Some people need a little extra help to tackle their sleep issues, but where do you turn for help? Here are a few things to consider:
If you are having ongoing trouble sleeping, persistent problems with mood, restlessness in bed, severe snoring or are waking unrefreshed, try some of the suggestions below and consult your doctor, who can refer you to a sleep specialist or psychologist.
» Sleep specialists: A specialist will ask questions about your sleep patterns and habits and how they affect what you do during the day. For example, if you’re falling asleep when sitting in boring meetings, it’s less likely to signal a problem than if it’s during meals.
» Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT): A sleep psychologist will help you to look at how your behaviours, thoughts and feelings affect your sleep.
» Sleep study: Staying overnight in a specialised sleep clinic is an effective way to diagnose a sleep disorder. Small metal electrodes, wires and other monitors are placed around your body to measure your breathing and oxygen levels in your blood, your heart rate, leg movements, sleeping position and snoring and sleep apnoea occurrence. You can also get monitors delivered to you so you can trial them at home.
Monitoring your sleep patterns and finding out what’s going on while you sleep sounds like lots of fun, and high-tech wristbands like Fitbits and smartphone apps that do the job are becoming more popular. Some even claim to measure the time you spend in each stage of sleep.
The good: A tracker might help raise awareness of sleep issues, which could lead you to review your sleep habits to improve sleep. For example, if it draws your attention to a pattern of going to bed late and sleeping less than you need to, you’ll be more likely to do something about it.
The bad: The word on the street is not to put too much trust in these devices when it comes to accurately monitoring your sleep. Research suggests they provide a general estimate of sleep, but can give misleading information. Plus, if you have difficulty sleeping, using a tracker could end up creating more anxiety around sleep.
Use your sleep tracker to identify ways to improve your sleep, such as creating a regular time to go to bed
When it comes to a beauty routine, sleep is probably the most effective tool in your kit. Many of us will be familiar with the telltale puffy eyes and dark under-eye circles after a bad night’s sleep, but there’s more going on than meets the eye. Here’s how to get prettier in your sleep.
Nix sagging: Skin makes new collagen while you sleep, which prevents sagging, but we need at least seven hours of shut-eye to do the job well.
Get your glow: Sleep deprivation causes a decrease in blood flow to the skin, your face included. Not getting adequate sleep means you’re more likely to wake up looking rough. Get enough sleep to look refreshed.
Nip wrinkles in the bud: Pressure on the skin will cause creasing and wrinkling of the skin. The solution? Sleep on your back. If you’re a side sleeper, you might even find you have deeper-set wrinkles on the side you favour for sleeping.
Put an end to puffy eyes:
Anyone can suffer from puffy eye syndrome, but you’re more likely to wake up looking puffy if you sleep on your stomach, as the pressure can cause fluid to gather around the eyes. Sleeping with an extra pillow can help keep fluid away from the eye area.
Online programmes: There a number of self-help programmes available online for treating insomnia, including SlumberPro, which is inexpensive and allows you to try before you buy. Find it at sleeptherapy.com.au.
Sleep apps: Special apps and electronic devices can help. Try White Noise, which features ambient sounds to help you relax during the day and sleep at night.
Natural aid: Tart cherry juice is a natural source of melatonin and the amino acid tryptophan, which has been linked to better sleep quality.
It’s available from most chemists.
Magnesium: This is an important sleepinducing mineral that most of us don’t get enough of in our diet. (Spinach and avocado are good sources.) Add a cup of Epsom salts in a warm bath or foot bath before bed, or rub a couple of blobs of magnesium gel − which has a higher magnesium content than other topical forms − into the feet.
Melatonin: The hormone melatonin controls your sleep-wake cycle, and can contribute to achieving a longer, more restful night’s sleep. Your body clock influences how much melatonin your brain makes, as does the amount of light you’re exposed to each day. Melatonin can be supplemented in tablet form to help you sleep. In New Zealand, a doctor’s prescription is needed for melatonin tablets.
SNACK YOURSELF TO SLEEP
A healthy diet is a good help in getting quality shut-eye, and certain foods have greater sleep-inducing power, especially when you replace less healthy nighttime snacking with these options.
Almonds: These nuts are a rich source of magnesium, which can help you get a better night’s sleep.
Bananas: Like almonds, bananas are high in magnesium. They also contain tryptophan, which has been linked to improved sleep quality.
Cheese and crackers: Cheese and crackers contain tryptophan and carbohydrates, both of which can help you fall asleep sooner.
Hummus: The primary ingredient in hummus is chickpeas, which are loaded with tryptophan, folate and vitamin B6. Folate has proven especially beneficial for older men and women who need help regulating their sleep patterns, while vitamin B6 can help regulate your internal body clock.
Peanut butter: Peanut butter is loaded with tryptophan. Spread some peanut butter on a carbohydrate-rich slice of toast or some crackers before bed.
Walnuts: Like cherries, walnuts contain melatonin. They also can help regulate stress, which is a leading cause of sleep difficulty.
A diet rich in tryptophan can improve your quality of sleep