Sleep restores our bodies and minds and allows us to keep functioning during waking hours. Insomnia describes either difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Over 45% of New Zealanders report insomnia at least once a week.
If you are one of these people, here’s some tips to develop better sleeping habits. Firstly, try to identify what is causing the problem and write worries down. On average, adults should sleep 7-9 hours a night, but this varies from person to person, usually decreasing with age. Practice relaxation techniques and exercise 20-30 minutes a day. Stimulate melatonin levels needed for your body clock, by watching the sunset.
Practice good sleep hygiene to create a habit for yourself around bedtime. Only go to bed when you are ready for sleep, and only try to sleep when in bed. Make your bedroom a sleep haven, lovely and dark, quiet, cool and comfy. Remove stimulants from the room, such as bright lights, televisions, phones and computers and turn them off 1-hour before bed. Swap caffeine and alcohol in the evening for chamomile tea or milky drinks. If you don’t fall asleep within 30-minutes of going to bed, get up and do something in another room - reading, relaxation or yoga are great.
Medicines may be required for short periods of time to break the habit of sleeplessness. Your pharmacist can help you decide which medicine will be best. Sedating antihistamines may be helpful for 1-2 days to break the routine or try Magnesium or St. John's wort to relax. Tart cherry supplements may also be useful to help getting off to sleep and/or staying asleep. Melatonin can be used to supplement our levels in the body and can be sold through your pharmacist if you are over 55-years, for uncomplicated cases, for up to 13-weeks treatment. Your doctor may run tests for sleep apnoea or other underlying causes.