Every day in the pharmacy we have people asking about how to improve their quality of sleep. As a pharmacist I cannot stress the importance of good quality sleep enough. It is the foundation of our health and is as important as a healthy diet and regular exercise. Not only does our physical health depend on good quality sleep but so does our emotional health. The purpose of sleep is to allow our bodies to rest and recover and it is essential for repair. Sleep is vital to strengthen your body’s immune response, if you are feeling unwell in any way it is vital to get as much rest as possible.
Studies have shown that people are sleeping less and less. Research conducted by Trinity College Dublin have shown that some Irish adults are not ‘getting a good night’s sleep’ resulting in an increased risk of negative health outcomes.
How much sleep do I need?
The amount of sleep we need varies from person to person. The average adult needs 7 to 9 hours in order to ensure that they are giving themselves adequate time for rest and repair.
How do I know if I am not getting enough sleep?
A good way of determining if you have gotten enough sleep is by waking up in the morning without an alarm and feeling refreshed. If you are relying on an alarm to wake up every morning it could be an indication that you are sleep deprived.
What happens when I don’t get enough sleep?
Without a good night’s sleep, it can be hard to concentrate on daily tasks, you can feel irritable and agitated. It can result in blurred vision, clumsiness and having slow reaction times. Your motivation can be lacking and this will have a major knock-on effect to our emotional and physical health as we tend to not work out as much or make healthy food choices when we are tired.
What causes insomnia?
Insomnia is a term that is used to describe the inability to sleep. There are many reasons that people suffer with insomnia and they include having a lack of routine, stress, anxiety, depression, noise, the room being the wrong temperature, being uncomfortable, alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, shift work and travel.
Keeping a sleep diary is a good place to start to determine any problems that might exist that can be fixed to treat insomnia. The following should be included in your sleep diary for one week, when you:
- Go to bed.
- Go to sleep.
- Wake up.
- Get out of bed.
- Take naps.
- Drink alcohol.
- Drink caffeinated beverages.
You should also mention or record if you take any medicine or any supplements as these may interfere with your sleep too.
What can I DO to improve my sleep?
- Try to go to bed at the same time every day. Your body thrives on routine.
- Keep the temperature in your bedroom comfortable; not too hot, nor too cold.
- Use your bed only for sleep and sex. This may help you completely switch off.
- Keep the bedroom completely dark, so you’re not disturbed by light, which your brain detects even when your eyes are closed. Eye masks can be useful.
- Spend time outdoors to soak up the sun.
- Try to take some gentle exercise every day. There is evidence that regular exercise improves restful sleep. This includes stretching and aerobic exercise. A brisk walk ticks both boxes.
- Make an effort to relax for at least 5 minutes before going to bed - a warm bath, massage, meditation.
- Keep your feet and hands warm. Wear warm socks and/or mittens or gloves to bed.
- Consider getting a traditional alarm clock so your smartphone can stay out of the bedroom. Better still, work out how much sleep you need by going to bed 15 minutes earlier until you find that you wake up naturally before your alarm. That’s your personal sleep requirement.
What should I NOT DO when trying to improve my sleep?
- Engage in stimulating activities – like playing a competitive game, watching an edge-of-the seat film, or having an important conversation with a loved one. Even using smartphones and tablets can interfere with sleep, because they emit the same kind of light as the morning sun.
- Eat a heavy meal within four hours of going to bed.
- Drink caffeine after lunch – like coffee, ‘normal’ and green tea, and coke.
- Use alcohol to help you sleep. Alcohol can make sleep more disturbed.
- Go to bed too hungry. Have a snack before bed – a glass of milk or banana are ideal.
- Try to avoid daytime naps.
- Try not to get frustrated if you can’t sleep. Go to bed in a positive mood – “I will sleep tonight”.
What can I use or take to help me improve my sleep?
If you find it difficult to fall asleep a hot bath with relaxing bath oil or Epsom salts can really help to relax your muscles and aids a more restful sleep. It is something I love to do before the start of a busy week or if I have had a particularly stressful day.There are also some supplements that may help. It is important to check with your pharmacist before taking these, particularly if you are taking any medications or if you have any underlying medication conditions.
You could try taking a spoonful of magnesium powder in a hot drink before bed which is also known to help get a restful night’s sleep. Mag365 magnesium powder is a source of highly absorbable, effective, fast-acting water-soluble magnesium in ionic form. It is 100% natural magnesium and helps to restore healthy magnesium levels. The result of this is natural stress relief and a more restful sleep.
When it is time to go to sleep, a sleep mask that helps to block out light and distractions can massively help you to fall asleep and stay asleep. My top pick is the Spacemasks because not only do they block out the light but they are also self-heating and relax the muscles around the eyes. This works to relieve any tension and helps you drift off for a more restful sleep. They also smell of Jasmine which is really calming.Using a soothing and calming pillow spray such as the This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray on your pillow before going to sleep is also a great addition to your sleep routine. This spray is infused with Essential Oils of Lavender, Vetivert and Wild Chamomile. This helps you to wind down after a hectic day by soothing the body and mind. It is a must-have beside my bed.
Melissa Dream tablets is a supplement that contains herbal ingredients that have a calmative effect on your body. It contains the combination of magnesium, lemon balm, L-theanine and chamomile which helps to relax you before going to bed. Two tablets should be taken one hour before bed. It is important to check with your pharmacist if you are taking any medications or if you have any underlying medication conditions before taking any supplements.Our expert pharmacy teams are always here to help you if you are looking for ways to get a better night’s sleep. If you have any questions or would like any personalised advice be sure to contact any of our stores by phone or email. You can also contact our helpline on 01 485 3098 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.