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Sleep Disorders

30 June 2020

Advertorial: How to fall asleep faster

If you are frustrated with falling asleep, you’re not alone.

It’s estimated that more than 30% of the general population have the same problem. For adults over the age of 60, insomnia affects almost one in every two people! 

This is according to a 2012 World Health Organisation (WHO) sleep study of eight African and Asian countries, including South Africa.

Similarly, a 2017 Sealy Sleep Census revealed that only one in five South Africans get a full eight hours’ sleep each night and more than 30% of those interviewed took more than 30 minutes to fall asleep at night.

Healthy sleep habits have a big impact on your quality of life. Sleeping well directly influences your mental & physical health. Fall short on a good sleep routine and it can take a serious toll on your daytime energy, productivity, emotional balance and even your weight.

As sleep experts, Sealy South Africa advises on these four principles to help you fall asleep faster:

1) Get the foundation right: A good mattress

Have you considered that you might not be the problem? In almost every case, a poor quality, old or worn mattress is an overlooked factor in insomnia.

If you’ve been sinking into an old bed that’s lost its shape, your body is not being supported and your unique sleeping posture isn’t being accommodated. If your mattress is too firm or too soft, you might experience back and joint pains.

We all have different body compositions and sleeping preferences, therefore finding the right mattress isn’t necessarily a hard, soft or expensive one, but should be comfortable and supportive, allowing your body to rejuvenate and recover whilst you sleep. 

Sealy’s exclusive Posturepedic Technology™ mattresses are built to help provide proper support for the entire body, comfort for a great night’s sleep and durability for peace of mind. Orthopedically correct mattress design fully supports the body while at the same time relieving pressure points, allowing the body to fully relax. 

2) Feed your body right: Plan your dinner

You may have learned that snacking close to bedtime is bad, but there is more to it. The latest science reveals that what you eat for dinner and when you eat also makes a huge difference to your sleep.

Consuming carbohydrates with a high glycemic index four hours before bedtime, such as white rice and pasta, could significantly reduce the time it takes to fall asleep.

Research by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition explains that this is because carbohydrates could increase the level of serotonin precursor in your body, which is known as a “wellness chemical” with sleep-inducing effects.  

In addition, pay attention to these tips:

  • Don’t eat too much, in case indigestion keeps you awake
  • Don’t eat too little or your hunger might stop you from falling asleep
  • Eat predominantly easily digestible carbohydrates, and not too much fat
  • Avoid stimulating food or drinks, such as chilli and coffee

3) Treat your mind right: Manage your stress

Being completely un-stressed isn’t really possible for most of us. Stress is one of the top reasons for sleep problems, even when you think that you aren’t stressed.

When we’re stressed, our body’s immune system becomes compromised – making stress a double threat. A lack of sleep and high stress levels are both suppress your immune system. It’s helpful to identify the stressor that may be causing subconscious anxiety, sadness and fear.

Stress can be subtle but has far-reaching effects on your mind. Try to find where stress is coming from and try to manage it with relaxation techniques: 

  • Practice a breathing technique
  • Try a guided meditation using meditation apps
  • Gentle exercise during the day to release endorphins, the happy hormone

4) Get the intention right: Stop fighting

You may be one of those people who have tried many relaxation techniques and failed, as if the brain is resisting your efforts to calm down. In fact, the brain can be stubborn and does the exact opposite of what we want it to do.

This is when the more you want to sleep, the less sleepy and more irritated you get. Try something different: Don’t fight it. Instead, trick your brain using the psychological principle called paradoxical intention.

If you use paradoxical (reverse) intention and think staying awake, you might actually fall asleep faster. So next time you struggle to sleep, just give up the thought, “I need to sleep now”.

Listen to a podcast or read a book as if you want to stay awake, and your brain may do the opposite and let you sleep!

 

Ask the Expert

Sleep disorders expert

Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

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