Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Ways to overcome your sleep problems

Do you ever wonder how we make new cells, organs, tissues, skin, muscles, bone and even brain cells?

We don’t just manufacture them from thin air, the raw materials all come from what we eat, this is processed and absorbed by our cells to renew and rejuvenate the body. All this while we are asleep. Just like food is medicine, sleep is also medicine and may even be more important than diet. 

So if you have difficulty getting your daily quota of restful sleep, here’s what might be causing the disruption. Once you recognise the causes, how are you going to make the change for the better?

Questions to ask yourself?

How do I know whether I have good or poor quality sleep?

When you wake up each morning, your body will tell you whether it is well rested, you will experience a sense of well being in the first few minutes of waking up, your head will clear, your eyes will freshen up and you will embrace the day. If you have not slept too well, a few signs will fall short and if you have slept poorly, you will need you drag yourself out of bed and through the day too a lot like a hangover or drunk driving where you just go through the motions without really knowing what is happening. Listen to your body.

How many hours a night is considered a good night’s sleep?

Historically, man was made to work sunrise to sunset, so ideally one should begin winding down for the day at sunset, sleep before midnight and wake up at sunrise. Each one’s system does vary, some are comfortable with eight hours a night, some need nine hours and many may be fine with six to seven hours of sleep a night. Less than that will have long-term negative effects on your health. Find your number that makes you feel vibrant.

What are the consequences of not getting enough sleep?

Sleep regulates your brain function, helps stabilize your mood, and is a time when the body heals. It is absolutely critical for a healthy body. Over half of the world does not sleep well. Lack of sleep is degrading our health. We feel it in our energy levels, its hard to focus, and can contribute to chronic illnesses such as; Heart disease, depression, diabetes and permanent brain damage, it is only at night that the brain’s system cleans out lymphatic brain waves and repairs the body of metabolic waste.

What are unexpected things that drive poor sleep?

It is important to ask yourself why your sleep is disturbed in the first place? 

Has your circadian rhythm been disturbed? 

Have you fallen into a trap of an unusual sleep cycle? 

Are you exercising late in the evening?

Do you have a magnesium deficiency?

Eating a dinner heavy in carbohydrates and sugars promotes inflammation within the body, cut it out, especially at night?

Alcohol, caffeine and smoking are huge players in driving poor sleep.

Is it important to sleep and wake up at the same time every day?

Are sleep trackers addictive and effective?

Diagnosis— know the reason for your sleeplessness.

There are many possible reasons for sleeplessness; these could include your sleeping habits, lifestyle choices, and medical conditions 

Some causes are minor and may improve with self-care, while others may require you to seek medical attention. 

With age, sleeplessness does roll out and you need to be mindful of your habits that could cause you not to sleep. Too much stimulation before bedtime (such as watching television, playing video games, or exercising), consuming too much caffeine, noise disturbances, an uncomfortable bedroom, or a feeling of excitement, Sleeping too much during the day, lack of exposure to sunlight, frequent urination, physical pain, jet lag, and some prescription medications may also lead to difficulty sleeping.

If your sleep difficulties are ongoing and affecting your quality of life, seek medical attention. After a series of questions on your sleep patterns a diagnosis will be made. Sleep disorders that need medical attention are: insomnia, sleep apnea, delayed sleep phase disorder and restless legs syndrome. During your appointment, be sure to tell your doctor about any prescription medications, over-the-counter products, and herbal supplements that you take. Some medications and supplements cause overstimulation and can disrupt your sleep if taken too close to bedtime, other problems, such as depression, anxiety, or chronic pain should also be mentioned. Once diagnosed, multiple treatments are available to send you back on track.

Insomnia —is a common sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep, or cause you to wake up too early and not be able to get back to sleep.

Sleep Apnea — is a condition where there’s a blockage in the upper airways. This results in pauses in breathing throughout the night that may cause you to abruptly wake up, often with a choking sound. Snoring commonly occurs in this disorder.

