When you think of difficulty sleeping the first thing that comes to my mind is probably the word “insomnia”. But sleep disturbances are not limited to insomnia, but it is the most prevalent sleep-related problem in our society.
Below you will read some tips for sleeping well with a very simple application. These measures for getting good rest are called “sleep hygiene”.
The problem of insomnia
Insomnia is a disorder that can affect all ages and affects both men and women, although it is more common in them, especially after menopause.
In our society the vast majority of people get little and bad restMore precisely, Spaniards sleep on average 40 minutes less than other Europeans. Much of this is due to our nightly hours, a trend we share with Argentina and other Latin American countries.
About 40% of the population suffers from sleep problemsIn fact, it is estimated that we lose around 480 hours of sleep per year.
The consequences of not resting
Sleeping is a necessity, in fact, if a person slept absolutely nothing, they would die in less than 7 days. People who fail to get short-term rest see their physical, mental and emotional health impaired and, in fact, are 40% more likely to be in a car accident.
Among the most important repercussions of lack of rest are the increase in accidents (traffic and work), mood and behavioral problems, As well as the ability to concentrate and retain information, which leads to academic failure. It also speeds up aging, lowers libido and makes it harder to lose weight.
Elements that interfere with sleep hygiene
It is clear that sleep is not only important, it is essential, and although we know that it is a necessity it is also a habit subject to certain routines. If we give up or change these routines, the sleeping habit can be impaired.
Stress, obesity and sedentary lifestyle are three factors that negatively affect rest, so adopt a healthy lifestyle and manage stress they will promote our rest and have an impact on health and well-being.
There are sleep medicine specialists who can help us when we have tried everything to sleep without success. However, most people who go to a specialized sleep unit do so because of insomnia caused by bad habits, which they can be easily corrected with what is called “sleep hygiene”. Sleeping is something that takes up a third of our life, so let’s do it right.
Hours needed to rest
The number of hours a person needs to get restful sleep is very relative, it depends on genetic factors and the age of the individual. The number of hours needed to rest varies from 5 or 6 to 9 or 10 hours of sleep.
To find out the hours of sleep you need, you can:
- Add the hours of sleep during the week and divide by 5.
- Add up the hours of sleep from the last three weekends and divide by 6.
- compare; the results must be balanced, otherwise we are subtracting hours of sleep on weekdays.
Substances that sabotage rest and substances that promote it
Being awake or asleep it is linked to the presence or absence of certain chemicals in the brain; during the day, catecholamines like adrenaline and hormones like cortisol (our biological wake-up call) prevent us from sleeping. At night, these chemical messengers decrease and melatonin is generated, which helps us rest.
This chemical balance can be altered by other chemicals that we introduce into our body, for example through food. Caffeine is an example. In addition to chemicals, the regularity of meals, body temperature and sun exposure also modulate the sleep-wake cycle.
They sabotage the break
Coffee, tea, mate, cola soft drinks, tobacco and alcohol they increase the chances of suffering from insomnia, in addition to gastritis and other digestive problems.
The case of caffeine
Any stress-related illness will be made worse by the use of caffeine, so in these cases it should be avoided.
The best time to take caffeine is during breakfast and must remove from noon.
The effects of caffeine last in the body for more or less hours depending on the individual, and can extend beyond seven hours. Excessive consumption increases the risk of palpitations, chest pain, and coronary heart disease.
Although it is a very accepted substance, commonly used in our society and apparently harmless, we must not forget that, like alcohol, if not used properly, it can lead to associated addiction issues, With its corresponding withdrawal syndrome.
Soft drinks with chocolate and cola add to their addictive potential not only large amounts of caffeine, but also high sugar content.
The case of alcohol
Alcohol, contrary to popular belief, also interferes with sleep because while it is true that we fall asleep more easily when consuming alcohol, the rest is fragmented and not very restful, because it prevents them from falling asleep. reach the deep sleep stages i it also affects REM sleep (They are paradoxical, in which the memory is consolidated). Alcohol should be avoided within three to four hours of bedtime.
Nicotine, marijuana, cocaine and amphetamines they also affect sleep, in addition to other adverse health effects. These, in addition, can promote the appearance of nightmares. There is also a long list of drugs that can affect sleep, these are just a few: antidepressants, antihypertensives, asthma medications, oral contraceptives.
Substances that help you sleep well
Tryptophan is the natural precursor of serotonin, A neurotransmitter essential for proper psychic functioning.
We can add tryptophan to our food, especially at dinner. It is found in eggs, ham, poultry, blue fish, dairy products (a natural sedative) and to a lesser extent in rice, barley, wheat, bread, pasta and tapioca, as well as in potatoes, cabbage, squash and walnuts.
Vitamin B6 helps the metabolism of tryptophan, is present in eggs and all kinds of meats and fish, therefore including these foods in dinner can help us rest.
Complex carbohydrates such as potatoes, squash, rice, and pasta also promote sleep. If you are a vegetarian, you can substitute the meat for tofu or nuts. Lime, verbena, chamomile, valerian, or passion fruit can also help., In infusion or in Grajea. An aroma bath or massage with essential oils can also help to relax and fall asleep.
