Many times it’s not a lack of action but actions (plural) that can interfere with sleep. The average person should be able to get into bed and drift off within 5 to 15 minutes. If this is not the case then something is interfering with the typical sleep pattern.
Sleep, or the lack thereof, is influenced by different neurotransmitters in the brain and some substances can change the balance of these causing sleep interference. Caffeinated drinks or medicines (such as some diet pills) stimulate parts of the brain and can cause insomnia.
Heavy smokers tend to wake up after 3 or 4 hours of sleep due to nicotine withdrawal. In addition, alcohol has been linked to insomnia. While alcohol consumption may help someone fall asleep faster, it actually keeps them in the lighter stages of sleep, meaning they can be more easily awakened.
A common cause of sleep interference is diet. Eating late at night or eating foods that are high in sugar can affect a person’s ability to fall asleep. Although not typically considered a stimulant, sugar and refined carbohydrates can interfere with sleep by triggering the “fight or flight” part of the nervous system causing wakefulness.
Sleep apnea can also interfere with getting a good night’s sleep. Apnea literally means to stop breathing; an individual with sleep apnea may stop breathing in the middle of the night. When this happens the brain will trigger a response and breathing will resume with a loud gasp, snort or a body jerk. These episodes will interfere with sound sleep and sleep apnea is very dangerous as it has been linked with high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, adult asthma and more.
Last, but certainly not least, is environment. A good night’s sleep will be easily affected by a mattress that is either too firm or not firm enough, a poorly supportive pillow, and ambient lighting. Pain from a stiff back or neck while sleeping will interrupt sleep and once awake any light in the room may make it difficult to fall back to sleep.
About 60 million Americans a year have reported frequent insomnia or difficult sleeping for extended periods of time. It tends to increase with age and affects about 40% of women and 30% of men. The typical medical response to insomnia is a prescription for sleeping pills, but most will stop working after routine use and all will have one or more of the following side effects: headache, muscle aches, trouble concentrating, dizziness, unsteadiness or rebound insomnia (a worsening of long-term insomnia if a patient stops taking the drug). There are many things that can be done to improve sleep. Some logical dietary options include not drinking caffeine after 3 PM, keeping alcohol consumption to a minimum (or not at all) and not eating late at night or right before bedtime.
Another sleep improvement option includes “unplugging” at least an hour before bed. There are cells in the eyes that can affect the ability to sleep by registering if it is day or night. These cells cannot differentiate between real or artificial light and may be affected by light from a TV, computer or smartphone screen. Eliminating these sources of light (as well as the accompanying stimulation) at least an hour before bed may be wise.
The effect of light may also affect those who are awakened in the middle of the night by a call of nature. If possible, it’s important to rely on a night light or other softer light source as exposure to a bright light in the middle of the night may be enough to reset the body’s internal clock and make it difficult to return to sleep.
Many times insomniacs report that their brains “just won’t shut down”. This may be assisted with calming exercises prior to sleeping; for instance, reading a good book, meditating, gentle stretching or soaking in a warm tub an hour before bed.
Finally, a regular sleep schedule has proven to be conducive to a good night’s sleep. Going to bed at a regular time and awakening around the same time each morning helps support the body’s internal clock.
Beyond the obvious discussion of proper mattresses and pillows to support your neck and spine, your Family Wellness Chiropractor can discuss other wellness options to support your sleep lifestyle. If you’re having a difficult time going to sleep and waking well-rested, wellness options should be considered before resorting to prescription drugs.
For more information visit: www.huffingtonpost com/2013/09/11/natural-sleep-aids_n_3882229.html