The human body needs sleep. Over the last century the amount of sleep people get has declined by over an hour. It is estimated that at the turn of the twentieth century we averaged nine hours per night. Today the average is under eight hours per night.
It is fair to say that life has changed. The invention of the electric light has allowed us to be active after the sun goes down. For most people before this invention there was not a lot to do after dark except go to sleep. Furthermore people in most instances were tired after a hard days work.
Today we have a 24/7 society where the electric light allows for a multitude of activities to be done after dark. Even sports that were once played only during the day can now be played under lights. Many people continue to work after dark. Of course electronics allow us to be entertained when the sun goes down too.
Nobody wants to turn back the clock, yet there also is no such thing as a free lunch. Tiredness is one of the commonest complaints I hear from patients. In turn, lack of sleep is the commonest reason for this. There are many health issues associated with lack of sleep. Even our chances of becoming obese or getting high blood pressure are influenced by our sleep patterns.
Many people complain of the difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep.
Whilst asleep every part of the body is “active” except the conscious mind. The lungs breathe, the heart pumps, the kidneys filter the blood and so on. To get to sleep means we need to slow the mind down. We need to reduce external and internal stimuli. It is the “chatter “ of the mind the keeps many awake.
So what can you do to sleep better?
There are two categories here. The first group is what you do during the day to help you sleep better at night.
1) Do regular exercise.
2) Take up meditation yoga or tai chi.
3) Eat more fruit and vegetables and less refined processed carbohydrates.
4) Manage your stress.
The second group is things you do in the lead up to, and the time of going to bed. Not everything works for everybody, so use what works for you.
1) Have a routine. Go to bed around the same time each night.
2) Switch of screens, be it TV or computer at least 45 minutes before bed time.
3) Burn some fragrant candles with a calming scent.
4) Do not drink caffeine after 6pm.
5) Listen to calming forest music or play a guided relaxation.
6) Have a comfortable mattress and pillow.
7) Make the bedroom dark and quiet.
8 ) Drink a calming tea like chamomile tea.
This sounds so obvious but when you are tired in the evening-go to bed. We would not dream of not having a drink when you are thirsty so why do we not sleep when we are tired Changing sleep patterns also takes time. Sleeping tablets, other than for VERY occasional use, are not the answer and can even make the situation worse. You need to allow three months to establish a new sleep pattern.
The first step to sleeping better is making it a priority in your life rather than something you do when everything else is finished. You will be amazed at how much better you will look and feel when you get enough sleep.
Medical Doctor, author, speaker, media presenter and health industry consultant, Dr Joe Kosterich wants you to be healthy and get the most out of life.
Joe writes for numerous medical and mainstream publications, is clinical editor at Medical Forum Magazine, and is also a regular on radio and television.
Joe is Medical Advisor to Medicinal Cannabis Company Little Green Pharma, Chairman of Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association and sits on the board of Arthritis and Osteoporosis WA. He is often called to give opinions in medico legal cases.