-promoting neurons in your brain. Better to have an old-fashioned book next to your bed!
- Don’t lie-in late: it is very tempting to stay in bed in the morning if you have had a disturbed night but that could just be getting you into a bad habit. Your body will start to get used to this pattern and whereas it might work at the weekend, it will not be beneficial if you have to rush to your job during the week. If you feel regularly tired during the afternoon, then try to take a cat-nap for 20 minutes which you could do during your lunch hour. When you awake, you can feel hugely refreshed and ready for an afternoon’s work.
- Feeling worried or anxious? It could be worth trying a herbal remedy. If you find one that is natural and non-addictive, then you will not have to worry about becoming dependent on it and the very fact that you have taken something may help your mind relax and assist your dropping-off to sleep naturally.
Finally, going to sleep is an activity of its own. It needs planning and preparation. Your room should be somewhere that you happy to be in and somewhere that is your haven of peace, your ‘dar es salaam’, far away from the frenetic world in which you may live.
So plan it, enjoy it and recharge your batteries for the next day ahead. Have a good night and pleasant dreams!
Written by Carole Spiers and reprinted with the kind permission of Gulf News.
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