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It appears that if there is one common factor in the population at large it is the ability to get enough quality sleep.
A significant proportion of the population has difficulty in the sleep cycle, e.g. either getting to sleep or staying asleep.
There are a number of reasons for this problem and a number of things that can be done to improve the sleep pattern. First let’s understand sleep.
Falling asleep is not a passive activity. Our brain remains active as we pass through the four stages of sleep we need to recharge us mentally and physically. These stages are commonly known as the sleep cycle:
Stage 1 – Falling asleep. Our brain waves begin to slow down and our muscles relax.
Stage 2 – Light sleep. Brain waves slow even further.
Stage 3 – Body temperature drops and our muscles relax fully.
Stage 4 – Deepest sleep – as stage 3.
Once we arrive at stage 4 we then go back up through the stages until we reach stage 1 again. At this point, we enter REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement). During REM sleep electrical activity in the brain increases and our body temperature rises, though our muscles remain relaxed.
The sleep cycle takes approximately 90 minutes to complete and on average will be repeated 4 or 5 times during the night. Problems can occur when we do not progress through all of the stages. Waking up during or before we go through stages 3 and 4 can mean that we are deprived of the most restful and restorative parts of the cycle. This explains why a fitful night’s sleep can leave you feeling as bad as if you’d had no sleep at all.
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
We all need sleep to recharge our body and minds, but how much we actually require depends largely on our age, health, diet and circumstances.
Babies and infants on average need 16 hours, teenagers need 9 hours and most adults can function perfectly well on 7-8 hours.
This can reduce even further with age. However, it all depends on the individual and, as with all of us, some people need more than others to live full successful lives. Einstein apparently needed his full ten hours whereas Churchill, Thatcher and Freud needed just a few.
Insomnia (also known as sleeplessness) can manifest itself in a number of different ways:-
- Difficulty falling asleep / Light or restless sleeping / Waking often during the night
- Lying awake in the middle of the night / Waking early and being unable to get back to sleep
It is important to recognise the central cause of sleep problems and deal with that cause.
Issues that are well known include:- Personal & family stress and anxiety, social behavior, reactions to medication and/or alcohol, eating habits and resultant digestive discomfort, jet lag or shift working, noise or external interference.
Not getting enough sleep can affect different people in different ways and depends very much on your daily routine. It can make you irritable, worried or nervous, unable to concentrate or cope with even the simplest of tasks. You may find yourself feeling drowsy during the day, becoming forgetful or more accident prone than usual. Often people who are suffering from insomnia may feel short tempered and more likely to become impatient with others.
Anxiety about falling asleep itself can even be a problem as, the more you worry, the less likely you are to be able to sleep properly.
Physically, a lack of sleep can severely impair our ability to complete everyday tasks: driving while tired is responsible for thousands of accidents every year. Fatigue also lowers the immune system and makes your risk of illness much higher.
Dealing with Sleeplessness
- To avoid mid afternoon tiredness, make sure your diet is up to scratch, providing all the nutrients and energy you require for the whole day. g. Start the day with porridge oats – a slow releasing carbohydrate for energy without the peaks.
- Creating the right atmosphere and conditions for sleep is essential. Don’t listen to heavy music or watch a disturbing film late and expect to drop off easily. Reduce the clutter in the bedroom and avoid bright colours.
- When things are on your mind, take time out before you go to bed to write them down, in effect creating a shopping list that can be recalled when you require. Anxiety and tension are two of the most powerful enemies of a sound, refreshing night’s sleep.
- Make sure comfort is possible and is of a high standard – the mattress and pillow need to be suitable for you. Select the right temperature and ventilation that suits you and will not disturb your rest
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine and nicotine late at night (Stimulants that will disturb the sleep pattern).
- Try a relaxing bath with some essential oils, known to calm the system and relax the mind. (Try chamomile, lavender, passionflower)
- Don’t eat too late & if you do go for a walk after the meal to generate digestive activity that will not rumble on late into the night.
- Try a massage – most enjoyable and will relax tension throughout the body.
- Supplement with Vitamin B Complex, particularly B5 which produces anti-stress hormones, B2 for insomnia and B12 for tiredness.
Natural Help for Sleep
Here are some suggestions for help from natural sources for sleep problems.
Avena Sativa (Oats) :- Ideal for adults with high stress factors and children who are hyperactive during the day and night
Valerian – Hops Complex: For adults who find it hard to get to sleep and children who don’t sleep
Passiflora Complex: For adults who are stressed during the day and then find it hard to stay asleep, waking early in the morning with their brain spinning.
Hypericum Complex: For menopausal women who find their sleep patterns becoming disturbed.
Californian Poppy: Ideal for kids and an effective and safe relaxing herb
Lemon Balm: Calms the stomach which is often the cause of a restless night.
Night Essence: A flower essence which is ideal for anxiety and stress related issues.
Asphalia: A complex of natural plants selected to provide a mild sedative.
Olbas Oli – Ideal as an inhalant before bed to clear the air passages.
5 HTP – A natural amino acid that is the precursor used by the body to make the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin plays a key role in sleep, anxiety and mood patterns.
Kalms Sleep: A naturally effective remedy for occasional sleeplessness. It won’t cause next-day drowsiness and can really get you back on track – with a natural night’s sleep
Homoeopathy: Appears to work by supporting the body to switch off the mental and physical activity. There are a number of products that need to be selected to suit your own requirements.
All available at Appleseeds Health Store
If the condition persist and there is no rational reason for continued interrupted and disturbed sleep patterns, then it is advisable to seek medical advice
Sleep is essential – it’s just like the housekeepers coming in at night to clean up the rubbish and restock your body and mind ready for another day.. Enjoy it.