Get a better night sleep with barely any effort (or money).
In a world full of valuable objects including technology, money and fast paced fashion, perhaps the most valuable thing we own is not material, but how we feel. Something that can’t be bought is time and so often we feel there is never enough time in our busy schedules to finish our duties or have some time to ourselves.
Living in such a world where everything moves so fast, we find ourselves unable to switch off for a good night’s rest, waking in the morning unsatisfied with our mediocre sleep and the commitments of the day ahead.
Sleep is valuable to our brains and bodies. Not only do we rest when we sleep, but we are allowing ourselves to unwind and our bodies to heal. When we lack sleep, we lack energy, focus and the ability to get through the day smoothly.
Unfortunately, we could be hindering our sleeping success without even realising it, so take a look through our top tips to help you get a better sleep.
Give up the gadgets
Start to put away the gadgets before you get into bed. Reading from anything that has a backlight like your phone, computer, or tablet can suppress your melatonin production, which makes it harder to get to sleep. Turning off the TV and laying in your bed without the distractions makes it easier for you to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Ditch the afternoon coffee
You might think you’re immune to caffeine by now, but it’s stopping you from getting to sleep. Snacks like chocolate also contain hidden amounts of caffeine, so avoiding dessert may actually help you sleep better.
Schedule in regular exercise
Regular exercise is proven to help you sleep better, as long as it’s not too close to bedtime. Morning exercise can help to wake you up and prepare for you for the day, but aim to finish intense afternoon exercise three or more hours before you’re due to call it a night.
Create a sleeping routine
Humans like to get into a habit, and sleeping is no different. Working with your routine, getting to sleep and getting up at the same time everyday can help you sleep better. This also includes limiting daytime naps to ensure that you can get a good quality sleep when you hop into bed at night.
Image via cherryflex.com
Isn’t it ironic how sleepy you can be throughout the day, only to find that when your head finally hits the pillow you’re miraculously (and frustratingly) wide awake. If you’re one of these people who finds it difficult to switch-off at bedtime, here are a few remedies that will help to calm your mind so you can finally get that good night’s sleep you crave.
Sitting down to a warm cup of herbal tea before bedtime can help you to unwind and relax as it raises body heat. Chamomile tea is a great option because it contains no caffeine and is reported to have a sedative effect – it also has a slightly sweet after-taste, so it’s the perfect post-dinner drink.
Start a journal
When you take your worries or to-do list to bed with you, you’re bound to be up all night stressing and over-thinking them. Try starting a journal and set aside 10 to 15 minutes each night before going to sleep to write down your thoughts and concerns. By making the time to address your thoughts, you’re mentally checking them off as ‘dealt with’ or ‘dealing with.’
Create a sleep schedule
Research demonstrates that getting up and going to bed at the same time every day (yes, even on weekends) promotes good sleeping patterns as it stabilises your body clock. And while it may take a few weeks to discipline your body, not only will it result in regular REM sleep, you will also be more productive throughout the day as a result.
Ban electronics from the bedroom
How many times have you been at the cusp of falling to sleep, only to be woken by an incoming text message or call? And how many times have you found yourself awake for an extra hour trawling Facebook or playing a game? Not only does late night interaction keep your brain stimulated, but the light from the screen actually keeps you awake, too. Several sleep experts say this is because exposure to bright and intense light late at night can inhibit the body’s secretion of melatonin.
Get in some exercise
Getting in some physical exercise throughout the day can significantly improve the ability to fall asleep, according to research. It decreases anxiety and depressive symptoms and can act as a stress-buster if you’re feeling under the pump. Also, if you workout late afternoon, the post-exercise drop in your body temperature is said to promote better sleep.
Image via the Huffington Post
A Japanese legend says that if you can’t sleep at night it’s because you’re awake in someone else’s dream.” – Anonymous
If you’re ever unlucky enough to suffer a serious bout of ongoing insomnia, you can see why sleep deprivation is such an effective psychological torture technique. For it’s debilitating, stressful and frustrating in the extreme – you’re desperate to sleep, but yet you just can’t. So, you have a glass of red, thinking it will help, and so the vicious cycle continues…
So, what is insomnia, you may ask? The Australasian Sleep Association’s definition of it is if you have difficulty “falling asleep, going back to sleep or waking too early” and you have periods in bed when you are awake for longer than 30 minutes.
And if you suffer from insomnia, you’re not alone – several Australian surveys have revealed up to one third of people reported having at least one insomnia symptom (such as difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep) each month.
Of course, life throws you curveballs, so the widespread pervasiveness of insomnia is no surprise given many of us are battling major life stressors, such as separation, divorce or death of a spouse, partner or family member.
