“You need to sleep earlier,” Karl said.
“I’m trying, okay!” Melissa responded.
“Leave her Karl, sleep is for the weak!” Sipho laughed.
Karl had noticed Melissa dozing off in class. She looked exhausted and he was concerned. Melissa had been trying to fall asleep and on the other hand, Sipho did not think it was important.
Sleep is indeed very important for our overall health. But what if you’re like Melissa and can’t fall asleep? We’ll be looking at some helpful sleeping tips as well as why sleep is vital for one’s health.
Why is sleep important?
When we sleep, we are allowing our bodies and mind to recharge, this allows us to feel refreshed and be alert when we wake up. Sleep helps the body remain healthy and even fight off diseases. If we do not get enough sleep, our body won’t be able to function properly. A lack of sleep will limit your concentration levels.
Healthy diet to help with good sleeping patterns
What you eat does affect your sleeping patterns. Certain foods and drinks can either make it easier to fall asleep or harder.
A balanced diet made up largely of a variety of vegetables and fruits is able to provide the recommended daily intake of vitamins and nutrients, contributing to better sleep while promoting a healthy weight.
Sufficient nutrient consumption is important for sleep. A lack of calcium, magnesium, and vitamins A, C, D, E, and K is linked to sleep problems.
The following food is recommended for better sleeping patterns:
- Warm milk
- Chamomile tea
- Dark green, leafy vegetables
Here are some signs that you may have difficulty sleeping
- An inability to focus during the day
- Constant headaches
- Irritability and moodiness
- Fatigue (extremely tired) during the day
- Waking up too early
- Waking up throughout the night
- Taking several hours to fall asleep
- Low energy during the day
- Visible dark circles under your eyes
Why it is hard to fall asleep
Trying to fall asleep is not a fun place to find yourself in. There are many possible reasons for this. A struggle to sleep can be linked to one’s sleeping habits, lifestyle choices and even medical conditions. Some of these causes are not too concerning and can be fixed with the proper self-care but others might require medical attention.
Other causes of lack of sleep:
- Too much time spend watching TV, playing video games or scrolling online
- Exercising before bedtime
- Consuming too much caffeine
- Noise disturbances
- An uncomfortable environment
- A feeling of excitement or anxiety
- Sleeping too much during the day
- Lack of exposure to sunlight
- Frequent urination
- Physical pain (anywhere on the body, including toothache)
- Jet lag (if you’ve been travelling)
- Prescription medications
- Busy work schedules
Besides those reasons, there are also sleeping disorders that often need medical assistance.
What are sleep disorders?
Sleep apnea – this is a condition in which there is a blockage in the upper airways. This results in pauses in breathing throughout the night that can cause you to abruptly wake up during the night, often with a chocking sound. This condition is accompanied by snoring (snoring in itself is not a sleeping disorder).
Restless leg syndrome – restless leg syndrome is a condition that causes uncomfortable sensations in your legs, such as aches and tingling. Because of that, it urges you to make your legs move frequently, including while resting, this can interrupt your sleep.
Delayed sleep phase disorder – this condition causes delay in the 24-hour cycle of sleep. This condition causes you to not feel sleepy or to fall asleep until the middle of the night. This sleeping disorder makes it harder to wake up early in the morning and leads to daytime fatigue.
How can sleep disorders be treated?
Firstly, to treat sleep disorders we need to look at our lifestyle choices and make some changes where need be.
Here are a few lifestyle changes to consider:
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol for at least two or more hours before going to sleep
- Limit daytime naps to 30 minutes or none at all
- Keep your bedroom dark and cool
- Avoid stimulating activities before bedtime (TV, video games, scrolling through the internet, etc.)
- Allow yourself to sleep for at least 7 hours, ideally 8.
- Listen to soothing music
- Take a warm bath before bedtime
- Keep a regular sleep schedule
Besides lifestyle changes, you may consider sleeping aids (medication).
Sleeping aids can be purchased without needing a prescription. However, be cautious when using them as they can cause daytime drowsiness if you did not get your full 7-8 hours of sleep. Be sure not to use sleeping aids on a daily basis, otherwise you might solely depend on them. When taking sleeping aids, make sure to read the directions carefully and take the medication accordingly.
If a medical condition or sleep disorder is causing your problems, you’ll need treatment for the underlying condition.
If an anxiety disorder or depression is the cause for your lack of sleep, your doctor may prescribe anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication to help you cope with worry, stress, and feelings of hopelessness.
What happens if you don’t treat sleep disorders?
If left untreated or ignored, these chronic sleep problems can affect your everyday quality of life. This can have severe consequences. If you are a driver, your reaction time when driving may decrease, which increases your risk of an accident.
You will struggle to focus at work or in school and this will hinder your performance. Not only is your focus disturbed, but poor sleep quality may weaken your immune system, resulting in more colds and illnesses.
A lack of sleep has been linked to a higher risk for certain diseases and medical conditions. These include obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, poor mental health, and early death.
Remember too much sleep is not good either; keep the balance and stay healthy!
Did you know why people snore? Read here to find out more.
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