Not able to sleep?
Not able to stay awake?
TEN suggestions to help.
Many people DO NOT sleep well and as a result, are chronically sleep-deprived. Sleep deprivation is caused by many factors such as anxiety, frequent bathroom breaks interrupting sleep, rotating shift-work schedules, an inability to fall asleep or an inability to stay asleep. Day after night, the cycle repeats again.
Sleep-deprivation is dangerous for general health, causing weight gain, depression and the development of diseases like diabetes or cardiovascular symptoms related to stroke, high blood pressure and/or irregular heartbeats. Problems are not only caused by the lack of sleep, but also caused as a result of the remedies people use to help themselves stay awake or fall asleep. Drinking caffeine or using stimulants to stay awake or using alcohol or sedatives to promote sleep have not been found to work long-term and may cause more problems.
Sleep-deprivation can impair safety at work or home. Lacking sufficient sleep while operating machinery such as a vehicle, tracker or other heavy equipment can cause accidents, mistakes, learning and memory problems. Sleep deprivation impairs performance on tasks that require decision making, a quick and accurate response and the ability think flexibly, shifting quickly from one thing to the next.
So, how does sleep work? Everyone has a sleep-wake cycle. Our brain naturally produces melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland, a small gland shaped like a pine cone (hence its name) of the endocrine system. It produces melatonin when you are in darkness. Although melatonin production is significant to the sleep—wake cycle, there are many other factors. Current research indicates that the brain does not have specific areas that control a sleep, wakefulness or a specific brain function to regulate when the sleep-cycle gets switched on and off. Instead, the brain relates sleep through a complex network of redundant structures that promote sleep by inhibiting activity of some areas and stimulating the activity of others. A complex interaction of nerve-signaling chemicals called neurotransmitters regulate the timing, sequencing and activation of different processes of the brain, influencing the sleep-wake cycle.
- Sleeping in a cool room in total darkness without light from a clock, phone, computer, television or window interrupting the production of melatonin in your brain.
- Eat foods containing TRYPTOPHAN like bananas, dates, nut butters, tuna, turkey, yoghurt and (hot) milk. Eat CARBOHYDRATES like bread or cereal.
- Avoid alcohol use before sleep. Alcohol may induce sleep initially, can cause you to wake up to use the bathroom or to eat since a few hours after the alcohol digests, your glucose levels drop after ingesting the high sugar levels from alcohol. Alcohol also interferes with deep restorative sleep stages.
- Practice deep breathing (the correct way) to increase feeling calm, relaxed and less stressed.
- Use “blue-light” glasses/goggles to filter and eliminate the “blue light rays” emitted from televisions, computer screens and other artificial light. Only blue light stops the production of melatonin, a hormone associated with sleep.
TO WAKE UP
- Eat high protein foods (Greek yogurt (23g/8oz.), collage cheese (14g/1/2 cup), steak (top or bottom round) (23g/3oz.), or chicken breasts (24g/3oz.).)
Eat foods containing TYRAMINE (bacon, ham, pepperoni, eggplant, raspberries, avocados, nuts, sauerkraut, beer-on-tap, miso soup, soy sauce and red wine.) (**not if you take MAO inhibitors)
- Exercise as strenuously as possible when you wake up or when feeling tired to increase your body temperature, blood pressure and heart rate.
- Take a hot shower or bath so your body temperature rises, making it more difficult for (some) people to sleep.
- Consume caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, soda or “energy drinks” to increase alertness.
- Expose yourself to bright light to send arousal signals to the cerebral cortex to maintain wakefulness.
If you feel you’ve tried and continue to have difficulty getting or staying asleep, make an appointment with your primary care physician to discuss your difficulties. He/she may recommend an assessment and treatment for specific symptoms.