Fix sleep is­sues with­out pills

Kapiti Observer - - OUT & ABOUT -

Q: For the past few months I’ve had rot­ten sleep. I have been us­ing sleep­ing pills on and off just to get some proper rest but I don’t want to be­come re­liant on them. Do you have any sug­ges­tions for fix­ing sleep is­sues with­out sleep­ing pills? Thanks, James.

Hi James, good-qual­ity restora­tive sleep is a wide­spread chal­lenge. It takes a third of New Zealan­ders more than 30 min­utes to get to sleep and a few years ago in 2012, al­most 680,000 unique sleep­ing pill pre­scrip­tions were given. When your body has lost the abil­ity to do some­thing so ba­sic, that is a dis­tinct piece of feed­back from the body that some­thing(s) need to change.

When sleep­ing pills are used as a bridge, as a short-term band-aid for sleep prob­lems, it’s not usu­ally a ma­jor con­cern. But sleep­ing pills are just that – a band-aid – and un­til the deeper is­sue(s) that cre­ated the sleep chal­lenges in the first place are ad­dressed, no progress will be made that al­lows a per­son to come off the sleep­ing pills and be­gin sleep­ing nat­u­rally



Some­times th­ese sleep­ing chal­lenges are linked to the bio­chem­istry within the body (such as too much al­co­hol or caf­feine), and some­times it is emo­tional. For ex­am­ple, you may lay awake at night run­ning through all the things you didn’t get done that day and how much that’s go­ing to roll into to­mor­row. I’ve talked about liv­ing in the fight or flight zone many times in my writ­ing. That too is a com­mon rea­son why many peo­ple don’t sleep well th­ese days.

A great way to iden­tify what lays at the heart of your is­sue is to ask your­self when you last re­mem­ber sleep­ing well. If it was when you were on hol­i­day, you can bet that stress is play­ing a big part. If the last time you slept well was in a ho­tel, again it could be stress but it might also be worth look­ing at what you’re sleep­ing on. Peo­ple of­ten keep their beds for far too long so it might be a lack of struc­tural sup­port that’s stop­ping you from rest­ing easy.

Pay at­ten­tion to whether you sleep bet­ter when you have a smaller meal for dinner and try omit­ting spicy food in the evenings and eat­ing smaller por­tions.

Maybe the last time you slept well was af­ter ab­stain­ing from al­co­hol for a pe­riod of time. Al­co­hol dis­rupt­sREM (rapid eye move­ment) sleep which is the fourth part of our sleep cy­cle and when crit­i­cal re­pair work is done in­side our body.

Some­times our sleep cy­cle is dis­rupted due to an in­ter­fer­ence with mela­tonin pro­duc­tion. Mela­tonin is your pri­mary sleep hor­mone, it helps you to fall asleep and stay asleep through­out the night. Its pro­duc­tion in your body is af­fected by light. When you ex­pose your eyes to light late into the evening, through any means, in­clud­ing the use of back­lit de­vices (such as iPads, mo­bile phones and lap­tops), or you work un­til late un­der a bright light or watch tele­vi­sion, it can af­fect your mela­tonin pro­duc­tion. Be­come aware of how much light you’re ex­pos­ing your eyes to within two hours of bed­time and make your bed­room a tele­vi­sion and wire­less de­vice free zone.

It’s also help­ful to re­set your cir­ca­dian rhythm (your nat­u­ral sleep cy­cle) by get­ting up at the same time each morn­ing and ex­pos­ing your eyes to gen­tle morn­ing sun­light. It’s prefer­able to get up and go out­side and ex­er­cise but even just walk­ing out­side for a few min­utes to ex­pose your eyes to the light of this new day can be ben­e­fi­cial. Com­mit to do­ing this for a week min­i­mum, and be­gin to no­tice the dif­fer­ence.

Dr Libby is a nu­tri­tional bio­chemist, best-sell­ing au­thor and speaker. The ad­vice con­tained in this col­umn is not in­tended to be a sub­sti­tute for di­rect, per­son­alised ad­vice from a health pro­fes­sional. Visit dr­ Ask Dr Libby

Email your ques­tions for Dr Libby to ask.dr­libby@fair­fax­me­ Please note, only a se­lec­tion of ques­tions can be an­swered.


Some­times sleep­ing chal­lenges are linked to the bio­chem­istry within the body and some­times it is emo­tional.

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