One of the most common sleep problems I encounter in my clinic is waking in the early hours - usually between 2am and 4am - then finding it hard to get back to sleep. In the long term, missing out on this vital stage of sleep can be debilitating and even lead to serious health problems.
Sleep is the most effective way of renewing, refreshing and healing our bodies and minds. It is an essential part of functioning as a human being and we spend almost one third of our lives in a sleep state. Sleep is without doubt, the best way to improve your health, reduce your stress and make you more effective and alert during the day.
Sleep has a love hate relationship with many of us. Its benefits cannot be denied: it has been claimed to be linked to weight loss, concentration, mood, attractiveness, long life, memory and overall better health to name a few. But despite knowing some or all of the facts, most people (myself included) find ourselves 'burning the candle at both ends'.
Do you think taking a nap is for lazy people? Or for summer holidays under the sun? You couldn't be more wrong. Recent studies show that napping increases your ability to think, decreases the risk of dying from a heart attack and boosts your performance by 34%.
My sleep clinic is constantly full of exhausted people wanting to know how to get more sleep, fall asleep more easily at night, stay asleep, feel asleep. This last one is interesting - many of my clients complain of feeling as if they've not slept at all even though they may have spent hours in bed and not really been awake.
*(Was Mildly Interesting) ... I've realised that waking up to the sound of a human voice - unless it's someone screaming 'The house is on fire!' - is far preferable to waking up to an iPhone alarm (yes, even Slow Rise). I've realised that it is possible to switch off from the internet, especially if you keep your iPhone in another room and you're a bit lazy.
These women may run major companies, but their bodies don't know that. In fact, none of ours do. It is a machine that works in the same way that every other human's does, give or take a few things. Subject them to lack of sleep, too much stress and they will respond in exactly the same way: breakdown.
We breathe approximately 25 thousand times per day without thinking about it and yet most of us are getting it wrong, to the detriment of our physical and mental health.
If you have ever spent 48 consecutive hours doing nothing but nourishing your body and soul, you know the value of stepping away from routine and taking a deep breath without the distraction of responsibility. A getaway built around an ambitious itinerary may be a great escape when you are looking to shatter monotony, but it can also leave you longing for a vacation from your vacation once you return home.
I am so tired I want to crawl up my own ass and have a nap. Yes, not the first place that springs to everyone's mind as a retreat of choice. However, I need somewhere, dark, un-crowded and most importantly somewhere no one (namely my small humans) would even think I would be. A place they would be too shit scared to even look.
Researching and practising sleep techniques with patients has led me to realise that there are a host of practical, highly effective and sustainable strategies that one can adopt, helping avoid a trip to the doctor... Here are ten tried and tested strategies that I have been recommending for years, which have helped patients learn how to sleep again.
It's fair to say I've never slept well. Decades of insomnia, night terrors, sleep walking, sleep talking, sleep apnoea, sleep paralysis and sleep paranoia means, if nothing else, it's a laugh riot sharing a bed with me.
Sleep disruption can affect our health in many ways including increased stress, impaired mental acuity and weakening of the immune system. It is unfortunately often hard for people with poor sleep patterns to easily adjust potentially detrimental aspects of their life, such as work stress, to help remedy this situation.
Sleep has been so undervalued that being deprived of it has become a boast. However, when you factor in The Third Metric, this anti-sleep mentality suddenly seems ridiculously skewed. After all, what's the point of attaining all that solvency and influence if you're so tired you stumble through it all like a zombie?
Our bodies are cleverer than our minds. When we are truly tired, we will fall asleep. Sleeping is a natural action. You don't have to do anything to get to sleep. It is not humanly possible to stay awake forever. The one topic that mustn't be on one's list of worries is sleep itself. That is what can stop you from sleeping and make you ill, both physically and psychologically.
The brain needs to be a fraction of a degree cooler than the rest of the body to achieve optimal sleep. If you're too hot this can stop you getting to sleep and staying asleep. Here are a few weird and wonderful tips to help you create this ideal temperature differential....