Why Can't I Sleep
As a nation, we're increasingly tired and find it easy to fall asleep when we shouldn't - at our desks, on the train, during lectures.
But when it comes to climbing into bed where all our troubles should dissolve in a delicious drowning wave of sleep, we've never been more awake!
Sleeping problems come in many different forms.
- Finding it difficult to drop off to sleep.
- Waking in the night and finding it hard to go back to sleep.
- Waking in the early morning and finding it impossible to go back to sleep until just before the alarm goes off!
- Waking up in the morning feeling as if you've been submerged in glue - sleep has been fitful or just unrefreshing and it's really hard to get up.
So how much sleep is enough and why do we need it so much?
There is no such thing as the avera ge person, but anything from four and a half to ten and a half hours sleep will be needed, with most people clocking in around seven to eight hours. Teenagers need more (as if you didn't know that!) and some firebrands, such as Margaret Thatcher, famously only need about four hours.
Our bodies use our sleeping h ours to recover from the exertions of the day, doing necessary repairs and restoring stocks of vital ingredients. A bit like having a bunch of housekeepers come in at night to clean a building up, restock its cupboards and empty the rubbish.
The mind also uses the time to filter everything that has happened that day. That's why you can sometimes wake up with the solution to a problem that seemed insoluble the day before - your mind has processed it in the night and found the answer. Sleeping on it is a great technique, but obviously you actually need to sleep - staring at the ceiling all night doesn't have the same effect...
Some causes of sleeping problems...
Caffeine intake. Yes, everyone knows that caffeine prevents good sleep, but did you know that even a couple of cups of tea, taken early in the day, could be affecting your sleep? People who are under stress or generally nervy can't afford even a touch of caffeine. Ruthlessly cut out coffee, tea, fizzy drinks and chocolate (oh no!!), and see how much better you feel. Replace caffeine-filled drinks with chamomile, lemon balm, lemongrass or lemon verbena teas. Swap to Rooibosch tea instead of ordinary tea, if you want something you can put milk in. Use carob confectionary instead of chocolate - honestly, it's fine and all health stores stock it.
Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol. Now this can be tricky because many stressed people rely on these stimulants to keep going and then to unwind. They will, however, seriously detract from the quality of your sleep. Lots of help is now available to get you off them, so speak to your doctor or pharmacist, and book an appointment with an acupuncturist, reflexologist or aromatherapist.
Avoid large meals late at night and reduce salt and sugar intake.
Make sure you are getting some physical exercise daily, even if it's just the good old 10 minutes brisk walking that I'm always going on about. It's no good your brain being tired if your body is raring to go.
Medication can affect sleep - talk to your doctor about the side effects of any medication you are on.
Stimulation in the bedroom - sex is fine, but other forms of stimulation, such as television, paperwork, or snoring partners, should be mercilessly banned.
And some herbs that can help
Avena sativa for young children who are hyperactive during the day and night, and adults who have long term stress factors such as work or family problems.
Valerian - sometimes combined with Hops - is also useful for those who find it hard to fall asleep or whose sleep is disturbed..
Passiflora combined with Avena sativa can help adults who are stressed during the day and then find it hard to stay asleep, waking in the early morning with their brains spinning.
Menopausal women who find their sleep patterns becoming disturbed can benefit from Hypericum if not on other medication.
Night Essence is beneficial for anyone who finds their sleep patterns affected by emotional issues.