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What’s keeping you awake?

There are many things that can affect how well you sleep. We’ve listed some key points below:

Lifestyle

A few small changes to the way you live your life may be all it takes to improve your sleep

Get the right balance between work, rest and play.

It’s important to keep a routine; going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time the following day helps train the body to maintain a regular sleep pattern.

Get active.

Getting regular exercise during the day, even if it’s only gentle exercise such as walking, will help you switch your mind off from the stresses of the day and relax more.

Shift work

Shift work acts against the body’s natural ‘clock’ as you have to stay awake when your body thinks it should be sleeping.

The effects can be similar to jet lag.

A busy brain

If you’re overworking and not making time to wind down before bed, it’s likely your sleep will be affected. It’s important to relax before you try to go to sleep. 47% of people blame anxiety caused by relationships, money or work problems for their sleepless nights. Worries can race through the mind unless you take steps to keep them in check. If you wake in the night worrying about things then it may help to get up and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy again.

Diet

Both alcohol and the 'wrong kinds of food' can cause sleep problems, particularly if they’re consumed at the wrong time. Late night meals make your digestive system work harder, keeping you awake at night for longer.

Cigarettes

Nicotine is a stimulant which can keep you awake. If you smoke, you should leave a few hours between your last cigarette and bedtime. Stop smoking!

Depression and emotional turmoil

Sleeplessness is a common symptom amongst people suffering from depression, anxiety, trauma or bereavement. We strongly advise anyone in this position to consult their GP in order to receive the most appropriate care and support.

Exercise

Exercise is great for staying healthy and helping you sleep better; it will tire your body and help you sleep deeper. However, make sure you exercise at the right time.

Wait for the body to cool down after exercise before retiring to bed, since body temperature is essential for good sleep. Experts advise leaving a minimum of 2 hours between heavy exercise and bedtime.

Sleep apnoea

This is a medical disorder which causes sufferers to breathe irregularly at night. As people with ‘apnoea’ fall asleep, the muscles in their airway relax making the pharynx or soft palate obstruct the airway and stop the flow of air to the lungs. This obstruction causes them to stop breathing temporarily and wakes them up, often with a snore or snort. The constant waking up disrupts sleep and can lead to excessive tiredness the next day.

Sleep apnoea affects around 1 in 100 people. They tend to be overweight males aged between 30 and 65, but the condition may also occur in children with enlarged tonsils. Sleep apnoea can be related to chronic snoring. Frequent but short pauses in someone’s snoring is one indication of sleep apnoea. Special sleep clinics can help. If you think you may be a sufferer, you should see your doctor who can recommend the correct treatment. This may involve a specialist sleep clinic.

Snoring

In a survey commissioned by The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, 13% of people blamed their partner’s heavy breathing or snoring for keeping them awake at night. Snoring doesn’t usually cause problems for the person doing it but can keep partners or family awake!

Snoring is the noise made when the tissue in your mouth, nose and throat vibrates as the air passes through whilst you breathe during sleep. As we get older or put on weight, the muscles in our neck aren’t as good at keeping our air passages open enough to allow for normal breathing. Colds, alcohol and smoking can make snoring worse.

Sleeping on your back can make your tongue fall back towards your throat, narrowing the airway and making you more likely to snore. 67% of couples admit that they argue about snoring.

For relief, Breathe Right Nasal Strips gently open nasal passages to help you breathe better, relieve congestion, and help you breathe through your nose instead of your mouth to reduce or eliminate snoring.

Nightmares

1 in 10 of us regularly suffers from nightmares. Nightmares can be defined as ‘a frightening dream that awakens the sleeper.’

Nightmares occur during the REM phase of sleep and usually later in the night. The person experiencing the nightmare usually wakes up and can recall the dream. Although they can be distressing, they are no cause for alarm, unless they become persistent.

They’re often a natural response to an emotional upset or anxiety. If they persist over a long period of time, you may want to seek advice from your doctor.

Sleepwalking

Sleepwalking or ‘somnambulism’ is quite common and is caused by incomplete arousal from deep or 'delta' sleep. During sleepwalking, the brain is half awake and half asleep. Sleepwalkers leave their beds, often moving slowly or clumsily. There is a risk they might injure themselves due to their confused and disoriented state.

Most sleep walking occurs in children and often disappears as they get older.

Sleep walking can run in families.

To avoid harming themselves, serial sleepwalkers should sleep on the ground floor and have no access to dangerous objects and keys.

Night terrors

Night terrors or sleep terrors are different from nightmares and happen during deep or ‘delta’ sleep rather than REM sleep. They often begin with a scream with the person suffering from the night terror appearing in obvious panic; wide open eyes, trembling, heart pounding and sweating. Although the person appears awake, they aren’t.

Children have more delta sleep than adults and are therefore more prone to night terrors.

People who experience a night terror usually don’t remember the incident the next day.

Night terrors in adults may be an indication of anxiety and it would be worth consulting a doctor if they persist.

Medicines

Some medicines can have an effect on sleep, so it’s worth checking the side effects of any medication that you may be on with your doctor.

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