It’s been said that the cost of insomnia to the Australian economy is $220 billion annually in medical andlost productivity costs. For lack of adequate sleep doesn’t just make you feel shitty, it goes hand-in-hand with many health problems such as impaired concentration and memory and an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and industrial and motor vehicle accidents.
What’s more, insomnia is also a risk factor for depression and anxiety, although it can also be a symptom of these conditions.
Now, all this is terribly depressing, so here’s a fun fact: some sleep experts say most patients with insomnia are not actually sleep deprived, but just perceive poor quality sleep. So, is it all in the mind, a lot of the time? Does stressing about not getting enough sleep, turn us into stressed-out zombies? Sleep experts say while the average night’s sleep for an adult is around eight hours, some people only need five. So, what seems like insomnia to one person might be considered a good sleep by another.
So, are there any miracle cures for insomnia? These expert-approved healthy sleep habits sure may help:
- Limit alcohol: Many people think grog can aid sleep. Bah-bum! While it can help you drop off to sleep by making your more relaxed, it f***s you up later as it fragments sleep, making you wake more often.
- Develop a wind-down routine, which you can use to relax you in the 30 to 60 minutes before bed. This could include meditation or having a drink of warm milk (the protein in milk can help bring on sleep).
- Avoid drinks containing caffeine (such as tea, coffee and some soft drinks) for at least three hours bedtime.
- Have a hot bath a couple of hours before retiring.
- Avoid exercise for the three hours before bedtime.
- Keep your bedroom quiet, dim and coolish. Being too hot prevents deep sleep.
- Expose your eyes to bright sunlight for 15 to 30 minutes without sunglasses when you first get up. This helps turn off the brain’s production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, and so helps regulate your body clock. Ensure you are not exposed to bright light in the evening or when you are trying to sleep.
- Restrict your bedroom activities to sleep and sex. Don’t read or watch TV in bed.
- Once in bed, if you aren’t asleep in 20 to 30 minutes, get up and do something you find relaxing until you feel drowsy again. This may include reading a book, listening to music or doing breathing or relaxation exercises. Keep the light dim and do not smoke, drink coffee or tea, or use the computer. Then when drowsy, go back to bed and try again. If you still aren’t asleep again, after 20 to 30 minutes, repeat the previous step.
- A regular rising time – regardless of the quality of sleep the night before – is actually more important. That means avoiding sleep-ins while you’re trying to fix an insomnia problem.
- Only go to bed if you feel sleepy. Delay your sleep-time, if necessary.
Main image via www.blackswanwellness.com; secondary image via veryfunnypics.eu and final imafe via www.huffingtonpost.com
Having trouble sleeping? You may need to have a look at your diet. Healthy, varied diet is important for good quality of sleep and there are foods that can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Almonds and walnuts both contain tryptophan, an amino acid which helps with the production of melatonin and serotonin (hormones responsible for regulating your sleep cycle).
Cherries, especially tart cherries or sour cherries, are a natural source of melatonin and also a good source of Vitamin C and potassium, which are nutrients promoting healthy sleep. A research from the Louisiana State University found that drinking tart cherry juice twice a day can help insomnia sufferers increase sleep time by close to 90 minutes a day.
Carbohydrates make the tryptophan available to the brain, that’s why a light carbohydrate snack before bed can make you sleepy. Try some oatmeal, an oat cookie, a bowl of cereal or whole-grain crackers.
Green leafy vegetables
Veggies like kale, broccoli and spinach are a rich source of calcium, another essential nutrient for good sleep, so don’t forget to add some salad to your dinner!
We all need time to wind down and a cup of herbal tea can be an enjoyable part of your bedtime ritual. Chamomile, passionflower and lemon balm are well known for their relaxing qualities.
When it comes to changing your diet to improve your sleep, also consider avoiding caffeine later in the day and large meals too close to bedtime. Avoid fatty processed foods at night, too, they put high demands on your digestive system and contribute to a restless night. Alcohol, contrary to the common believe is not a great sleep helper either. A drink or two may make you feel sleepy, but a few hours later it will cause wakefulness and discomfort.
Image by Hans via pixabay.com
Ending insomnia starts with breaking of the vicious cycle of poor sleep and restoring normal sleep patterns. A variety of therapy options are available from behavioural therapies to medications. Behavioural therapies have been shown to produce effective results especially for chronic sufferers of insomnia.
Teaches you to recognise nervous worry and use breathing and relaxation techniques to calm the body and mind.
