As human beings, we need to sleep. The amount of sleep we need varies depending on our age and our general metabolism, but generally, the average adult needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night. If you’re constantly feeling tired during the day, then you’re probably not getting enough sleep. But short of taking a sleeping pill, are there any other ways you can improve the quality and quantity of your sleep? Thankfully, yes!
What do Sleep Problems Look Like?
When we talk about sleep problems, we’re really talking about a broad spectrum of issues – and all of us have experienced them at least once in our lives. For the most part, sleep problems look like exactly what they sound like – when you have problems with sleep. This could be problems getting to sleep, staying asleep, sleeping too long or not getting enough sleep. They can manifest as you tossing and turning all night, waiting to get to sleep and getting frustrated that you can’t. It could be that you fall asleep easily but you wake up at the slightest noise, so you never really get to that REM sleep phase you need so much. Or getting to sleep might not be the problem at all, but you might wake up early and be stuck awake from then on – even if it’s 1am.
Sleep is such a fundamental need for us that problems sleeping can have a big knock-on effect in our lives. For example, lack of sleep can make you irritable, interfere with your memory, slow your reactions, make you gain weight, weaken your immune system, send your blood pressure skyrocketing and increase your risk for things like diabetes and heart disease, as well as your risk of getting into an accident and injuring yourself. Sleep is a crucial need that can impact your entire life. That’s one of the reasons we take sleep problems so seriously – because they can become a trigger for all sorts of other issues.
What Causes Sleep Issues?
More general or sporadic problems sleeping can be caused by all sorts of things, from having too much caffeine before bed to stress, anxiety or bad sleep hygiene. Unfortunately, the causes for more severe sleep problems like insomnia are also caused by similar things, so it can be difficult to pin down the exact cause. But a few of the most common causes for sleeping problems include:
- Room temperature – too hot or too cold
- An uncomfortable bed
- Alcohol, caffeine or nicotine
- Recreational drugs
- Medical conditions (like sleep apnoea, restless leg syndrome or narcolepsy)
- Jet lag
- Shift work
- Neurodivergent diagnosis – like ADHD and Autism, often come with sleep struggles
Unsurprisingly, Covid-19 has caused a big spike in stress, anxiety and depression, which has caused a surge in sleep problems as well.
Tips to Help Improve Your Sleep
Better Sleep Hygiene: One of the main reasons so many people struggle with falling asleep is due to poor sleep hygiene. Being on your phone even as you’re in bed sends mixed signals to your brain, artificial blue light from screens delays your internal body clock and suppresses melatonin – both of which are things you need to get to sleep. So about an hour before bedtime, unplug from the electronics and spend some time winding down.
Hypnotherapy: Hypnotherapy is a great tool to help with sleep issues, especially if they’re caused by anxiety and racing thoughts. Using a combination of talking therapy, hypnosis and hypnotherapy tapes for you to listen to, hypnotherapy teaches you how to clear your mind and allow your body to drift off into sleep on its own. It’s also a technique you can do at home on your own. We have some tapes and tutorials you can try on our MELP app.
Exercise: No, we don’t mean do some sit-ups right before bed. Studies show that exercising 3-4 times a week can help improve your sleep, even if it’s just light exercise. Regular exercise not only tires you out, but increases the time you spend in deep sleep. During this time your heart rate slows, your muscles are relaxed and your brain waves are nice and slow – the perfect recipe for restorative sleep. Just make sure you don’t exercise right before bed, as this might have the opposite effect!
Meditation: If your mind is busy keeping you awake at night, meditation can also be helpful. The practise of meditation goes back hundreds of years, with the aim of quieting the mind and finding inner peace. Mediating before bed has been shown to relieve stress and promote feelings of calmness. It can also increase melatonin and serotonin, and improve the autonomic nervous system, which controls how easily you fall asleep and wake up. If you’re new to meditation, you can try guided meditation to help you out. We have some great guided mediation audios available through the MELP app.
At The Holistic Healthcare Group we understand how important sleep is to our ability to function and to be the happiest, healthiest versions of ourselves. That’s why we have a range of solutions designed to help with sleep issues. Alongside our virtual clinic, we also have the MELP app, which gives you access to hundreds of tools, techniques and instructional videos to try. So you can experiment and find the solution that works for you, without having to spend a fortune doing it. If you would like to know more, just get in touch with the team today, or download MELP from the app store.