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  • I love a good night’s sleep! (part 2 of 3)

    An important trigger to stay asleep is that our core body temperature will drop. To allow this to happen, there are a number of issues to consider. Ideally do not over heat a bedroom in more temperate climates and use cooling when it is warmer. If you exercise late in the day, this can speed up metabolism and this can raise core body temperature. So exercise well in advance of bedtime. Similarly a large heavy meal will require a lot of energy to digest, so this may initially make you sleepy, but also keep you awake later. People have different metabolisms. A slimmer man will probably have a higher metabolism than a woman carrying more weight and he will potentially disturb her sleep if his higher temperature is felt under the covers. There are ways to deal with all of this. Our bodies manage our internal temperatures in a number of ways and you can assist this process by the conditions in which you sleep. Unfortunately as we get older many people find it more difficult to stay asleep.

    Darkness helps sleep. When you have your eyes closed, light can still be registered in light receptors in your eyes, even at low levels. So consider investing in block-out blinds or curtains. An eye patch can work beautifully to get a few hours more sleep at home in summer for example, or when travelling. Make sure that lights from electrical equipment are not in direct contact with your eyes. A digital clock right next to you can be a major disturbance and even a small power switch on a TV in a hotel room can be a problem, so cover them all up.

    Quietness helps with sleep. Consider a double glazed window in your bedroom to reduce noise from outside. In highly built up areas there can be a lot of noise from outside and in many parts of the world this is a standard feature of buildings however for some reason in Australia it is overlooked. Double-glazing assists with insulation and this may reduce your energy consumption too. I did this with my whole inner city apartment and I think that it’s the best investment that I have ever made.

    Be careful of stimulation! Our bodies are chemical factories so the excitement that results from many activities can cause lingering chemical reactions that will disturb sleep, long after the stimulation is gone. So prepare for sleep by winding down activities and settling the mind. Television often is very stimulating and it may be simply the snappy pace of a commercial designed with the exact purpose to grab our attention in a short amount of time and stay in our minds. Or it may be violence or devised tension in a thriller, or even something more exciting. So consider reading a book that relaxes you instead. Recently I have discovered that as I approach 50, even a cup of coffee in the morning is a stimulant that lingers. So now a strong cup of tea seems sufficient to wake me up. Food preservatives often used in some takeaway foods and wine can have an effect on me… and don’t be fooled folks, alcohol is a stimulant… lots of it may knock you out for a short while but will wake you prematurely and then consume your energy as your body fights the toxic invasion. I love a delicious glass of Barossa Shiraz but I also know that every glass is unquestionably poisoned. Every time you drink less, you improve your sleep and health.

    Bodyweight is also a consideration that affects sleep. If you are overeating, drinking and not exercising there will be many components that disturb sleep. Sleep apnea has strong links to being overweight, so fat around our breathing gear gets in the way so that we take in less oxygen… (and disturb partners too) The problem compounds in that when you are asleep, hunger is suppressed, so the more you wake up, the more that you will feel like midnight snacking…. Which is likely to result in more weight…. and this increased weight will affect your sleep…..and on and on. Please seek professional medical assistance available for this serious condition if you think that you or your partner stops breathing during the night. To keep airways open, consider your pillow in particular and your sleeping position. The right amount of support to allow a position that keeps your breathing easy is vital.

    Another good practice is to allow your mind some quiet time to review your day and process, before bringing this activity to bed. Many people’s lives are packed full and without some quiet time you can find that when getting into bed, your mind can race with thoughts of the day. Consider meditating. Scientifically proven to have massive benefits in a multitude of ways, I feel that meditation is the most powerful health technique that you can put into practice. Perhaps to start, find a technique that does not require any effort and will operate automatically. For “automatic” techniques the only discipline is to make the time to do it. For me once I settle, the technique is an effortless process. Perhaps consider a guided meditation that you can download from the internet. Meditating when you are close to sleep can be a conflict in activities, so meditate at the end of your working day prior to eating and in the morning as well if you can. You can always move on to higher techniques that involve a bit more mind control if you wish.

  • "I love a good night’s sleep!" Part 1 of 3

     

    by Ross Longmuir

    Isn’t it fantastic to wake up feeling alert, strong, energetic and happy? Good quality sleep is essential and better sleep can result in much better health for everyone. After talking to clients and thinking about how to help them to get the best night’s sleep, I have spent many hours over many years reading articles about sleep, watching TV programs and researching conditions myself. The following information is the core of what I believe can help everyone to have the best night’s sleep possible.

    There are many aspects that contribute to great sleep and everyone needs to consider multiple factors to get conditions right for their individual circumstances. We need to consider:

    1. how your body works
    2. behavioural patterns
    3. your sleeping environment
    4. chemical inputs

    Work out how much sleep is best for you, the best time to go to sleep and when to wake up. The amount of sleep that an individual requires varies enormously from person to person and this also varies with age and is dependant on daily activities. A person’s body clock is a permanent lifetime characteristic and is a feature that doesn’t seem to change. Some of us are more morning people and some more evening people. This characteristic is linked to daily physiological cycles and can be measured in fluctuations in our core body temperature and other chemical changes in our bodies. Contemporary conveniences like electric lights and other stimulations can influence our wake/sleep timings. I have worked out that seven or eight hours in one stretch from 11pm or midnight until 7.00-7.30 is great for me. More than 9 hours and I can feel foggy all day and less than 6 can make my day hell, however if I wake up after say only 5 hours, I can still rest and not be fully awake and the next day can work out quite well. You probably have a fair idea what works best for you.

    Regular patterns of sleep are most beneficial; so plan a time to go to sleep and a time to wake up that is set. Your body will respond to this pattern and it will become a more automatic thing. For example, many people report waking up just before the alarm time that they set every day. The idea of a “sleep bank” doesn’t usually work. So being short of sleep for a number of days in a row and then having an enormous sleep on one day is no where near as good for you as a regular amount of sleep every day at the same time. Obviously there can be many reasons why our patterns have to change to fit into changing schedules but trying to get closer to a steady routine can only benefit. Studies have suggested that in the historical past people would often wake up in the middle of the night for a while and this was normal. Don’t ask me how this was researched but sounds plausible…. if you go to sleep more closely with the daylight cycles and there is 12 hours of darkness or more in winter. So I guess that even a breast-feeding mother can improve her sleep if a routine is aimed at.

    An important trigger for us going to sleep is the release of melatonin that is manufactured daily by our bodies. We use this up every time that you go to sleep and manufacture it a new every day. Sunlight on our eyes helps with the manufacture of this chemical. So particularly in winter consider not wearing sunglasses when you are outside for the short part of the day that you can experience sunlight. For the same reason, try not to sleep during the day if you are not that fatigued, or you want to reset your sleep cycle. Staying awake till your planned bedtime means that you will gain the full strength benefit of the chemical hit that knocks you out. Both sunlight and not napping can help with the resetting of your sleep cycle after changing time zones and the issue of jetlag. If you find that you absolutely have to nap, set an alarm for 20 minutes. Longer than this, your brain goes into a deeper sleep cycle that is difficult to come out of and not feel groggy, and as a result it may be significantly more difficult to stick to regular patterns at your normal bed time. Regular exercise will also help with melatonin production. It doesn’t have to mean a gym session or a triathlon, just a brisk walk to the shops may do the trick. If you are jet lagged, try to look at strong sunlight as soon as possible after waking at your regular time as this will help to get you back into your normal cycle faster.

     

    Please let us know your opinion in the comments section below and obviously when in doubt always seek the advice of a medical professional for a serious condition. 

    Check back next week for Part 2 of 3!

     

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