March 18, 2016 is World Sleep Day, a day dedicated to sleep disorder awareness and improving sleep quality. The slogan for Sleep Day 2016 is “Good Sleep is a Reachable Dream”.
Anyone who has ever suffered from insomnia knows how difficult it can be to function well after a night of poor sleep. Irritability, brain fog, slowed reaction times, even greater susceptibility to illness after a few sleepless nights. Stress is the most common cause of insomnia, but sleeplessness can have any number of other causes, including depression, pain, restless legs, and mineral deficiency.
Most of us spend about a third of our lives asleep. We still don’t fully understand what happens when we sleep, especially in the brain. We do know that our bodies use the downtime to repair and recharge itself, and to regulate hormone levels. We also have an idea that events of the day are processed and consolidated in the memory, though it’s unclear exactly how this happens. What we do know is getting sufficient good quality sleep is essential to being able to function well.
If you have trouble sleeping, there are several strategies you can try without resorting to medication. Even if you don’t have trouble sleeping, these strategies can still help you get a better, more restful sleep.
- Start by avoiding caffeine and other stimulants as much as possible, especially after about lunchtime.
- Eat a light to moderate dinner at least 3-4 hours before bed, and a light snack an hour or so before. A heavy meal can lead to sleep-disrupting indigestion, while hunger can cause restlessness.
- Take a walk after dinner, or get some other type of moderate exercise several times a week. Strenuous exercise can wind you up, so should be limited to earlier in the day, but light exercise can help tire you out so you can sleep.
- Establish a consistent sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time in the morning, even on weekends. Avoid sleeping in, even after a rough or late night, as this can make it harder to sleep the next night, leading to a cycle of sleepless nights and drowsy days.
- Establish a consistent bedtime routine. Brush your teeth, check the doors, set out your clothes and check your calendar and todo list for the next day, whatever it is, following the same routine every night will cue your body and brain that it’s time to start shutting down.
- Lower the lights and turn off all electronics, including the TV, at least a half-hour before bed. Try winding down during this time by reading or writing. Journaling before bed is a great way to ease stress by getting the thoughts out of your head onto paper.
- Dedicate your bedroom to sleep. Take out the TV, computer, and other electronics. Many people use their phone as an alarm clock. If you’re one of these, at least put the phone across the room so you’re not tempted to check it while you’re trying to fall asleep.
These strategies may take a few nights before you notice a difference. If, after a couple of weeks, you’re still having trouble, consider visiting a chiropractor, a naturopath, or acupuncturist. Any of these professionals can help you uncover and address the underlying causes of your insomnia, so you can sleep more easily.
To find out more about how you can get better sleep, call Sydney chiropractor Neurobalance now on 02 9938 5456 to arrange an appointment.