At some stage or another, we all suffer from sleep problems of some sort. While many people struggle to fall asleep, others can’t stay asleep and for some, waking up too early is fast-becoming the norm. These are all common sleep problems that can have a major impact on your overall health and well-being.
The good news is that, whatever it is that’s standing between you and a restful night’s sleep, there are many things you can do to help yourself get more shut-eye.
Sleep problem 1: You wake up too early
Pharmacist and director of Solal Technologies, Brent Murphy says, “This can be a sign of depression caused by reduced levels of the brain chemical serotonin. This is also directly linked to low levels of the sleep chemical melatonin.”
- Consciously relax, keep your breathing slow and regular, and visualise a pleasant scene. This will help you rest, even if you can’t get back to sleep.
- If it’s not too early and you can’t relax, then it may be best to just get up.
- Try taking Melatonin if you think the problem is mild to moderate depression – only available on prescription.
- If early-morning wakefulness persists and feeling low is the problem, see your doctor, as depression can be treated.
Sleep problem 2: You wake at night with a racing mind
Head of Wits Dial-a-Bed Sleep Laboratory Dr Alison Bentley says, “This is a symptom of the brain being in a ‘hyperaroused’ state from various thoughts, which results in insomnia as well. So you wake up easily and can’t drop off again.
- Limit yourself to one glass of wine in the evening, preferably with a meal at least a couple of hours before you turn in.
- Avoid caffeinated drinks for three to eight hours before bedtime – depending on how sensitive you are to its effects – and that includes hot chocolate.
- If you do wake, stay in bed with the lights off, relax, and listen to some soothing music, or even the radio for 15 minutes.
- Avoid clock-watching, as this just increases anxiety and will stop you from getting back to sleep.
Sleep problem 3: You’re exhausted, but can’t fall asleep
- Don’t go to bed too early.
- Get into a routine to relax before bedtime. For example, have a warm bath with a few drops of calming lavender, a soothing cup of warm milk or chamomile tea, or a quiet chat with your partner.
- Do some gentle upper-body stretches or light yoga to unclench tight muscles.
- Avoid stimulating TV programmes or depressing news before bedtime.
- Read a novel, or listen to an audio story or some soothing music.
- Don’t switch off the lights until you feel really sleepy.
- If you haven’t dropped off within half an hour, get out of bed, put on your dressing gown and sit in the dark until you feel drowsy.
Sleep problem 4: You wake up feeling boiling hot
- Keep the temperature in your bedroom under 21ºC (16 to 18ºC is ideal).
- Sleep naked, or wear a thin, loose cotton or linen nightdress or pyjamas.
- Consider a summer duvet, even in winter. Keep a bedspread or throw at the bottom of the bed that you can pull over if you’re cold.
- Add ice to the glass of water by your bed so it stays chilled throughout the night.
- Black cohosh is a herbal remedy that some people find helps with flushes.
DISCLAIMER: You must not rely on the information on this website/newsletter as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.