Tired all the time? Disrupted sleep? Can’t fall asleep? Can’t stay asleep? Wake up still feeling tired?
You are not alone.
Getting on top of your day starts the night before. If people realised how important sleep actually is to our health and wellbeing, more people would make getting good quality sleep a priority.
We are all capable of sleep. It is an innate ability and drive. We have just lost connection with how to do it effectively.
The reality is that our daily habits are putting us into a state of constant distraction and “on” all the time that by the time we come to put our heads against the pillow we are either too wired to fall off to sleep, or so disrupted that our bodies don’t know how to turn “off”.
The good news is that it doesn’t really take that much to get back into control again.
But you do need to invest a bit of time and thought into how you might best manage that given your unique biology and lifestyle.
Here are some of the top questions I get asked about sleep from my clients, and some science-backed answers that I typically respond with. Maybe there is something here to help you too.
The number one question is: Why do I find it so difficult to fall asleep?
Answer: What usually happens when we find ourselves in this type of situation is that we become anxious about how we might feel the next morning if sleep doesn’t happen. We know sleep is important and if we are not getting enough of it we then start to feel that it is going to be a big problem and make the next day terrible. This only creates a situation of further stress and leads to even more problems falling asleep.
If you can relate to this, the most effective strategy is to realise that you probably will get more sleep than you realise, you can manage with occasionally sleeping less, and you have an innate drive for sleep so trust that your sleep will recalibrate eventually.
Another answer: The amount of caffeine you are consuming is interfering with your sleep. Caffeine competes for the same receptors as adenosine (which helps you fall asleep) so it may be blocking this “sleepy” neurochemical. Caffeine sensitivity is very personalised so try not having any coffee after 12pm and see if that improves your sleep.
Another possibility: If you are waking up late (eg. 10am) you may not be allowing enough daylight time to help you build your “tiredness levels” to make you feel like going to bed at reasonable times, meaning you are more likely to feel tired at 2am instead of 10pm.
Another reason: Too much blue light (screen use or bright inside lights) in the evening blocks the buildup of melatonin, which helps us fall asleep.
Question 2. Why can’t I stay asleep?
Answer: There are a number of different factors that can disrupt sleep after we have fallen asleep. In addition to caffeine, other stimulants such as alcohol, too much liquid in general, smoking and intense exercise can be very disruptive to the sleep cycle, as are other metabolic conditions affecting gut health, breathing and/or other pains. Physical disturbances that come with noisy partners, children, pets or neighbours can wake you and keep you awake.
Question 3. How much sleep do I really need?
Answer: It depends. Everyone is different. Some people feel fine on 6 or 7 hours sleep, others need 10, and different stages of life have different requirements again. The best way to know is to assess what feels right for you. More important than quantity of sleep is the quality of sleep. Waking feeling refreshed, recharged and ready to go are great signs that sleep has done its job and prepared you for the day ahead.
Question 4. Why is sleep so important?
If sleep wasn’t as important as it is there would be a lot of people choosing to do other things than “wasting time” sleeping. The fact is that sleep has a number of very important (essential) factors that without it we would not survive very long at all.
Answer: Here is a list of some of the very important functions of sleep. No doubt, further research and study will come to uncover other important ones in the future.
1. During sleep our internal physiological systems undergo “clean and repair”.
2. Neurological processes such as cognition, memory and interpretation of daily events are filed into the correct “brain compartments”.
3. The hypothalamus thermoregulation system is maintained and updated.
4. The amygdala mood and emotion centres are managed.
5. The hormonal systems of the body are regulated and processed.