A recurring comment when I’ve spoken with people during the Lockdown has been, “It’s funny, I’m doing less but sleeping poorly and am more tired than usual”. There are some good reasons for this. The first is that, despite our best intentions, all of us are more stressed than usual by the current lifestyle we find ourselves adapting to. Constant, seemingly unavoidable news, forced separation from loved ones, a lack of habitual freedom beyond one precious hour a day, to name just a few.
Stress brings about hormonal changes, which all add up to leave us far more “on edge”, and also depletes us of important nutrients. One of these is Magnesium, a key element in a neurotransmitter called GABA, vital for maintaining healthy levels of sleep. Sensitivity to light and noise can also occur, leading to broken, light sleep and vivid dreams. So what can we do?
- Maintain high levels of vitamins and minerals: a plant-rich diet is absolutely key to do this, as well as “topping up” with a quality supplement. A specific sleep-aiding supplement may be useful. Beware immediately resorting to pharmaceutical sleeping pills unless you have spoken to a medical professional.
- Exercise, but not too close to bedtime: Getting tired out with physical exercise is vital for a multitude of reasons, but beware of exercising after dinner time. For starters you might struggle as your body is trying to digest your dinner, but you may also find it hard to get your body to shift so quickly from action to rest.
- Check your pillow and mattress: We recommend a simple formula for good sleep hygiene, which goes as follows: one foam (preferably orthopaedic) pillow, a firm (pocket-sprung and/or memory foam) mattress, sleeping on your back or side, with a pillow between your knees.
- Keep the temperature down: At this time of year it shouldn’t be necessary to keep the heat on all night. A bedroom temperature of 18 degrees is perfect, so if it’s been a sunny day, you might need to leave your bedroom window on the latch (if safe to do so).
- Drink moderate amounts of water rather than alcohol or caffeine before bed: Alcohol can make you feel drowsy, but chemically creates an internal environment conducive to sleeping poorly. Caffeine is a stimulant, and although some people are thought to be less susceptible to it, can do the same.
- Cut out screen time for half an hour (preferably more) before bed: Even with your screen set to “night mode” with a red hue, screens are highly stimulating to the brain. Music, a good book, and conversation are far more healthy before hitting the hay.
- Meditate or pray: Like reading and conversation, switching your brain to a more relaxed mode (try the free Smiling Mind app if you’ve never done this before).
Let us know how you get on, and remember that we are still open and can very often give advice over the phone, especially if you’re still sleeping poorly and struggling with energy issues. It’s all part of a chiropractor’s holistic look at you and your health, rather than just your aches, pains and illness.