The top five reasons why people have a terrible sleep
1.People frequently sabotage their own sleep without realising it. Probably the most common sleep stealer is technology. Most of us don’t realise the fact that our sleep hormone, melatonin, can only be produced by the brain in dim or dark light. So if we are on the computer/phone or watching a high-definition TV screen right up until the time of sleeping we will have trouble either getting to sleep and/or staying asleep.
2. Many of us do not get enough exercise in our day and so even though our brain is tired our body isn’t. It is always a good practice to have at least 20 minutes exercise every day and we can get this by going for a walk at lunch time. However, make sure not to exercise within 3 hours of bedtime as this only serves to alert the body.
3. Caffeine is a big sleep stealer and becomes more so as we get older because our metabolic rate decreases, causing the effects of coffee to stay in our body longer. If you have sleeping difficulties it is important not to have caffeine, in any form, after midday. Green tea is also a stimulant so best to limit those cups of tea to the morning hours.
4. Where we sleep also affects how we sleep. If we sleep on an uncomfortable mattress in a light and noisy room we will often experience difficulties either getting to or staying asleep. Our bedroom needs to be a safe sanctuary away from the rest of the world where we can rest and restore our body. It is therefore of primary importance to assess your sleeping environment and ensure that your bed and bedding are comfortable and that the room is dark, quiet and cool.
5.Many people find it difficult to sleep because they do not have enough down-time. It is important to realise that we need our mind to relax in order to get the best sleep possible, so always try to factor in some time to relax in the evening before going to bed.
The A.H. Beard 6 Week Sleep Challenge addresses all these issues week by week. Doing this challenge provides a great opportunity to get our sleep practices in order one step at a time.
How do you suggest people improve their sleep?
A really good start is to take on the A.H. Beard 6 Week Sleep Challenge – http://www.ahbeard.com/sleepchallenge. This addresses many of those activities that have the most potential to disrupt sleep.
If though you still have difficulty sleeping even after finishing the sleep challenge it is important that you consult your doctor as you may have a sleep disorder that can be readily treated once diagnosed.
What are some of the dangers of a bad sleep? Can it cause health issues?
Sleep is our third pillar of health and it is just as important as exercise and nutrition. Without good sleep on a regular basis our physical and mental health will suffer.
Not getting the sleep we need has ill-effects both in the both short and long term. In the short term it can put us in a bad mood, decrease our energy level and libido and increase our susceptibility to catching a cold or ‘flu. We will also find it difficult to think well and to plan and in this state we are much more likely to have a car or occupational accident.
Long-term sleep difficulties mean that we are much more likely to develop a chronic disease such as depression, certain types of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, such as high blood pressure and heart disease; and metabolic diseases, such as Type II diabetes and obesity.
However there is good news. If we do get the sleep we need on a regular basis we are healthier, better thinkers, are happier, more motivated and dynamic, are more likely to eat and exercise well and, just in case we need more convincing, research shows that we even look more attractive.
How important is your sleep space to your health (e.g. bed, bedroom, etc.)?
For some of us the sleep environment does not matter much (think the messy teenager) but for most of us the sleep environment plays a large role in getting the best sleep possible. It is always worthwhile buying the best mattress we can afford, along with good, breathable pillows and linen. If the bed is uncomfortable or the bedroom is noisy, light or too hot we run the risk of spending too much time in light sleep and not enough time in deep or dream sleep, both of which are critical to our mental and physical health. So take the time to make your bed and bedroom just right for you.
What tips do you have for people who find it hard to fall asleep at night?
How we sleep at night is often very dependent upon how we spent our day. To get the best sleep possible we do need to prepare our mind and body for sleep. Again, useful tips like these are provided in the A.H. Beard 6 Week Sleep Challenge to assist in the best possible sleep.
To prepare the body we need to:
- Get up at the same time every day.
- Exercise for at least 20 minutes per day (a walk at lunchtime is good)
- Don’t have caffeine after midday
- No alcohol
- Do not sleep during the day (a nap of 20 minutes is ok)
- Small meal at night and especially no big meal within 3 hours of bedtime.
- Do not exercise within 3 hours of bedtime (this will alert the body)
To prepare the mind we need to:
- Deal with the issues of the day: in the early evening spend no more than 20 minutes writing events of the day that are of concern along with potential solutions. Close the book and put it away.
- Set an alarm one hour before bedtime. At that time:
- turn off all technology
- dim the lighting in the room
- warm-hot shower
- relaxation exercise
- Ensure that the bed and bedroom environment is conducive to sleep
- absolutely no technology in the bedroom
What tips do you have for people who wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep easily?
Firstly it is important to know that waking in the middle of the night is normal and that even the best sleepers can spend up to 20 -25 minutes awake during the night even though they may not be aware of it. Sometimes knowing this helps a person fall back to sleep relatively easily. If this doesn’t help though and you have been awake for an uncomfortable amount of time (no clock watching though) then try a breathing or mindfulness exercise. If this doesn’t help you need to get out of bed and go to another room that is dimly lit and maybe read a magazine, or something relaxing. Once you start to feel sleepy again (yawning, droopy eyes) go back to bed as you should be able to get to sleep fairly quickly at this time.
What are some of the reasons why people wake up exhausted?
The primary reason people wake up exhausted is that they have not spent enough time sleeping. Although it is individual measure, nearly all adults require somewhere between 7 – 9 hours of sleep. When we do not get this and wake up after only 6 hours of sleep, we will be tired and unrefreshed and if we do this night after night we will build up a considerable sleep debt such that after only a few days we are exhausted when we awake.
A sleep disorder can also cause us to wake up exhausted. The reason for this is because the quality of sleep is very poor. So even though we may spend up to 9 hours asleep we can still feel exhausted when we wake the next day. In this circumstance it is important to get the disorder diagnosed by the doctor as it can be treated.