Many of our patients tell us that they have problems getting off to sleep, staying asleep or they feel that they just don’t get enough. Insomnia is a common problem affecting 1 in 3 people in the UK. Longer lasting sleep disruption can have a significant impact on both our mental wellbeing and our physical health. There are some really simple steps that we can all take to try to maximise our chances or getting a good night’s shut eye.
allow enough time for 8 hours sleep
go to bed and get up at the same time every day
allow exposure to light to diminish before bed
ensure that the bedroom is not too warm
don’t stay in bed whilst awake
avoid or minimise alcohol intake
avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evenings
Set aside 8 hours for sleep. There are many misconceptions about how much sleep we need. Many of us are chronically sleep deprived and this isn’t helped by the 24 hour culture and long working days and commutes that some of us have. A good way to give yourself the possibility of a sufficient amount of sleep is allow for 8 hours by ensuring that bed time and scheduled wake up time make this possible.
Go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time every day;this includes weekends and holidays and even on days when you haven’t slept well and are tempted to stay in bed for a little longer. This works by establishing a nice pattern for the body’s own circadian rhythm or body clock.
Avoid looking at mobile devicesin the hour before bed and have room lights dimmed too. This will help the body to prepare for sleep by increasing the body’s natural sleep inducing hormone - melatonin. The blue light in mobile devices is particularly harmful in this regard and tricks the brain into thinking that it is still daytime, thereby preventing the natural sleepiness that develops as melatonin levels rise.
Keep the bedroom cool.Many of us keep our bedrooms too warm. The core body temperature needs to drop by 2-3 degrees in order to sleep. That’s why we can struggle to sleep when the weather is too hot and we will sleep better in a cooler room than a warmer room.
Avoid staying in bed awake for long periods of time; when this happens often, the brain makes an association between bed and being awake. We need to ensure that our brain knows that he bedroom is a place for sleep rather than being place to be awake. If you are still awake twenty - thirty minutes after going to bed, or you wake in the night and are struggling to get back to sleep, get up, go into a room with dim light and read; don’t look at mobile devices and don’t eat anything.
Avoid alcohol.Although it may seem as though alcohol helps us to sleep, it is actually a sedative, which has the effect of knocking us out rather than allowing natural restorative sleep. It also fragments our sleep so that we wake up many more times per night than we otherwise would. Alcohol particularly affects our rapid eye movement or REM sleep, and this has an impact on our memory and cognitive function
Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evenings.Caffeine blocks receptor sites for a chemical called adenosine. The natural build up of adenosine during the day is what makes us sleepy. Caffeine doesn’t remove the adenosine but rather stops the brain from receiving it, so the brain feels awake even though there are high levels of a sleepy chemical in our blood stream. Caffeine affects the depth of deep sleep, so we wake up feeling un-refreshed and we therefore look for more coffee to keep us feeling alert and awake, and so the cycle continues.
If you have difficulty sleeping, your osteopath can provide some useful information and advice and can help with relaxation to help you to get a better night’s sleep.