General sleep advice is great. But when you have a sleep disorder, it can be more challenging to find the right advice on how to fix it.
According to board-certified sleep medicine doctor Funke Afolabi-Brown MD, up to 40% of women are likely to report a sleep disorder, with difficulties sleeping most nights.
Men are not reporting the same issues.
A growing number of physicians, along with Afolabi-Brown, are now calling for everyone to get more specific about how sleep varies between the sexes.
Research about sleep and women’s health suggests female hormonal shifts due to puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and menopause cause poorer sleep quality over many years.
‘There’s also a social element at play. Generally speaking, there’s an expectation put on women to care for others—which can leave them with less time to care for themselves.
Jam-packed schedules leave us stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed come bedtime’ Brown said in an interview about sleeping disorders in women with Mind Body Green.
And the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey also reported menstruation impacts women significantly. Those pacts can include experiencing an iron deficiency during the cycle, and this can also result in insomnia and restless leg syndrome (RLS), which is an uncomfortable condition where sudden leg movement cannot be controlled during sleep.
Aside from insomnia and RLS, other symptoms of sleep disorders include sleep apnea and narcolepsy.
Sleep apnea happens when uneven breathing occurs during the night. This disorder is usually accompanied by loud snoring and unexplainable tiredness after a full night’s sleep.
Similarly, narcolepsy affects a person through extreme exhaustion, where one continuously falls asleep during the daytime, unable to concentrate throughout the day.
These are 4 simple ways to help you deal with a sleep disorder as recommended by professional sleep doctors:
1. Build Sleep Pressure
Sleep pressure is a process to force the body to feel tired while turning off the brain into sleep mode.
Ways to increase sleep pressure include at least 30 minutes of physical activity to increase sleep pressure and avoiding taking long naps.
Naps should be kept to a maximum of 20 minutes.
Otherwise, after this amount of time the risk is that deep sleep ensues which can lead to drowsiness and disorientation.
Building sleep pressure will increase the chances of quickly drifting off at night.
2. Performing a Wind-down Routine before Sleeping
Scrolling through social media before bed, or watching television shows and movies through a device or on television will not solve sleeping problems and can keep the brain active at night.
The blue light from smart devices in particular can restrict melatonin production, fooling the brain that it is still daytime, preventing the mind and body from winding down in preparation for sleep.
The same goes for the television, as most screens are now made using LED lights, which provide a light closer to daylight and again fool the brain and body.
There are alternative activities which help bring on sleep.
These include listening to music, practising meditation, journaling, reading a book or trying relaxation exercises.
Writing a to-do list also tricks the brain into sleeping early as it forces the body to rest, preparing for tomorrow’s tasks.
3. Avoid Consuming Specific Food and Drinks
Spicy food has been known to cause indigestion, which can wake the body during the night.
Spicy food also contains capsaicin, a phytochemical that increases the metabolism and generates calorie burn for heat. This disturbs the quality of sleep as the body becomes active.
Alcohol intake interferes with rapid eye movement (REM) – the deepest stage of sleep.
Even though alcohol induces sleepiness at first, it has a detrimental effect in the morning and it often causes sleep interruptions.
Alcohol can cause body fatigue from drinking alcohol the night before.
Carbonated and Caffeinated Beverages:
Aside from coffee, beverages like soda and tea can also cause the brain to stay alert. It is estimated that the effect of consuming caffeine lasts up to 6 hours.
To address sleep disorders, caffeine should not be consumed after 2pm.
Switch to a non-caffeinated herbal tea in the afternoon and at night instead, like camomile or peppermint.
Despite helping the body drift to dreamland, eating large amounts of food will activate the body to produce more energy for digestion and can interrupt sleep.
Instead, a big breakfast and lunch with a light dinner are a better choice.
Consider following a time-restricted diet such as intermittent fasting to promote a good night’s sleep and finish your last meal at least two hours before bed.
4. Invest in a good bed, mattress, and pillow for quality sleep
When you have the right type of bed to help support your sleep, your sleep will significantly improve.
If it’s restlessness, the right bed may be exactly what the doctor ordered to help you sleep.
Ecosa’s latest Transcend bed frame collection, renowned for their expertise in mattresses, beds, and sofa beds, and now available in both Australia and New Zealand . Ecosa have created the ultimate in affordable bed luxury.
From bed bases, bed heads, quality assured and sleep tested matresses and pillows, and even sheet sets, all of their products are designed to help you sleep better.
The temperature in your room can have an effect on your sleep, and the right mattress and sheets can help regulate your body temperature.
Studies have shown we sleep better on cooler sheets, rather than warm sheets, as our bodies will naturally decrease in temperature in order to sleep. Sleeping in cooler sheets, will assist in lowering the body temperature and help prepare it for sleep.
Expert Tip: If you are feeling restless and can’t settle for sleep at night and you have been tossing and turning for a while – try turning your pillow over.
If your sleeping disorder is causing major life disruption and it seems there’s no resolution to help you sleep, it may be time to seek professional help from a sleep specialist.
When the body is constantly sleep-deprived, it can result in poor performance throughout the day, negative mental health and even injuries, or cause internal organ health issues.