Restless Legs Syndrome — This condition causes uncomfortable sensations in your legs, such as tingling or aching. These sensations give you the urge to make your legs move frequently, even while resting, interrupting your sleep.

Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder — This condition causes a delay in the 24-hour cycle of sleep and wakefulness. You may not feel sleepy or fall asleep until the middle of the night. This sleep cycle makes it harder for you to wake up early in the morning and leads to daytime fatigue.

Writing a sleep diary is a good recommendation, record your days activities and sleep habits such as the time you went to bed, the time you woke up, the amount of food and the drinks you consumed, your mood, any medications you took, your activity level, and your quality of sleep. From this data your doctor pinpoint habits that may trigger sleep issues and may schedule a sleep study test to make the diagnosis. 

Sleep test study — A sleep specialist will observe you throughout the night. Your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, oxygen level, and brain waves will be monitored for any signs of a sleep disorder.


Treatment options —

Sleeping aids — without prescription medication, be mindful to read directions closely and avoid dependency with regular breaks. Treat underlying conditions as these may be the root cause.

Supplements that aid sleep — magnesium on a chemical level activates the parasympathetic nervous system, the system responsible for getting you calm and relaxed. It also regulates the hormone melatonin, which guides sleep-wake cycles in your body.

Lifestyle changes — avoid: caffeine and alcohol two hours before bedtime daytime napping.

Methods to fall asleep — 

Progressive Muscle Relaxation or deep muscle relaxation to help you unwind by releasing the tension from your muscle

  • Raise your eyebrows as high as possible for five seconds, feel your forehead muscles tighten, relax, feel the tension drop, wait for ten seconds.
  • Smile widely to create tension in your cheeks, hold for five seconds, relax, wait for ten seconds.
  • Squint with your eyes shut, hold for five seconds, relax, wait for ten seconds.
  • Tilt your head slightly to look at the ceiling, hold for five seconds, relax and sink your head back into the pillow, wait for ten seconds.
  • Then move to your chest and shoulders, tighten, hold for five seconds, relax and wait for ten seconds.
  • Go to the lower body; hips, legs, calves, feet tighten, hold, relax, wait.

As you do this, focus on how relaxed and heavy your body feels when it’s relaxed and in a comfortable state getting you sleep ready.


The Military Method, a scientific method of focusing on breathing and muscle relaxation takes six weeks of practice, it makes you fall asleep in two minutes.

  • Shut your eyes, Relax your face, relax your tongue, relax your jaw
  • Drop your shoulders, release the tension, and let your hands drop on either side of your body
  • Exhale, relax your chest, relax your legs, thighs, and calves
  • Clear your mind and thoughts by focusing on your breath, within ten seconds you will fall asleep.

4-7-8 Breathing Method is mixing together the powers of meditation and visualization, to prepare, place the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth, behind your two front teeth. Keep your tongue there the whole time and purse your lips if you need to.

Part your lips slightly and make a whooshing sound exhaling through your mouth

Purse your lips and inhale through your nose to a count of 4.

Hold your breath to a count of 7.

Exhale, parting your lips slightly and make a whooshing sound exhaling through your mouth to a count of 8.

Repeat the cycle as many times as needed, till you do it without concentration and become mindless to fall asleep.

Also try —

  • A warm shower before bedtime
  • No heavy food or caffeine two hours before bedtime
  • Chamomile tea
  • Wearing socks if its cold
  • Aromatherapy around you
  • Fresh air (keep a window open)
  • Hiding your clock, phone in airplane mode in another room
  • Black out curtains, white noise, ear plugs, eye masks

Let your room be filled with positive energy to invite an atmosphere for soundless slumber. 

Optimize sleep — it is vital.


Vinita Alvares Fernandes
Vinita Alvares Fernandes is an Economics graduate, a writer and a Trinity College certified public speaker and communicator

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