By Stephanie Simons,
Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire
A good night’s sleep is something that most people treasure: it can make you feel restored and refreshed, ready to tackle the day ahead. When we miss out on it, it can wreck our whole day, leaving us sluggish and temperamental. Amazingly, for an act that is vital to all of us, we don’t know that much about sleep: scientists are still studying it to find out exactly why we need sleep and all of its benefits.
In these short and dark days of winter, sleep can be a comfort, but many people still struggle to fall asleep and to wake up. Here are some of my thoughts and insights that you might find useful.
While there is sometimes an attitude that sleep is something that should be minimised in order to make the most of your day, this is a detrimental way of thinking. Most experts agree that good quality sleep is vital to a healthy lifestyle and is just as important as your diet and fitness routine.
A restful night of sleep will leave us feeling refreshed in the morning and will have a notable impact on concentration and productivity. Most people have had the experience of going to work after a restless night and found that they aren’t able to produce the kind of work they normally would.
A lot of people find themselves in bed, unable to shut off, worrying about the day ahead or things that they did that day. By establishing a clear routine in the evening, this can often be remedied. The blue light that emanates from the screens of electronic devices is widely believed to disrupt our sleep, stimulating our brains and suppressing melatonin production. This means that you should stop using them approximately an hour before bed, minimum. You might find temptation easier to resist if your phone or tablet is not within reach: why not leave it in a different room at night?
Before turning off your bedside light, train your body to prepare for sleep by reading a book or listening to some classical music for a short period. This can help to make you feel a little drowsy and set you off on the right foot.
If you find yourself easily disturbed as you are trying to drift off, it may be worth investing in an eye mask or earplugs – they are not just for air travel! Ensuring that your bed smells nice is useful, too, with lavender often cited as being helpful for those who want to rest. A drop of lavender essential oil on your sheets, your hands or even in a pre-bedtime bath can help to soothe your mind.
If you are still struggling with sleep, some nutritional supplements may help your body better prepare for a restful night. Melatonin, the hormone that helps your body transition to sleep, can be taken in a tablet form to help your body better regulate its wakefulness and is available over the counter. Other natural nutritional tablets, such as Valerian, can also help the body fall asleep quicker.
When it comes to waking up, try to resist hitting the snooze button over and over. Studies have shown that waking up when your alarm first goes can leave you feeling more alert in the long run whereas hitting snooze can complicate your body’s waking up process, leaving you feeling more tired.
Natural light helps in waking up but if you’re having to get up consistently before dawn, it may be worth investing in an alarm clock that wakes you up by gradually lighting the room, which can result in a less jarring wake-up call.
Should you still struggle to sleep then come and talk to your pharmacist who can suggest other medication, such as Sleep-Eeze or ZZZquil, which can help send you off to the land of nod. However, these are short-term solutions and if insomnia persists you should consult a doctor.
Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and has been practicing for over 20 years. She is a registered pharmacist with the Bermuda Pharmacy Council and is a member of the Bermuda Pharmaceutical Association.