Health

Solving Sleep Problems For More Energy

January 25, 2016
Man comfortably sleeping in his bed

Sleep problems are all too common. Many people find getting to sleep or staying asleep difficult and struggle through their day as a result. Sleep deprivation can leave you feeling fatigued, foggy-brained, and stressed, and research also suggests that lack of sleep could shorten your lifespan.

Lack of sleep can also undermine your intentions to exercise – who feels like exercise when they are tired? – and could cause you to become reliant on caffeine and fast-acting carbs to give you energy. Needless to say, an over-reliance on coffee and sugar is not good for your health.

In desperation, many people turn to over-the-counter and prescription sleep aids in an effort to get more sleep but this often compounds the problem. Although you’ll sleep, the sleep is unnatural and can leave you feeling groggy and unable to wake up easily.

If you have tried the common solutions to poor sleep detailed in this article but are still having sleep problems, here are SIX more tips to try…

Simulate sunset

Waking and sleeping are regulated by something called the circadian rhythm which is a cycle linked to daylight and darkness. In simple terms, your body should naturally feel sleepy when the sun goes down and light begins to dim.

However, with the advent of electricity and lightbulbs, we no longer go to sleep just because it gets dark and often stay up many hours into the night which really confuses your natural sleeping instincts.

To remedy this, try dimming the lights an hour or so before you are due to go to bed to simulate sunset. This should help reset your body clock so it naturally wants to go to and stay asleep during darkness. For this reason, also avoid bright lights during your pre-bed routine i.e. when brushing your teeth. Also, ensure your bedroom is as dark as possible and avoid any bright reading lights or the glow from smartphones or tablets which can undo the benefits of dimming the lights before bed.

Get some daylight as soon after waking as possible

On waking, many of us spend most of our days under artificial light and are seldom exposed to natural sunlight. This can further disrupt your sleeping/waking cycle. To synchronize your body clock with your natural circadian rhythm, try and get out in natural light as soon as possible after waking – even if it’s just for a few minutes. This simple act will help retrain your body to expect to be awake during daylight and, therefore, asleep when it’s dark.

Have your last meal two hours before bedtime

Eating a big meal too close to bedtime can interfere with sleep. Your stomach will be full, your blood glucose elevated and, simply, your body has a lot to deal with before it will allow you to float off to sleep. For that reason, make sure your final meal of the day is over and done two hours or so before you go to bed. This meal should be balanced and contain complex, slow-releasing carbs and some healthy fats as well as protein.

If you also find that nighttime urinations wake you up, have a “fluid curfew” and do not drink anything during the two hours before bedtime. This should reduce your chances of needing to get up to go to the toilet during the night. If you do feel the need for a nighttime pee, just get up and go as lying in bed waiting for the urge to urinate to pass is much more disruptive to sleep than getting up and going!

Fatigue your brain

Most people spend the last few hours of each evening watching TV. There is nothing especially wrong with passive entertainment but it’s hardly mentally taxing. If you brain is unfatigued, it’s somewhat unreasonable to expect it to shut off and allow you to sleep simply because you decide it’s time to go to bed.

Instead of zoning out in front of the TV, use your evenings a little more constructively and challenge your brain. Learn a musical instrument, practice a foreign language, play a memory or general knowledge game, or read a non-fiction book. Fatiguing your brain should make falling asleep much easier.

Try the 4-7-8 breathing technique

This unusual method promises to put you to sleep within 60-seconds. Hyperbolic claims aside, focusing on breathing and getting plenty of oxygen has been shown to promote relaxation which could lead to better sleep. The scientific jury is still out whether the 4-7-8 method really works but anecdotal reports are promising and as it’s drug-free and natural, there is certainly no harm in giving it a try.

Simply repeat the following five-step sequence until you (hopefully) fall asleep…

  1. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
  2. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  3. Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  4. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
  5. This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat.

Observe the 1 ½ hour rule

Sleep is paradoxical – too little is bad for your health but then, so too, is too much. Both too little and too much sleep is linked to premature death. However, when it comes to making the most of your day, nothing undermines productivity and energy like too little sleep.

Most adults need between six and nine hours per night and experts agree that most people respond best to sleep in multiples of 1 ½ hours i.e. 6, 7 ½ or 9 hours). This 1 ½ hour “rule” ties in nicely with the natural cycle of sleep.

For many, simply adhering to the 1 ½ hour sleep rule can alleviate early morning fatigue even if that actually means waking up a little earlier to avoid disrupting a sleep cycle.

As you undoubtedly know, lack of sleep doesn’t just leave you foggy-minded and tired the next day; chronic, long-term, insufficient sleep increases your risk of diabetes, depression, cardiovascular disease, and even weight gain. Try these unusual tweaks and wake up feeling more well-rested, refreshed and energetic.

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