This week we had Arlo come into our bed in the middle of the night, most nights. Finally it dawned on us (in the middle of the night) that he had also had a nasty fall the week before and he’d missed being adjusted. The very next morning I adjusted him and to our relief he is sleeping through again.
I am a big fan of quality sleep. I don’t need a lot of sleep just a few hours of uninterrupted slumber when my nervous system (and my children’s as we see with the above example!) is calm and well functioning, then sleep is blissful!
Seemingly Australians love their sleep but unfortunately a recent survey found that :
- as many as 1 in 4 are not getting enough sleep.
- and for 1 in 10, sleeplessness is a chronic problem.
- in fact over 1.2 million Australians experience sleep disorders1.(the estimated cost of sleep disorders in Australia in 2004 was $10.3 billion)2
Adverse Affects of Sleep Deprivation
Short term sleep deprivation studies in humans have shown a variety of adverse health affects including4;
- activation of the sympathetic or flight/fright part of the nervous system
- impairment of our ability to metabolise sugar
- increased inflammatory responses in the body
Ongoing fatigue severely affects your quality of life, and the day to day functioning of a surprisingly large number of people. Many don’t even know they are fatigued. It often comes on so slowly and occurs in so many, that most consider their low energy levels to be normal.
Due to demand, sales of energy drinks loaded with sugar and caffeine are exploding. People are looking for short term solutions to boost their vitality, with predictable and unsatisfactory long-term consequences. Fatigue seems to perpetuate itself and is associated with a vast range of physical, mental and emotional consequences.
Conditions associated with fatigue6:
- Poor judgment and decision making
- Loss of appetite
- Poor memory, concentration and motivation
- Inability to focus
- Poor immune function
- Muscle weakness
- Inability to exercise and enjoy life
- Difficulty maintaining a job, family and relationship demands
As might be anticipated, medication used for insomnia is so common that somewhere between 3 to 10% of the general population is using pharmaceutical medication at any one time to help them sleep9. The most popular medications are associated with addiction and tolerance, thus alternative sleep promoting medicines are needed.
Interestingly, over- the-counter drugs (OTC) and prescription sleeping pills often make insomnia worse by interfering with the normal architecture of sleep and causing a type of hangover in the morning.
If approximately one-third of our lives are spent in bed so it makes sense to consider the necessary steps involved to ensure our body achieves quality sleep and there are many safe and natural methods to maximize and enhance sleep. Good lifestyle habits are the first step to getting a good night’s sleep.
Try these steps at home:
- Consider your intake of stimulants (eg coffee, tea, chocolate, coffee flavoured ice cream), stimulating herbs (eg ephedra, guarana), marijuana and other recreational drugs, OTC and prescription medications and your alcohol consumption. Consider your current sugar intake.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol late in the day. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and can keep you from falling asleep. Alcohol can cause waking in the night and interferes with sleep quality.
- Ensure you have a comfortable supportive mattress and pillow. Speak to your local doctor of chiropractic for specialist advice on choosing the right mattress and pillow for long term spinal health.
- Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, but avoid high intensity physical exercise just before bedtime. If exercising in the evening, try to do so at least 2-3 hours before going to sleep.
- Follow a routine to help relax and wind down before sleep, such as reading a book, listening to music, or taking a bath.
- If you can’t fall asleep and don’t feel drowsy, get up and read or do something that is not overly stimulating until you feel sleepy. This is a wonderful opportunity to try some meditation or relaxation techniques.
- Try to go to sleep at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning. Try not to take naps during the day because naps may make you less sleepy at night.
- Get checked by a recommended Chiropractor. Chiropractic Care may ease and assist with chronic sleep problems
- Don’t eat a heavy meal late in the day. A light snack before bedtime however, may help you sleep.
- Stress related sleeping disorders may result in teeth grinding which in turn can cause headaches. Sleeping with a dental night guard will eliminate grinding and its effects and potentially assist with the process of sleep. Chiropractors access the jaw and cranial bones helping to prevent grinding.
- Eliminate any ‘white noise’ in your room. Turn off television and other loud electrical appliances and make your sleeping place comfortable. Be sure that it is dark, quiet and not too warm or too cold. If light is a problem, try a sleeping mask. If noise is a problem, try earplugs.
- Adopt a healthy posture in bed. Don’t sleep on your stomach – this puts unnecessary pressure on your neck due to twisting of the head, and also strains your lower back. Lying on your back and side are the best sleeping positions. When lying on your side, try placing a pillow between your upper knee and the bed for support. When sleeping on your back, try placing a pillow under your knees to help reduce the strain on your lower back.
- If you have trouble lying awake worrying about things, try making a “to-do” list before you go to bed. This may help you to let go of those worries before you go to bed.
Good luck & sweet dreams!
. . . . .
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(3-5) i)The National Sleep Research Project â€“ 40 amazing facts about sleep. (2000). Retrieved from www.abc.net.au/science/sleep/facts.htm
ii)Researchers say lack of sleep doubles risk of deathâ€¦but so can too much sleep. (2007). Retrieved from
(6)Roth, T., & Ancoli-Israel, S. (1999). Daytime consequences and correlates of insomnia in the United States: results of the 1991 National Sleep Foundation survey. II. Sleep, 22 (Suppl 2), S354-S358.
(7 -8)Murray M Dr. The Importance of Sleep. Fx Mdicine Winter 2007. www. bioceuticals.com.au
(9) Australian Bureau of Statistics (1999) National Health Survey: Use of Medications, Australia, ABS Cat.No.4377.0, January.