Stimulus control therapy
Engages you to leave the bedroom should you be unable to fall sleep. Once you feel sleepy you can return to the bedroom for a successful night’s sleep.
Sleep restriction therapy
Limits your time in bed feeling anxious and unable to sleep. This usually results in initial sleep deprivation followed by an increased feeling of tiredness and eventually greater quality and duration of sleep.
Opens your mind to positive ‘thinking’ about sleep and ‘challenging’ negative and unrealistic thoughts in the lead-up to bedtime.
The use of medications during the initial stages of behavioural therapy may help restore normal sleep patterns while often difficult long-term behaviours are being learnt. Your healthcare professional will give you more information on behavioural therapies.
Ros Layton, Travel Editor
In for the long haul…
The numbing fatigue and exasperating insomnia caused by jet lag can spoil, if not ruin, your long-awaited trip. But there is hope. These strategies can make a difference, not just to your jet lag, but to your wellbeing.
Why do we get it?
Crossing time zones throws the body’s circadian rhythms (the internal clock that tells us when to get up, eat, and when to sleep) out of whack. Without stimuli of light, darkness, or meeting friends for a drink in the evening, our circadian rhythms run on roughly a 25-hour cycle. When this is disturbed by crossing at least four time zones, your body clock will be out of sync with its destination which is why we wake up starving at 3am and are craving sleep at lunchtime. As a general rule, it takes one day to recover from each hour lost or gained.
Moreover, a plane is a very bizarre environment – it’s usually too cold, there’s less oxygen, the air’s dry, you’re sitting for agonisingly long periods of time, stuck next to strangers who usually have chronic BO or a nervous tick, or worse, want to talk to you. Plus we’re reduced to the level of children under the complete control of men and women in bad uniforms, like nannies with trolleys who dictate when we eat, sleep, and watch movies.
The first time most travellers think about the time in their destination is when the captain announces it when the plane’s commencing its descent, but you should start thinking about it way before that. Try to get into sync a few days prior to leaving. This could mean wearing two watches; one set to local time, the other to the time of where you’re going. Live, sleep and eat in the destination time as much as you can. If you find it hard to sleep on the plane, try getting more sleep for couple of days before travelling. If you normally need seven hours a night, try and get nine. That way, you’ve got sleep bonus points you can draw on if you can’t sleep on the plane or when you arrive. Failing that, set your watch to your destination when you get on the plane, and use your imagination to pretend it’s morning when it’s pitch black outside the window.
If you usually have little trouble sleeping on a plane, it might make sense to choose one that’s in the air during your destination’s night, so that when you land you’re ready for a full day. If you find sleeping impossible, fly during the daylight hours of your destination. Flying east generally causes more jet lag than flying west: the body seems better able to cope with a longer day.
Not only is the cabin air low on oxygen, it’s also desert dry, so it is essential to drink litres of water (some believe jet lag is caused by dehydration rather than disrupted circadian rhythms). Take your own bottles to gauge how much you’re drinking. If you don’t drink enough, take re-hydration salts (from chemists) after the flight. If you find plain water boring, try herbal teas such as chamomile and valerian root, which help induce sleep. Many QANTAS flight attendants add a few drops of apple juice to their water, which makes the water taste more interesting and prevents the need to pee all the time as the body absorbs the sugar in the juice.
You probably know that you should avoid alcohol on the plane because it worsens dehydration (one drink in the air is equivalent to two on the ground, according to cabin crew). But flying really is so tedious and just one little drink surely can’t hurt. Drink red wine and brandy, which have a soporific effect.
The lunchbox has landed
Many travellers take their own food, like that annoying guy on the Helga’s bread ad on TV. It does have its advantages: you can eat when you want to; you eat better if you pack a lunchbox full of fruit and vegetables (on some airlines such as Singapore Airlines, you can order a fruit platter in advance), or take carbohydrates such as cereals, which are sleep-inducing. One long-haul traveller swears that the carrot juice she takes with her combats jet lag. Carrots offer the best resistance to oxygen deficiency, but they’ve got to be fresh not betocarotene supplements from a health food store. Some travellers say spirulina, the so-called ‘green super-food’ also works as a jet lag remedy.
Potentially the most useful jet lag aid is one we naturally possess. Melatonin is a hormone produced in the brain as darkness falls. A synthetic form is sold in US health stores as a food supplement, but it’s not available here in Australia (except on prescription under certain circumstances) so some travellers stock up in the US. If taken just before bed, it can encourage sleep but, more importantly, it seems to speed up the rate at which the body adjusts to its new time zone. Note: not everyone is convinced. Some women find it disrupts their periods and others are not comfortable taking a substance that is not licensed.