People who diet occasionally they get up at night because of hunger to consume foods low in sugar (they suffer from hypoglycemia). To prevent hunger from waking us up, we can eat a small sandwich before bed, although we should not be in a hurry when we want to reduce our weight: slow but safe. If the forays into the refrigerator are very repeated, it can be a psychological problem that requires more specialized treatment.
Sleeping with the television or radio on can also wake us up. There are people who claim that it helps them sleep, but it is not recommended: noise, light and radiation emitted by television disrupt and fragment our sleep.
We will not leave furniture or objects that we might trip over between the bed and the bathroom, and on cold nights we will have a blanket, quilt or thick socks handy for if we need it, we do not try to look for it at midnight.
Keep in mind that drinking too much water can help us get up to go to the bathroom.
The bedroom and the bed
The bedroom must be the sanctuary of sleep, must have a comfortable bed and it is advisable to change the mattress every ten years. The silence, the darkness and an ideal temperature for rest (between 18 and 22 º), will facilitate our sleep.
Bedroom furniture and the activities that take place there are much more important than many realize. In the bedroom there is enough bed and a little more than that, work desks, stereos, televisions and other furniture or appliances not intended for rest are too much.
Ideally we will limit our activity in the bedroom to the act of sleeping or having sex, it is very important that these are the only activities we do in bed, because if we are doing other things like watching TV , listening to music, eating, studying, surfing the internet … we confuse our brain and break with the unconscious associations that help it automate the act of going to bed and sleeping.
You can listen to soft music or read a bit before going to bedBut it doesn’t have to be done in the bedroom and under no circumstances will we be doing it in bed, listening to our favorite heavy metal band’s latest CD or doing dense or above all stimulating reading.
Avoid clocks, place the alarm clock facing the wall. Make your bedroom a timeless space.
Some noise remedies are to be used ear plugs, thick curtains, rugs or carpeting, Double glazing on the windows and in extreme cases cork on the walls or anti-noise plates.
Before going to bed
Starting at 6:00 p.m., we have to disconnect from work and do light exercises in the three hours before dinner. Never do intensive exercise (it is better in the morning) as it increases the body temperature and it brightens us. Dinner should be lightWe can introduce foods that facilitate sleep, ideally we will have dinner two hours before going to bed.
Avoid drinking alcohol and having heavy dinners; especially when the heat is tight, it is a factor that makes it difficult to sleep. On particularly hot nights, you can put on the pillowcase a few minutes in the fridge before going to bed.
In the two hours before bedtime we can schedule the next day, but we should not exceed 15 minutes, this is to review the agenda, not to get down to business. We can make a list of issues that concern us or open tasks and forget about it until the next morning.
At this time, before bed, avoid arguing, sticking to a late-ending TV show or movie. It is also advisable to set a time when we will shut down the computer, Exposure to the blue lights emitted by shielded devices such as the telephone, television or computer sends signals to our brain that make us think it is daylight. There is free software, f.lux, that removes these blue lights.
Perform relaxation techniques will help reduce the tension accumulated during the day. Regular sleep schedules and sleep rituals will help us send signals to our brain that suggest it is time to sleep.
Other tips for sleeping well
To enjoy good sleep hygiene, follow these other tips.
1. Rituals to fall asleep
Each animal species has its specific rituals for sleeping, dogs turn against what their bed will be, humans sleep in bedrooms – a specific area of our home dedicated to sleep, and we like that it’s always the same.
We can also practice certain rituals: put on our pajamas, brush our teeth, have a glass of milk, read a while… are actions we do every day (we can ignore it someday, but it should be the exception, not the norm).
As an example, we can use as rituals:
- Turn off the television, draw the curtains, prepare the clothes for the next day, set the table for breakfast, take out the trash, walk the dog, go to the bathroom …
- Do you sleep when you are sleepy, ideally we will always go to bed at the same time, an adult’s brain is programmed to be between 11 and 1 a.m.
- Establish regular schedules to go to sleep and get up, even on weekends.
- Don’t roll over in bed.
In accordance with the above, if after 10-15 minutes we have not fallen asleep, we get up, we will go to another part of the house to do something monotonous and boring until we fall asleep, then we try again. This certainly has an effect, but otherwise we will repeat the process, avoiding going to bed without sleep. The bed is for sleeping, not for rolling around thinking “I can’t fall asleep”.
2. Sleep medications
Sleeping pills (hypnotics) are very helpful if used correctly, however this always involves the supervision of a professional, Occupation limited in time and at the appropriate dose. These drugs are tolerant and addictive, which means that misuse is a remedy that, instead of solving the problem, makes it worse (and can complicate matters greatly).
A nap is recommended if you take it between 2 and 4 in the afternoon and it does not last longer than 20 minutes, ideally, this will be done 8 hours after waking up in the morning. If you suffer from insomnia, you should avoid it.
4. Insomnia and mental disorders
It is known that anxiety disorders and mood disorders (such as depression or bipolar disorder) are closely related to the quality and quantity of our sleep, so much so that when our rest is damaged, the disorder gets worse and, likewise, when we rest better, the disorder disappears.
One final clarification
All of these guidelines are helpful for people who suffer from transient insomnia due to poor sleep-related habits, for people who suffer from insomnia as a symptom of a more complex symptom picture, it may be helpful but not sufficient in these cases. a professional may be called upon to deal with the main problem.
- Estivill, E. and Averbuch, M .. (2006). Recipes for good sleep. Barcelona: Plaza & Janes editors.