Author provides a wake-up call and important life changes for those who suffer with all types of insomnia
I can’t get not sleep
Almost a quarter is the population suffer from insomnia due to worry, stress and other lifestyle factors.
Missing out on one or more of the sleep stages that a person requires for a goof night sleep can result in mental and physical health problems but can also affect their families, their work and even their communities.
In his book Feel Great Day and Night; Overcome Anxiety, Sex and Sleep Problems Naturally, Canadian psychiatrist and sleep specialist Dr Craig Hudson identifies the five sleep stages and draws up a 30-day plan to help beat insomnia and related problems such as anxiety and sexual health difficulties.
“One person in six has chronic sleep problems and one in three quarters have some sort of problem with sleep,” says Dr Hudson.
Hudson identifies three types of sleep problem; Type I is sleep latency insomnia (trouble falling asleep initially), Type II is sleep interruption insomnia (repeatedly waking up in the night), Type III is terminal insomnia (wakening to early and not being able to fall back to sleep).
As well as a 30-day sleeping plan, Hudson lists the environmental, dietary, and behavioural factors that can impact on our sleep.
Environmental factors include the amount of stimulation (TV, phone, computer, etc) in your bedroom environment – these should be kept to a minimum.
You should also make sure your room is as dark as possible because this stimulates the natural production of melatonin (a hormone that help to induce the sense of drowsiness that comes before sleep) in your brain.
The room should also be at a comfortable temperature.
Regarding dietary factors, caffeine should be avoided after lunchtime every day.
“Caffeine is a stimulant and it increases your heart rate and respiratory rate as well as mental activity. You really shouldn’t drink caffeine after lunchtime,” says Dr Hudson.
“People know that coffee contains lots of caffeine but what they don’t realize is that tea contains a lot of caffeine too. Try to replace them with decaffeinated tea and coffee instead.”
Some people resort to alcohol to help them sleep but it’s ineffective in treating sleep problems because rather than aid in promoting sleep it has the effect of disrupting normal sleep and contributing to sleep interruption.
Also, it’s very important to reduce the amount of protein that you eat at least three hours prior to bedtime. Instead, increase the amount of high glycaemic carbohydrate.
Behavioural factors that negatively affect your sleep include exercising before bed, napping during the day, not taking down time before bed, clock watching and using your bed for activities other than sleep.
Obviously, the adrenaline released during exercise stimulates your mentally as well as physically so it’s best to avoid exercise in the evening, particularly in the last hour before bed.
Also, napping during the day is counter-productive. You might think you’re catching up on lost sleep from the night before but you are actually stealing from sleep you will need that night.
Daytime naps often incorporate mostly stage 3 and 4 sleep which is borrowed from stage 3 and 4 sleep for the coming night.
This loss of sleep is replaced with light sleep (stages 1 and 2) which is more easily interrupted. And this disrupted sleep does not result in a sense of waking refreshed.
It is also important to maintain a regular sleep schedule. Our brains actually cycle on a 25 hour clock which makes it very difficult to get a sleep pattern that’s not disruptive.
You need to train your brain to 24 hours and this involves working with external clues like a relaxation time before bed or establishing consistent bedtimes and rising times.
It sounds obvious, but taking time to relax before going to bed is very important. Mental activity will increase your adrenaline levels so working or reading/watching heavy material won’t help.
When you’re stressed out your heart rate and respiratory rate increase, so try to do something to relax.
It often seems like there are not enough hours in the day and this means that a lot of people work right up until bedtime, but in reality if they do this, their sleep suffers and they’re actually less efficient the next day.
The payback for doing less work and getting a good sleep is that you’ll actually be more productive the next day. Don’t worry about abandoning tasks – you’ll have improved mental energy to tackle them tomorrow.
Again, it sounds obvious, but only go to bed when you’re tired. Don’t try to catch up on a poor sleep from the night before by going to bed early. Pick a time when you feel reasonable certain you’ll fall asleep.
“One of the worst things that people with sleep problems do is keep checking their clock,” says Dr Hudson.
“They see it’s 2am, then 3am and they get increasingly frustrated, which adds to the problem. They should set their alarm for when they need to get up and turn the clock to the wall.”
Also, use your bed for sleep alone. Often people fill their bedrooms with activities that engage the brain – TV’s, computers, phones, etc – the bedroom should be reserved for sleep (and sex) alone.
You’re trying to train your brain to associate the bed with sleep so do other activities elsewhere in the house. It is very important that you reinforce the separation of your busy day from a restful night’s sleep.
Another helpful move is to get out of bed if you haven’t fallen asleep after 15 minutes (you’ll have to estimate your 15 minutes because your clock should be turned to the wall!).
Since you’re trying to build a strong association between bed and sleep, if you stay in bed for extended periods of time while you’re awake you build an association with bed and wakefulness.
If you don’t fall asleep quickly, don’t panic. Simply get up and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy. If it takes a while, don’t worry.
If you have Type II insomnia and you’re waking during the night, then you can associate the bed with a brief waking and rapid return to sleep or you can associate the bed with a lengthy period of frustration as you toss and turn.
If you get out after 15 minutes of wakefulness and do something relaxing such as listening to music or a pre-recorded TV show that’s short and not too stimulating, then you are more likely to become sleepy again.
You should aim to get back to bed in 15 to 30 minutes. The temptation not to even try to return after this time might be strong but if you don’t go back to reinforce a pattern of chronic night time waking and in some cases extremely early waking times.
The secret to getting good sleep is to persevere. You’re not going to cure insomnia in a night – you’re trying to break well established negative patterns – but four weeks of perseverance should build a pattern of good sleep that will stay with you for life.
Don’t feel tempted to spend too much time in bed because you feel you need at least eight hours and that’s that, but there is a wide variation in the need for sleep between different people – you might need less sleep and less time in bed.
Hudson’s book is complemented by a natural sleep product called Zenbev, a 100 per cent natural foodstuff which tackles the root cause of insomnia and anxiety by supplying the nutrients that our bodies require to manufacture the hormones we need for sleep and restfulness.
One of the worst things people with sleep problems do is keep checking their clock.