I wake up, turn over, and see the same three glowing numbers I’ve been seeing for weeks now. It’s 4:30 a.m. and it’s like my alarm clock is taunting me. All I can think is, “Here we go again…”
If you’re like me, sleep has become more of a privilege than a right. And well, I’m just not that privileged. Funny thing is, I never used to have trouble sleeping at all — either that or my body simply requires much more sleep then than it did. What’s going on?
Currently, I am 26 years old and lucky when I can get four peaceful hours of sleep. And even that’s a stretch. Throughout the night, I wake constantly and then it’s no wonder that I greet the morning with sleepy eyes and a groggy feeling of total unrest. Otherwise, I am healthy, lead an active lifestyle, work out at least five days a week, stick to just one cup of coffee every morning and generally try to go to bed around the same time every night. So, why can’t I sleep? I decided it was time to do a little research and get some answers.
Experts say that there is no “magic number” of hours slept that will guarantee us to wake up well rested and feeling refreshed. Sleep needs are individual and what works for one person, may not work for another. However, experts can agree on one thing: mood and sleep are very closely related – which translates to: when we’re getting the right amount of sleep, we feel the best.
Last year, the Center for Disease Control declared “insufficient sleep” a public epidemic. Apparently, poor or inadequate sleep can lead to increased irritability, stress, anxiety and even depression. The less you sleep, the less time your body and mind have to regenerate and recharge, leaving you feeling grouchy and often times tense.
This begins a really negative cycle since the less sleep you get, the more stressed you become and here’s the really bad part: stress causes your body to release cortisol — our body’s “wake-up” hormone.
As it is, cortisol levels jump 50-60% within minutes of waking up each morning, which explains why you may feel energized after a fitful night of sleep upon waking, yet be lagging during the afternoon and evening hours.
So, here are a few helpful tips I’ve discovered that you (and I!) may want to try to keep cortisol levels down and get our sleep habits back on track:
Niacinamide– this is a vitamin B supplement that works by replacing the vitamin B3 in your body. It is a water soluble tablet and has also been known as a sleep inducer. Many studies have shown that it induces a feeling of calmness. However, this product can have varying side effects for individuals depending on what other medications you’re taking or health risks you may have. Be sure to see a doctor before trying this product.
Chamomile-plant best known for being made into an infusion (i.e.chamomile tea) commonly helping with sleep.
Keep a diary-keep track of what you did that day, what you ate and what medicines you are taking then make a note of how well you slept the next morning.
Get on a schedule-set a regular bed time and wake up around the same time everyday to help your body clock stay regulated.
Do something stimulating-be active! Get moving and tire yourself out, this could be as easy as taking a walk after dinner or taking an exercise class at your local gym. Just get moving!
Avoid alcohol-although many people may think a nightcap will help you to slumber, this is not the case. Recent studies have shown that drinking alcohol before bedtime can disrupt sleep and increase wakefulness.
Increase melatonin production naturally-turn off your TV and computers! Light suppresses melatonin production and watching TV can easily stimulate your mind rather than relax it.
How you feel and what you do throughout your day effects how well you sleep at night. Be conscious of what you’re putting into your body. “Toughing it out” and powering through your day will only make you more exhausted later. Since I’m already quite active and on a pretty regular sleep schedule, it’s time to try something new. Usually, I watch TV in bed until I fall asleep and apparently that has to stop! Let’s see if this melatonin theory works: for the next two weeks, I’m committing to only watching TV in my living room at night. Once I go into the bedroom, it’s because I’m going to sleep. My mind won’t be stimulated and there will be no light to suppress melatonin production. I will post my results. Wish me luck! (Actually wish me sleep!)