Do you constantly feel tired? You’re not alone as an increasing number of Malaysians feel the same way. This is worrying as experts say the lack of quality sleep can cause life-threatening health issues, while adequate sleep can help reduce stress, increase energy, boost concentration, and maintain a healthy weight.
Here, we’ve identified the most common sleep challenges and how you can get you can beat them – starting tonight.
1. “I STRUGGLE WITH DROWSINESS”
If you drag yourself through the day, establish whether you’re getting enough sleep. “People aren’t valuing sleep and think they can do without it,” says Delwyn Bartlett, psychologist and insomnia specialist at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Sydney.
What you can do: Listen to your body – go to bed when you’re tired and get up at the same time each day. Allow yourself an extra one to two hours on a Saturday morning, but nothing more or it may change your sleeping pattern come Monday.
2. “I CAN’T STAY ASLEEP”
Waking throughout the night is a common complaint. If you suffer from frequent waking you may be experiencing sleep maintenance insomnia, which suggests you’re not getting enough deep sleep. According to the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Center, these mid-sleep awakenings often occur during periods of stress or depression.
What you can do: “Waking up isn’t the problem,” says Bartlett. “It’s if you start thinking that causes an issue.” If your mind starts racing, get up. Sit on the floor and do nothing. This can calm your mind and get you bored enough to go back to bed.
3. “MY BED IS VERY CROWDED”
Do you let your furry friend sleep in your bed at night? According to a survey by the Mayo Clinic, many people with sleep problems share their bedrooms with their cats and dogs. Fifty-three percent of pet owners considered their sleep to be disrupted to some extent every night. Scratching, restlessness, snoring and needing to be let out so they can go to the toilet are just some of the reasons pets can disrupt your slumber.
What you can do: Whether it’s your partner tossing and turning, your kids snuggling up to you or your pets vying for some space at the bottom of your bed, sharing your bed is very disruptive, agrees Bartlett. If getting a larger bed is not feasible, consider kicking your furry friends out. However, lead author of the survey Dr John Shepard suggests weighing up the pros and cons – as you may be attached to your pet and its presence is comforting.
4. “I CAN’T FALL ASLEEP”
Ideally you should fall asleep within 30 minutes of your head hitting the pillow. However, if sleep eludes you after that it can be stressful. “If it takes longer than 30 minutes, three times a week over four weeks, this is defined as chronic insomnia,” says Dr Bartlett. “People who sleep well let sleep happen, and don’t go to bed and start thinking or worrying.”
What you can do: Remember, your bed is a place for sleep and rest. Plan all your next day’s activities before bedtime. Don’t bring papers from work to read in bed, or reply your emails on your smartphone. If you need something to put you to sleep, read a book instead of scrolling through your Facebook feed.
5. “I’VE BEEN TOLD I SNORE
Snoring is relatively harmless, but if you wake up feeling unrefreshed or suffer daytime drowsiness this may indicate sleep apnoea. This affects about two percent of women, reports the Jean Hailes Foundation for Women’s Health. Each time the throat becomes blocked, your breathing stops until the brain registers the drop in oxygen levels and sends a small wake-up call. This pattern can repeat itself hundreds of times every night, causing fragmented sleep, leaving you feeling fatigued.
What you can do: Obesity is one of the most common causes of sleep apnoea, and a loss of about 5kg to 10kg may be enough to significantly reduce the severity of sleep apnoea. A mask or mouthguard worn at night may also help.
6. “EVERY LITTLE DISTURBANCE WAKES ME UP”
If you’re constantly battling for a peaceful night’s sleep, it may be because you’re consciously monitoring your environment. Insomniacs tend to remain focused on what’s happening around them instead of letting go and giving in to a deeper sleep, explains Bartlett.
What you can do: To create an ideal sleep environment, the US National Sleep Foundation suggests blocking out sounds with earplugs and keeping all electronic devices away as they can be sleep stealers.
7. “MY LEGS TINGLE AND TWITCH AT NIGHT”
Restlessness leg syndrome affects up to 10 percent of adults and sleep deprivation is one of the more common side effects, as you may need to get up and walk around to alleviate the cramps.
What you can do: The Mayo Clinic suggests the following tips for reducing symptoms:
- BATH & MASSAGES may relax your muscles; apply warm or cool packs or alternate the two to lessen the sensations.
- THE RELAXATION TECHNIQUES such as deep breathing or yoga to ease stress. Establish good sleep hygiene to help reduce fatigue.
- MODERATE, REGULAR EXERCISE may also relieve symptoms, but don’t overdo it at the gym, or work out too late in the day as this may intensify symptoms.
- CUT BACK on caffeine, alcohol and tobacco.
8. “I AM TOO WIRED TO SLEEP”
Stress is just one side effect of feeling under the pump. And if you’re constantly burning the candle at both ends, worrying about making ends meet, and multi-tasking household and work priorities, your sleep may suffer as a result. Long-term activation of the stress-response system – and overexposure to stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline – puts you at an increased risk of numerous health problems, including disrupted sleep, reports the Mayo Clinic.
What you can do: Take time to wind down before you hit the sack at night as this will give your body time to transition from the full-throttle speed you’ve been going at all day to a slower pace, ready for sleep. To help this: Turn off your TV, computer and phone; have a relaxing bath; listen to some soft music; or do some gentle stretching and deep breathing.
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