Insomnia

Sleep, the one thing as a mum that I can never get enough of! Whether the kids are waking me up during the night, I’m worried about something or I’m busy getting ready for the next day, some mornings I just want to stay in bed!

While one or two sleepless nights can cause irritability, decreased energy and maybe even increased caffeine intake through the day (occasionally guilty!), most people can adapt to short-term sleep deprivation. If chronic, inadequate sleep compromises many areas of your life including, work, relationships and may contribute to health conditions. 

Insomnia is the persistent difficulty or inability to fall and/or stay asleep, which may be a symptom of an underlying health condition. 

Normal sleep consists of two main states, rapid eye movement (REM), which is most often associated with dreaming and non-rapid eye movement (non REM) which is when your body bolsters your immune system, repairs and rebuilds our body. The stages of sleep are further broken down. 

Stage 1: This is the lightest sleep stage when you drift in and out of sleep and can easily be woken up. 

Stage 2: During this stage, your body prepares to go into deep sleep, your body temperature decreases, your heart rate slows and muscle activity decreases. 

Stage 3 & 4: During these stages, it becomes more difficult to wake up as you have now entered the deep sleep phase where your brain waves slow down.

REM: In this stage, your breathing becomes more rapid, your heart rate speeds up, your eyes jerk rapidly and your brain becomes more active, processing your day. 

These phases last for different durations throughout the night and at various ages. An infants sleep cycle differs from an adult.

 

What causes insomnia? 

  • Poor sleeping habits or sleeping environment 
  • Stress, anxiety or depression
  • Pain or discomfort especially in conditions such as arthritis 
  • Restless legs 
  • Overuse of stimulants such as caffeine
  • Food sensitivities 
  • Menopause
  • Endocrine problems such as Hyperthyroidism
  • Allergies and/or sinus 
  • Some medications
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as reflux
  • Screen addiction

I suffer from insomnia, what can I do? 

Find out if there is an underlying medical condition that is contributing to insomnia. You can also make modifications to your diet and lifestyle. These include:

Lifestyle:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time, including on weekends. This will help train your biological clock
  • Avoid napping during the day
  • Exercise regularly however not just before bed as this may lead to lack of sleep!
  • Have a comfortable bed and pillows
  • Make your bedroom a comfortable temperature
  • Block out distracting noises (sometimes difficult when you have children!)
  • Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation and mindfulness. 
  • Reduce stress and avoid anxiety-provoking activities before bed such as an argument!
  • Take a hot bath with Epsom salts. Raising your body temperature will help induce sleep and the Epsom salts (which are magnesium sulphate) will help relax muscles and reduce tension
  • Avoid reading or watching stimulating shows before bed

Diet: 

  • Avoid caffeine 4-6 hours prior to bed. People particularly sensitive to caffeine may need to avoid for longer
  • Avoid alcohol, spicy foods and sugar 4-6 hours before bed
  • Avoid eating a heavy meal before bed. Ideally, leave a 3-hour gap between eating and bedtime.
  • Drink a herbal tea such as valerian root, lemon balm or passionflower to support relaxation and sleep
  • Eat a diet rich in magnesium, studies have found that magnesium can help promote a good nights sleep. Magnesium-rich foods include nuts, seeds, spinach, banana, dark chocolate, blackberries, raspberries and passionfruit.