Sleep deprivation is very common and has a significant impact on our quality of life, as well as our mental and physical health. Good sleep relies on good habits in order to retrain our brains, and in particular our circadian rhythm, our natural 24 hour cycle governed by light and dark.
Supplements and Habits
There are a number of supplements and dietary changes which can help to improve the duration and quality of sleep. Lifestyle and habit changes are essential to support better sleep quality and sleep duration.
Sour Cherries: Sour cherries are rich in nutrients like potassium, iron and magnesium. Sour cherry juice contains melatonin, a hormone that helps to induce sleep, it is also comprised of anthocyanins and procyanidins - chemicals with anti-inflammatory properties that can support sleep. Drinking sour cherry juice daily or incorporating frozen cherries in a smoothie before bed can aid sleep.
Oats: Oats contain tryptophan, an amino acid that the brain converts into serotonin, which relaxes the body before falling asleep. Our brains need tryptophan to make serotonin, so it is important to get enough of it for good sleep. Complex carbohydrates such as oats help the brain to convert tryptophan to serotonin. A small bowl of porridge sweetened with sour cherry juice before bed will help you get a good night’s sleep.
Supplements: There is a wide range of supplements that are beneficial for sleep, such as: vitamin B12, vitamin D, magnesium and 5-HTP. Further information on your personal recommended supplements can be found on your nutrient handouts.
Dark: It is essential to reduce light in your bedroom as much as possible so that your body’s natural circadian rhythm knows when it is time to sleep. Exposure to light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that influences circadian rhythms, even dim light can interfere with your circadian rhythm and melatonin secretion. In particular, blue light from electronic gadgets suppresses melatonin twice as long as other light, wearing blue light blocking glasses can help.
Avoid energy drinks, and reduce or stop caffeine intake, don’t have any caffeine after noon. Caffeine interferes with the circadian melatonin rhythms and can take as long as 6-8 hours to leave the system. A cup of coffee consumed within 6 hours of bedtime will interfere with sleep quality and reduce sleep by over an hour.
Feeling anxious or afraid all, or most, of the time is common when you have anxiety disorder. Those feelings of fear and being scared all the time are exacerbated by several factors including chronic stress, lifestyle, and behaviour.
Have you experienced any of these symptoms?
· Feeling afraid all the time, even when you don’t think you are in danger.
· A state of constant fear.
· You feel as though everything scares you.
· You react to everything with fear.
· You live with a permanent feeling of foreboding, that things are going to go wrong.
· You feel as if normal things, ordinary situations, that never used to bother you now provoke fear and anxiety and are perceived as dangerous.
· You have trouble stopping your thoughts automatically turning to fear and worst-case scenario, and that you can’t shut off those feelings.
These feelings may occur all the time or fluctuate in frequency. They may occur alongside or follow an escalation of other anxiety symptoms or occur by themselves. Often, they occur after a period of nervousness, anxiety, or fear, or they just appear from nowhere, for no apparent reason. A common time to experience these feelings is when we are trying to get to sleep, or on waking up.
Lifestyle and Behaviour
Side effects of medication often cause, aggravate, and even mimic feelings of fear and anxiety. Check your medications and discuss with your GP or pharmacist if you think this may be the case.
Alcohol and Recreational Drugs
Alcohol and many other recreational drugs cause and intensify anxiety symptoms, increasing our sense of danger and fear. They also have a profound effect on the nervous system, which aggravates existing anxiety symptoms.
Stimulants, particularly common ones such as coffee, can increase stress hormone secretion causing and exacerbating anxiety symptoms, including increasing a sense of danger and fear as anxiety symptoms are fuelled by stress hormones.
Lack of Sleep
Inadequate sleep has a serious impact on the body, lack of sleep: