Monday, 11 May 2009

One of the reasons for poor sleep could be depression. Or it could be the other way around, poor sleep is leading to depression. I'm sure everyone has been there at sometime or other, where sleep won't come because of the thoughts going round in our head. For some this is due to a temporary stress and rights itself. For many though it can be a vicious circle that goes on and on.

Mild depression can also become exacerbated with lack of sleep. The correlation between sleep and depression is a strong one, creating a viscous circle and can exacerbate both problems. The more weary and exhausted you become, the more difficult it is to get through the day. You may become isolated from your friends, take sick days from work. It is often thought depression causes a poor appetite leading to under eating. It is just as common for a depressed person to eat more than usual, taking comfort in eating. If this results in putting weight on this can lead to deeper depression and low self esteem.

I have mentioned previously how sleep problems affect our daily lives. Long periods of not sleeping well can lead to clinical depression. I am not an advocate of sleeping tablets, however I would recommend seeing your doctor if you do have long term sleeping problems that are leading to depression. Or the other way around if your depression is causing sleep problems. If lack of sleep is leaning you towards depression, a short course of sleeping tablets may help you get back into a pattern. My own mum had sleeping problems, she eventually went to the Doctors and she gave her a two week course of sleeping tablets. This solved her problem even after stopping the tablets. We did get her a new memory foam bed too and this also helped.

Although it is the last thing you feel like doing when you are tired, exercise can help lift both your mood, with the release of endorphins. A healthy diet can also help. High fat and stodgy food put pressure on your body. A healthy diet can give you more energy and enhance your mood. Did your mum used to say "oh she's run down must get her a tonic". Mums really do know best even if we didn't think so at the time. A tonic may help, a healthy diet is even better.

Please don't suffer in silence, talk to someone you feel you can, such as friends, family, a doctor or counsellor. If your bed is causing lack of sleep, a new one will help. If this isn't the cause, please do seek professional help such as counselling, medication, cognitive therapy. If you don't know where to turn to please visit the MIND website as they have a lot of advice on there. I wish you all the happiness in the world.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Sleep Patterns - Better Sleep

Understanding the sleep pattern for quality sleep.

For some people sleep comes easy, how often have we heard people say "I could sleep standing up" or "I could sleep on a clothes line". A surprisingly high number of people don't sleep well. We have a bedroom store and we have a lot of customers who have sleep problems asking for advice and will a new bed help?. A poor bed could be the cause or a contributing factor which we will touch on later.

A common statement is I sleep okay yet wake up feeling like I haven't been to sleep and are tired during the day. In brief, lack of quality sleep and the time spent asleep is crucial to health and well-being, We can understand better why you may be feeling like this if we look at the different stages and patterns of sleep.

How much sleep do we need?

These are guidelines and everyone is different. I could sleep for 6 hours and feel brilliant where as the next person may feel awful on this amount of sleep and need 7 hours. As Margaret Thatcher boasted she only ever had 4 hours sleep, I couldn't get by on that little. It's the same with children, my eldest had afternoon naps until he was four, my youngest stopped daytime naps when he was under two.

Newborns - 16 hours a day.

Six months to three years - 10 to 14 hours (this can include daytime sleep)

Ages 3 to 6: 10 and 12 hours of sleep

Ages 6 to 9: 10 hours of sleep

Over 9: 9 hours of sleep

Adults: 6 to 8 hours

Older adults: 7-8 hours with daytime sleep if needed

Stages of sleep

Sleep is triggered by an internal body clock, sensitive to light, time of day and other cues for sleep and waking. Your sleep goes through several stages throughout the night, moving back and forth between deep replenishing sleep and lighter stages and dreaming. As the night progresses, you spend more time in dream sleep and lighter sleep.

There are two main cycles of sleep, REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, when you dream. Your eyes actually move rapidly up an down during this stage, which is why it is called REM sleep. Non-REM (NREM) sleep consists of four stages of deep sleep. Each sleep stage is important for overall quality sleep, but deep sleep and REM sleep are especially important.

Stages of Sleep explained

The first stage is drowsiness - Lasting only up to ten minutes. Eyes move slowly under the eyelids, muscle activity slows down, and you are easily awakened. If you have something playing on your mind this can affect this stage. You know when you are drifting off and then find you start thinking again and suddenly feel awake.

The second stage is light sleep - Body temperature decreases (this is why we need duvets), blood pressure lowers and the heart rates slows.

The third and fourth stages are deep sleep.

You are difficult to wake and if you do get woke up it takes you a while to adjust, you feel groggy and quite disoriented. Isn't it horrible when you get woke up by an alarm when you are in a deep sleep, you just want to press the snooze button and go back to sleep. The problem with this is you don't go back into a deep sleep and can make you feel worse. Easier said than done though, I'm very good at saying five more minutes.

Deep sleep allows the brain to "switch off" to restore the energy we have used during our waking hours. Blood flow decreases to the brain in this stage, and redirects itself towards the muscles, restoring physical energy. When you go to bed with aching, tired legs and wake up and they are back to normal, this is how it happens. Research also shows that immune functions increase during deep sleep. That's why when we are feeling ill the best thing to do is not work through the illness, sleep through the illness you will get better quicker.

REM sleep is also known as the dreaming stage – Between 70 and 90 minutes into your sleep cycle, you enter REM. You usually have three to five REM episodes per night. This stage is associated with processing emotions, creating memories and relieving stress and this is why we dream it's the braining sorting everything out. Some people say they don't dream, it's rather they don't remember them as everyone dreams.

REM or dreaming sleep, is essential to our minds for processing and consolidating emotions, memories and stress, a little like defragmenting your computer. Your computer will work faster after this, so will our minds after REM sleep. Dreaming is the brain process fragments of information from the daytime. If you are disturbed during REM sleep you can feel quite low or irritable the next day. Although previously I have recommended getting up at the same time everyday, we can break this rule if you do feel like this. Sleep half an hour longer and see if that helps your mood. This is because the REM stage is longer in the morning and if you do have sleep problems deep sleep will be restored before REM sleep.

If you don't get enough deep sleep it can affect you greatly during the daytime and if it is regular you can feel completely exhausted.

Deep sleep is often disturbed when you have someone who needs nighttime care such as a new baby or you are a carer for a relative who needs attention during the night. If this is you please do ask for help. If you a have a young baby ask your partner or a family member to help during the night on occasion. If you can't or don't want to do this follow the baby's pattern in the day, when they have a sleep you put your feet up and do the same. The housework can wait, you are more important and it can be done quicker when the baby is awake than if you are trying to fight exhaustion. Don't forget to unplug the phone and put a note on the front door so you don't get disturbed. The amount of times I'd be in a lovely sleep and the door or phone would go.

If you are a carer for a relative who is older or ill, please don't be worried to ask for help so that you can get some undisturbed sleep. When I was a student nurse I worked as a nighttime carer where I would get up in the night to care for the relative. This gave the carer a much needed undisturbed sleep. Carers work bloomin hard and give up so much of their "normal lives" and time to care for loved ones. I know easier said than done but please don't forget to care for yourself too.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

What time to go to bed?

What time should we go to bed for the best sleep?

There is no best time as we all lead different lives which affect the time we can go to bed. We can all follow the same pattern though adapting to your lifestyle. As mentioned previously our internal body clock is regulated by the time of day, light and dark. The natural way is sleep in the dark and light tells our body it's time to wake up.

Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, this can help especially with falling asleep if you have difficulty with this. However tempting it is, try not to break this routine on the weekend, you may be tempted to stay up later or sleep in. If you have children you're probably screaming at me what's a lie in, I haven't had one of those for 10 years. Or if you are a party animal wondering why I am trying to ruin your fun. If you really must go out please do so, I can't be so mean as to say not too, lifes to short. Oh that is going against what I am saying, NO DON'T GO OUT. Is that better? What I am trying to say is you make the decision, if you have got sleep problems try to stick to it until a pattern is established. If you don't get your glad rags on and dance round your handbag, but try to stick to the routine as much as possible.

You decide what time you want to go to bed and wake up, as only you know what works best with work, children etc. Work out your routine for the week and decide a practical bedtime and rising time.

Best bedroom environment for a better sleep

Your bedroom environment may be contributing to your sleep pattern problems or insomnia. The answer to an improved sleep may be as subtle as creating some minor changes to your bedroom. Have a little look round the bedroom and see if you spot anything that may be disrupting your sleep. A few pointers below to help you, even if you don't have sleep problems they can help give you an even better sleep.

For the best sleep environment your bedroom should be as dark as possible, quiet, a comfortable temperature and lots of fresh air.

Is your bedroom dark enough? If you wake during the night do you wonder if it is morning as it seems quite light, yet when you look it's still the early hours. As spoken about previously light depletes melatonin sending your brain the message it's time to wae up. If this is so blackout blinds or curtains could be the solution. I have these as I live in a close with no road just a grass and walking area and have a great big street lamp in front of my bedroom window. They can be expensive and if you're handy with a needle you can buy blackout backs for your existing curtains. I got mine for £5.00 years ago, a bargain when I was a nurse for day sleeping, they aren't the nicest curtains but they keep the light out. If this isn't practical an eye mask could also help.

Is your bedroom quiet? Does noise disturb your sleep, neighbours talking, loud televisions or music from downstairs or neighbours, traffic noise? You can ask people in your home to keep the noise to a minimum external noise you don't really have control of the volume. You can try white noise, a fan, a recording of soothing sounds such as waves, rainfall, birds although the latter would drive me round the bend. Earplugs may help, try the soft spongy ones I find them more comfortable. You should still be able to hear the alarm if it's a loud one.

Is your bedroom the right temperature? It is difficult sleeping in a hot stuffy room or a freezing cold draughty bedroom. I personally find keeping the bedroom slightly cooler best for me and I have the window open as often as possible as I hate condensation and love fresh air. If you room is too warm even with the window open a fan can help circulate air. Try not to sleep next to a draught though as this can give you a crick in the neck. Although don't know if that's true just something my mum always says and she tells me she's never wrong.

Sleep Pattern Problems

Thousands of people in the UK have problems with their sleeping pattern, be it actually going to sleep, tossing and turning in the night, waking and then can't get back to sleep. For some not getting enough quality sleep is caused by a disruption to the internal body clock. There are steps you can take to help re-establish a "normal" sleep pattern.

Our natural sleep pattern can be affected for many different reasons such as work, travel commonly referred to as jet lag, illness, a new baby, sleeping on an uncomfortable mattress. When this is affected by life events, re-establishing a regular routine is often enough to get your sleeping patterns back to normal

Your internal body clock is regulated predominantly by light and dark, night and day. Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland and is stimulated by the dark and diminishes when it becomes light. It has a large role in the sleep - waking cycle

At night time when you are coming up to the bedtime hours, try sitting with the lights out if watching tv or if reading have the lowest light possible as not to strain your eyes. This will help increase your melatonin levels

Light tells your body clock to move to the active daytime phase, in the morning even if you haven't had much sleep. When you get up, open the curtains or go outside to get some sunlight as soon as possible. If that’s not possible, turn on the lights to make your environment bright.bed make sure the bedroom is as dark as possible, this ties in with the above and stimulating melatonin.
Don't sleep for less hours than you would at night if possible. When you get up try and get some light, if it is winter months and dark early turn on the brightest lights in the home. Try not to work alternative nights, this is even worse for the sleep cycle. Speak to your manager if they do schedule this and tell them it affects your health.
A disturbed sleep pattern and feeling tired is not nice and can become debilitating if you can't re-establish your sleep pattern please see your Doctor for help or too see if there are any underlying causes.