Sleeping pills are in the news again with concerns of increasing cancer. 1 in 10 adults apparently use sleeping pills regularly. Relying on pills to send you to the land of nod is not a good idea, as research is starting to confirm. Sleep is hugely important to everyday health and is one of the foundation stones which I focus on with my patients when improving their health. We should all be getting about 8 hours of good quality sleep a day, yet how many of us manage that?
Our body reboots itself whilst we are in the deep stages of sleep, and many important physiological processes occur. Common issues affecting our sleep include caffeine intake, alcohol, blue light from our devices and stress.
General sleep measures I discuss with my patients include no devices after 8pm, although watching the TV is fine. Apparently the TV screen mimics flickering firelight to your brain which is sleep inducing, so long as you are not watching a stressful programme. Having a light protein snack and warm drink such as camomile tea can also be sleep inducing, as can a warm bath. Keeping light levels low with warm orange light, mimicking a sunset to you brain is also important. All these will increase your natural melatonin secretion, which starts at about 8pm, but this can also be boosted with melatonin tablets which your doctor can prescribe for you. These are non addictive and are not sleeping tablets and can help to break a poor sleep cycle, but again should not be relied on for long term use.
Exercising during the day has also been shown to improve sleep habits, as has exposure to daylight early in the morning. Consider seeing your doctor if you are having sleep issues as improving this will maximise your dayime wellbeing and give you long term good health.