Lorn Healthy Options weekly health tip – January 13

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Top tips for sleep improvement

In our last message before the Christmas break we spoke about how important sufficient sleep is when trying to calm the nervous system and reduce our pain perception.

We mentioned a regular sleep routine is the first step to improving your chance of a good night’s sleep but there are other strategies we can employ. Each of these in isolation may not change your world immediately but the more you can implement, the greater your chance of a peaceful and unfragmented night.

Reduce your caffeine intake. Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, cola and chocolate and compromises your ability to get to sleep and to stay asleep as a result of the way it acts on your brain.

It also acts on the brain for a prolonged period with a half life of around six hours and a quarter life of 12. This means that a cup of coffee at 12 noon has the same effect as going to bed at midnight and before turning off the light you drink a quarter cup of coffee and then expect a good night’s sleep.

Avoid alcoholic drinks before bedtime. Although many believe a nightcap will help them sleep, alcohol robs us of our dream sleep and litters our evening with momentary wake ups and trips to the loo. As a result, we believe we have gained a full night’s sleep but it was significantly fragmentated and we feel fatigued and groggy. This makes us use more caffeine the following day. You can see where I’m going here.

Don’t nap in the evening. If you are prone to nodding off after dinner while watching the TV, you may struggle to get to sleep at your planned bed time. Early evening naps reduce your ‘sleep pressure’ meaning you may not feel sleepy again until the early hours.

Get technology out of the bedroom. Make the bedroom somewhere you go to sleep, not a venue to watch TV or spend time on tablet or phone. This reduces our ability to decelerate our brain and the light emitted from the screens can trick our brain into believing it is still daytime.

If you wake up in the early hours and struggle to get back to sleep don’t lie in bed getting more frustrated. After 20 minutes get up and do something non stimulating like reading a book – not a Kindle – with the lights kept low until you feel ready to sleep again.

Try some chilled music or deep breathing techniques. Keep the bedroom relatively cool and if you are a clock watcher turn the face away from you.

Good luck.

Rob Graham, lead exercise professional, Healthy Options.