Have you ever been caught yawning a lot, and no, you ARE interested in what is going on or what the person in front of you is saying. The issue goes deeper. In fact, the issue is such a health issue that the Australian parliament in 2019 ordered a federal inquiry into it!
If you are like 51% of Australian adults, poor sleep might be affecting you too. You cannot fall asleep or you have trouble staying asleep.
Some sleepy and worrying stats:
A 2017 Sleep Health Foundation found that:
44% of adults use the Internet just before bed every night. Of these, 59% have two or more sleep problems and this set comprises late-night workers, web surfers, movie nerds and online gamers.
According to the 2018 Philips Global Sleep Survey:
51% of Australian adults stayed up the night because of worry, 27% due to illness/physical discomfort and 21% due to technology distractions.
A separate 2019 survey found that:
24% of Australians worry about their children, 15% about ageing parents, 19% about work pressure and 14% about job security.
almost 28% of 12-15 year-olds with internet access in their bedrooms did not meet sleep guidelines, found a 2018 LSAC study. Not just before bed, almost 1 in 5 16-17-year-olds spending 8 or more hours per day on the internet were short on sleep.
Exposure to blue light from digital screens can reduce sleep by 16 minutes and cause an average of 7.6 sleep disruptions at night, reports Science Daily.
So if you (recognised yourself among these numbers or you know someone affected by poor sleep) have sleep trouble, here are a few things that might enhance the quality and length of nights sleep:
1. Go to sleep at a regular time EACH day, even on the weekends.
This is where many come undone. Have you heard the term ‘social jet-lag’ and ‘sleep bulimia’?
Not sure what I am talking about...it means going to bed early on the weeknights (after all we all are responsible adults ;) BUT staying up super long on the weekends and then sleeping in in order to try to catch up for the missed sleep. Rings a bell? Well if it does, then you might also experience an inability to fall asleep on Sunday night before the week work begins.(yikes) Maybe when you were 15, you could get away with this, but consistency is key for good quality sleep. Remember, you can’t make up for lost sleep!
2. Get a chiropractic adjustment regularly.
No, I am not joking. Chiropractic adjustments have been found to help patients have a better night's sleep. This is because the adjustment can have a down regulating effect on the fight or flight response (which would otherwise keep you up at night). For example, if you've ever gone to bed stressed or worried, you might have noticed that you have trouble sleeping or the sleep you had was light and superficial. This is your body's natural defences keeping you ‘safe’ from the perceived danger. In my practices, I’ve seen many patients starting to yawn and become much more relaxed and sleepy after their treatment - it just goes to show how much tension and stress their bodies accumulated, and how that would effect having a good night's sleep.
3. Turn of the devices before sleep
I hope this is not new information for you, but a gentle reminder!!! Blue light has been found to significantly affect sleep. It changes the natural body rhythm called the “circadian rhythm” - which is technically your biological clock. Blue wavelengths—which are beneficial during daylight due to boosting attention, reaction times, and mood— are most disruptive at night. With the increased use of electronics with screens, as well as energy-efficient lighting, we are increasing our exposure to blue wavelengths, especially after sundown.
So how to combat this? Here are some tips that worked for me:
Reduce your computer work after the sun sets. Studies show that over an hour device and PC use after dark significantly affects your sleep cycle. The suggestions are to limit the use of tech at night, particularly 2-3 hours before bedtime.
Download the apps that reduce the blue light onto your pc or phone/devices.
Wear blue light blocking glasses when doing work or using electronics
4. Stop caffeine! Yes that even means reducing your chocolate intake.
I’m the first to admit that I love a good cup of coffee. But, if I have to choose, I value my sleep more. So I am on the journey (again) to reduce my caffeine intake, especially since (by doing more research for this sleep series) I have been reminded about what it does to the body.
Have you heard of adenosine? Well, when we wake up in the morning, our brain begins to release a chemical called adenosine, over the day, adenosine is accumulated and by doing so, it binds to the adenosine receptors which allows your brain to signal your body that it is tired. What caffeine does is block these same receptors so that adenosine cannot bind to it, and you trick your brain into thinking it is not tired. However, when the caffeine wears off, the unbound adenosine rushes to the adenosine receptors causing you to perceive suddenly how tired you are - aka caffeine crash leaving you often in much worse condition then if you were able to understand and adapt to your real level of tiredness.
What most of us are unaware is that the half-life of caffeine is 6 hours and quarter-life is 12 hours - so if you have caffeine at noon- you still have 50% of the caffeine in your system at 6 pm and consequently 25% of the caffeine in your brain at midnight! So, if you are adhering to the advice of no more than 400 mg of caffeine (approximately 2 strong cups of coffee) take into consideration that your poor brain needs as much some stimuli free time as possible during the night time.
But what is just as concerning is the ‘hidden’ caffeine. It is in teas, matcha, chocolate, kombucha, sodas and even medication, so all this may provide your body with more caffeine than you are aware of and certainly much more than the advised limit of 400mg.
Interestingly, many say I can have a coffee before I sleep, and I sleep just fine, or I used to it. Well… I do not want to be a pain but there is plenty of studies showing that even though people might be falling asleep and sleeping through the night, coffee intake disturbs/decreased the sleep - stage 3 and 4 (Nah... who needs sleep that is crucial for physical renewal, hormonal regulation, growth, processes and synthesises memories and emotions). But in all seriousness, this type of sleep is important for your optimal performance and although many people use coffee just to give me a little bit of an edge, be cautious because consuming it irresponsibly might just blunt that edge of yours in the long run.
5. Have a sleep ritual or a wind-down ritual
Sleep ritual is your ‘wind-down’ routine which should begin at least 30 minutes before you go to sleep.
Most people think that sleep is like an "on" or "off" button. In fact many get caught out later on in life, with the inability to fall asleep, because in the past they were able to fall asleep before their head hit the pillow. Not creating sleep rituals in the early stages of life may negatively you especially as
sleeping naturally gets a little more difficult the older you get.
A sleep ritual can consist of:
Putting on Pjs
Winding down to read a book for a short period of time
2 drops of Lavender oil on your pillow or sleep mask,
Switching lights off and having a candle or low lighting
Laying down and doing some deep breaths
I recommend trying all of these, and other things, for at least a 2 weeks before deciding what works best for you.
For example, my husband will tell you that if I have had a super stimulated or stressful day my brain just won't switch down (which is a ‘delightful’ thing to see at 12 am). So my hack is playing some white noise like rain or wind sounds with a 30 min timer. With these sounds I found myself falling asleep quicker and having a deeper and more restful sleep.
Not sure how to do it? You can do this through Spotify.
Download the white noise track, it can be wind, rain, storm, sleep sounds etc
Put your phone on aeroplane mode (removing electronics is ideal, but if you want static noise you need to be able to play it; therefore, aeroplane mode is the next best thing).
Set a timer in the Spotify app or in the timer section of your phone.
See picture to the right. This can be done in the clock app of the iPhone
Close your eyes and enjoy pretending that you are in a comfortable tent while the storm or gentle rain is hitting your tent cover.
So these are just a few steps to help calm the mind down and get you ready for a good sleep and remember consistency and persistency is the key! So try some of these tips, and let me know which one works best for you!
P.s. Sleep tight, or loose, or however, you like... Just sleep!