Temazepam, a short-acting sleeping pill available from your doctor, works well, as does aspirin, which can promote deep sleep. These must be used with caution on the plane as lower oxygen levels increase the potency of drugs. Don’t mix with alcohol, or it could lead to embarrassing Valley of The Dolls-style behaviour! Many flight attendants take supplementary vitamins and vitamin C to counteract jet lag. Others swear by arnica – a homeopathic remedy for bruising.
Getting quality sleep on a full plane is tricky, particularly if you’re in cattle class. The pillows are teensy and are usually nasty synthetic ones, so take at least two small pillows, one for the small of your back, the other for your neck. Alternatively, grab one of those unglamorous (but effective) inflatable pillows to support your neck, and a set of earplugs to block out engine noise and to prevent the passenger next to you trying to strike up a conversation. Then take your sleeping draught of choice, stick the Do Not Disturb sticker on your forehead or jumper, and settle down. If you prefer to avoid drugs of any description but desperately need sleep, spray your pillow with sleep-inducing lavender, such as Jurlique’s. To keep warm, invest in a pashmina wrap. Yes we know they’re on the fashion ‘out’ list, but they are a traveller’s best accessory; they keep you warm, they look good, they make you feel good, like Linus’ security blanket, and they fold up small enough to slip in your handbag.
If you feel sleepy but need to stay awake to get in sync for the time of your destination, a double espresso should keep you going for couple of hours. But if you’re used to drinking lots of caffeine, it won’t have much effect, so cut down the week before you fly, don’t have any on the plane, and then drink it once you reach your destination. The best therapy for staying awake when your body is begging for sleep is to get plenty of light as it helps the body adjust to its new time zone. So if you’re exhausted after flying to London, for example, go for a walk, a run, a swim, or book a massage as soon as you arrive. If that’s not practical, switch on all the lights in your hotel room and put some upbeat music on and turn it up.
Sitting immobile on a cramped plane slows blood circulation, so keep moving as much as you can. Walk up and down the aisle and follow the ankle and neck exercises in the in-flight magazine. You may feel like a goose, but you’ll be glad you did them. This travel editor always asks to visit the cockpit (and hasn’t been refused yet). The view’s amazing from up there; especially the captain and co-pilot who have hot uniforms. Thanks to auto-pilot they are usually bored stiff and keen to chat (you up), and flirting can be counted as exercise. Just don’t touch any of the switches!
Use the In-flight Kit
Today’s amenity kits are much more than nifty little bags with a fold-up toothbrush, plastic comb, socks and Zorro eye masks. The bag that designer Anya Hindmarch put together for British Airways contains Aroma Therapeutics’ Sleep Enhancer spray. This airline also offers cute little Male Comfort Kits with Body Shop shaving cream, aftershave gel, lip balm, mouthwash as well as the usual toothbrush and comb. Air New Zealand and Malaysia Airlines provide passengers in First and Business Class with kits containing Daniele Ryman’s Awake and Asleep. You can personalise the existing kits with new jet-lag specific products, such as Crabtree & Evelyn’s pulse point balms, incense sticks, and candles which contain lavender, like Bloom travel-sized candles.
According to a new report from the National Sleep Foundation, young adults aged 18 to 29 say they sleep an average of 6 hours a night during the working week in comparison to the recommended eight hours. Almost half of the 1,154 people polled said they postpone sleep in order to accomplish more. Work and school habits are often linked to sleep habits; those who worked more than 60 hours a week had trouble finding time to sleep. Lack of sleep has serious consequences including drowsiness, poor work and school performances, accidents, mood changes and interpersonal difficulties. Each day there are two periods when the body experiences a natural tendency toward sleepiness: during the late night hours (generally between midnight and 6:00am. And during mid afternoon (around 1:00 to 4:00 pm). If people are awake during these times, they have a higher risk of falling asleep unintentionally, especially if they have not been getting enough sleep. Certain medical conditions, such as asthma and pain, some drugs and stimulants, such as nicotine and caffeine, can disrupt sleep. And while some people may use alcohol to help them fall asleep, it actually causes sleep disruption during the night, which can lead to problematic sleepiness during the day.
How can you get eight hours?
Go to bed fifteen minutes earlier each night until you reach your goal, or try to take a nap during the day. (Well if you can, I don’t think my boss would like me taking a catnap at lunchtime). Avoid stimulants, exercise and alcohol within four to six hours of bedtime. In general, medications do not help problem sleeplessness and some may make it worse. If sleep difficulties persist, consult your doctor to rule out medical causes such as sleep disorders, endocrine diseases or depression.