We’ve all had those sleepless nights in which we find ourselves staring at the ceiling. No matter how much you toss and turn, you can’t find that one comfortable position. Thousands of thoughts are racing through your head and you just can’t fall asleep, no matter what you try. Lying wide awake in your bed you listen to the sound of the clock ticking away. Then the sound of the alarm clock cuts through your dreams and startles you awake. You’re already tired and the day has just begun.
About 30% of the adult population suffer from poor sleep. Only 10 to 20% seek medical help for their symptoms. Women experience this more often than men. In fact, women are twice as likely to have sleep problems. So, what causes sleep loss? And what can we do to make sure we get a good night’s sleep?
A good night’s rest starts during the day
A sleep study has shown that sleep deprivation has a negative effect on and increases health risks. For example, heart problems increase by 7 to 11% with each hour below the recommended minimum of seven hours per night. Shorter sleep duration increases the risk of stroke by 5 to 7% and is also associated with an increased risk of diabetes and depression of 9% and 31%, respectively. Continuous poor sleep is therefore not as harmless as we may think.
Besides the fact that a lack of sleep leads to a greater risk of health issues, it also affects our concentration and memory during the day. Sleep loss makes us irritable and grumpy, so it also has a negative effect on our day-to-day living and our relationships.
5 tips to improve the quality of sleep
Tip 1: get plenty of exercise during the day
The more active you are during the day, the easier it will be to fall asleep at night. Therefore, you should try to incorporate at least 30 minutes of exercise into your daily routine. Physical activity creates more adenosine in the brain. This chemical works hand in hand with melatonin to promote sleep.
Tip 2: avoid bright screens before bedtime
A study conducted by the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) has revealed that frequent or prolonged use of tablets, smartphones or laptops from one hour until going to sleep is associated with sleep complaints. The blue light that these devices emit and the visual stimuli make our brains active, thereby affecting our ability to fall asleep.
Tip 3: avoid alcohol
Many of us believe that an alcoholic drink or two will help lull us into restful sleep. This is because alcohol allows people to fall asleep quicker and sleep more deeply for a while. However, alcohol reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep is also referred to as dream sleep. It functions to reinforce or process what we have experienced and learned the day before. Alcohol reduces the quality of REM sleep, which can affect people’s mental state.
Tip 4: smoking and difficulty sleeping
Smoking can cause sleep problems. It is generally known that smoking is harmful to the body. Smoking increases the chance of developing various types of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Sleep loss is also bad for your physical health. So, people who smoke and as a consequence suffer from sleep loss are doubling the harm on their bodies. Quitting smoking can improve sleep.
Tip 5: avoid heavy meals and cut back on caffeine
Eating a heavy meal can sabotage your sleep. Conversely, going to bed with an empty stomach can also make it hard to fall asleep. Therefore, the first step toward better sleep is eating a balanced, nutritious meal.
In addition, you should avoid caffeinated drinks such as coffee and tea, hot chocolate, and alcoholic beverages in the evening. Try having water or tea without theine instead. There are also many different herbs that promote sleep.
Do you have difficulty falling asleep on a regular basis? In this blog, we share even more useful tips for people who struggle with sleep loss. If you have serious sleep problems, such as a sleep disorder, don’t hesitate to contact a doctor. Most sleep issues can be treated but they need to be diagnosed first. For example, mindfulness can help to relax you before sleeping and there are also various traditional medicines and homoeopathic remedies for promoting sleep.
Dokteronline.com is a platform for connecting patients with doctors and pharmacies, enabling targeted treatment and care. Dokteronline.com believes in responsible self-management of treatable health conditions.
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Schermgebruik voor het slapen gaat samen met slechtere nachtrust | RIVM (Screen use before bedtime related to poorer sleep quality | RIVM). (2017, 6 July). Consulted on 19 February 2020 on https://www.rivm.nl/nieuws/schermgebruik-voor-slapen-gaat-samen-met-slechtere-nachtrust
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