We could all do with a little more, especially at this busy time of year, but is sleep deprivation getting the better of your health? Dr Sohere Roked reveals how you can beat fatigue for good
SIGNS YOU’RE NOT GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP
1. Waking up feeling tired
This may seem obvious, but if you wake up every day and still feel tired whether you have had five hours’ sleep or nine, you are probably sleep deprived. The body hasn’t had enough time to regenerate and rest and the constant change in sleep patterns is not allowing time to recover.
2. Relying on sugar and caffeine to keep going
If you have strong sugar and caffeine cravings it could be due to the fact you are not getting enough sleep. The stimulating effects of sugar and caffeine is your body responding to lack of sleep to keep going.
3. Lapses in concentration and focus
When you are tired it can be hard to concentrate and you may find yourself making ‘silly’ mistakes at work. Researchers discovered that after you’ve gone a night without sleep, you’re essentially operating on the same level as someone who’s intoxicated by alcohol.
4. You keep getting colds
Poor immunity can be caused by a lack of sleep. A study found that people who sleep less than seven hours a night are almost three times as likely to catch a cold than those who sleep more than seven hours.
5. You are putting on weight
Because of the increased levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, those who are sleep deprived are at greater risk of obesity.
6. You feel you are clumsier than usual
Reflexes are dulled when tired, so balance and depth perception can be a little wonky. As well as having trouble focusing, reaction time can be slowed, meaning you can’t quite catch the egg carton before it hits the floor.
7. You feel down in the dumps
If you find yourself feeling tearful and weepy and low in mood it could be due to lack of sleep, as it can affect hormones and also the brain’s ability to deal with emotional experiences.
8. You’ve lost your sex drive
Tiredness can affect your sex drive due to low energy and also an increase in cortisol, the stress hormone.
IMPROVE YOUR SLEEP TONIGHT
Here are some healthy habits to get into to improve your chances of getting a good night’s sleep:
- Turn off your TV/computer/smartphone before you go to bed. Electrical appliances stimulate the brain and won’t aid sleep.
- Try and get into a bedtime routine, like when you were a child. Take at least 30 minutes to wind down.
- Take a hot bath. A night’s sleep is normally preceded by a drop in body temperature. When you have a comfortably hot bath, artificially raising your body temperature, when you go back into your cooler bedroom it helps the body be more receptive to adjusting its body temperature.
- Warm skimmed milk (organic if possible), Brazil nuts and walnuts aid sleep, as do bananas. All release natural chemicals to relax the body and help you fall asleep due to their calcium content.
- Can a salad for dinner help you sleep? Yes! Lettuce contains lactucarium, which has sedative properties. You can make a lettuce tea by simmering a few lettuce leaves in hot water for 10–15 minutes and sip before going to bed.
- Your body needs vitamin B6 to help make melatonin and serotonin. Foods rich in B6 are fish like tuna, halibut and salmon, as well as raw garlic and pistachio nuts.
- Chamomile tea really can help sleep. It contains glycine, which relaxes nerves and muscles and can act as a mild sedative and also help reduce any anxiety.
- Carbohydrates at night can help induce sleep, such as rice, sweet potatoes and wholewheat pasta.
- Passion-flower tea has been found to promote good sleep.
- Some people find acupuncture, Ayurvedic medicine or traditional Chinese medicine helps them restore a good sleep cycle.
- Avoid caffeine, sugar and alcohol. Caffeine and sugar shouldn’t be consumed late in the day as they have been proven to cause restless sleep. Consider making 2pm your cut-off time for caffeinated drinks if you’re having trouble sleeping.
- A few drops of lavender oil on the pillow are relaxing, but more than that is stimulating so use with caution.
- If your mattress and pillows are worn out or if your bed is more than ten years old, invest in new ones as soon as possible.
- If you have a digital clock in your room, I’m afraid you’re going to have to turn it off, as well as your phone. Both release electromagnetic waves into the room that can interrupt sleep.
- Along a similar vein, make sure your room is as dark and quiet as possible. Invest in an eye mask and earplugs if needed.
- Try to sleep the same amount of hours every night and go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time, even at weekends. This allows your body to know when to secrete your hormones and make repairs.
Extracted from The Tiredness Cure by Dr Sohere Roked, £10.99, amazon.co.uk