Are you struggling to get to sleep no matter how tired you are? Or do you wake up in the middle of the night unable to fall asleep again?

Most people have some experience with sleep difficulties. But insomniacs take note. Sleep is precious. It’s not only Zzz’s you’re missing out on; the impact of lack of sleep affect both physical and mental health.

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Did you know that 1 in 14 South Africans over the age of 15 suffer from insomnia? Yup, that many! 

So, what if a couple of nights turn into weeks, months and even years of not sleeping well? What is the cost of lost shut-eye? Research shows that those who only get between four and five hours of kip a night are more likely to suffer from a host of health conditions if left untreated.

The side effects from lack of sleep (aside from feeling knackered all the time) are often associated with heartburn, diabetes, cardio vascular disease and musculoskeletal disorders. It affects your mood, judgement, memory and focus.

Also, less than 7 hours of sleep every day will increase your cortisol, blood sugar, and insulin levels which in turn will increase your appetite and make your body store fat. In fact, a 2007 Canadian study found that people who sleep only 5 to 6 hours a night increase their likelihood of being overweight by 69%! Yikes!

Insomnia is a symptom of an underlying problem. It could be a case of drinking too much coffee during the day or it could be related to a more complex issue such as illness or medication, or simply be the result of feeling overwhelmed by life’s responsibilities.  

The good news is that most cases of insomnia can be cured by making a few lifestyle changes.  

Try these tips to promote a good night’s sleep:

  • Take a warm bath or read a few pages from a good book before bedtime.
  • Stay way from screens close to bedtime. This will disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm by mimicking daytime.
  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Support your biological clock by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, including weekends.
  • Clear your space. Your brain will interpret a messy space as an unfinished task.
  • Review your medications. Beta-blockers (prescribed for high blood pressure) may cause insomnia; so can SSRI’s (antidepressants).
  • Exercise, but not within 4 hours of bedtime. Working out – especially cardio – improves the length and quality of your sleep. That said, 30 minutes of vigorous exercise keeps your body temperature elevated for about 4 hours, inhibiting sleep. When your body begins to cool down, however, it signals your brain to release sleep-inducing melatonin, making you drowsy.
  • Cut caffeine after 2 pm. Coffee, tea and cola are stimulants and stays in your system for about 8 hours.
  • Turn on the white noise. A low-level soothing noise will help you to tune out disturbances and help you to fall asleep and stay asleep; e.g. a fan or soothing music.
  • Consider kicking out furry bed mates. More than half of people who sleep with their pets say the animals disturb their slumber.
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy will assist sufferers to process negative thoughts.
  • Avoid using your bed for anything other than sleep or sex.

If you have tried all of the above lifestyle changes and still suffer from insomnia, contact your health practitioner.

Source: hsrc.ac.za, menshealth.com, cosmopolitan.com, womanshealthmag.com, webmd.com, helpguide.org, prevention.com, Fairlady July 2019 issue, indiatimes.com, drugs.com

DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.