A wake up call to the nation's sleep problems
So, the results of our sleep survey have been analysed and they do not make happy reading! As I have discovered from researching this sleep blog, good quality sleep is simply one of the best things you can do for your health.
Nevertheless, over half of the 950 people who took part in our survey classed their sleep quality as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’, and a huge 63% reported only getting 3 – 5 hours uninterrupted sleep a night, which does not bode at all well for their health!
I am especially worried about the 180 people who actually get no more than 2 hours sleep per night. How do they function? Although this is what they have become used to, their bodies will be suffering greatly and their mood, weight, immunity and even looks will be negatively affected.
So what is keeping these poor people awake? It seems that not being able to stay asleep is the biggest reason for these worrying statistics: 60% of people reported that their sleep problems stemmed from waking frequently throughout the night or waking early in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep.
If you are reading this and are nodding vigorously, recognising this pattern in yourself, then it is worth thinking about what time you do wake in more detail. Around 2 or 3am is the time the liver/digestive system is active, so if that is the time you wake up then think about what you eat at night and at what time you eat it.
The earlier you eat, and the lighter the food (i.e. not cheese fondue!), the better. If you wake at 4-5 am, then it is more likely to be your adrenal glands that are malfunctioning after years of stress, producing adrenaline at that time to wake you up as they are in ‘fight or flight’ mode and think there is a threat to be dealt with.
At a sleep clinic I held recently, it struck me that all the people who came to see me had had sleeping problems for years, and that for each of them the problems had started after one very stressful event in their lives.
It is as if this sudden burst of adrenal activity, necessary to help them deal with that event, had set up a pattern within their bodies whereby stress chemicals were being produced constantly.
Adrenaline and cortisol are the chemicals needed to deal with stress but having huge amounts of these in our blood is obviously counter productive to sleep. Which is why I was not surprised to see, in our survey that when asked to tick the lifestyle statements at the end of our survey, the biggest number (525 people) ticked ‘I suffer from stress and anxiety’. Daytime stress and insomnia go hand in hand.
Dealing with stress levels during the day, by taking herbs like Passiflora for example, is one of the best ways to help your body relax at night. It comes as no surprise either that a large number of people, 462 in fact, ticked ‘I watch television and surf the net before bed’.
Read my previous blog here: to see how detrimental this can be to your sleeping patterns. Large numbers of people also consume caffeine on a daily basis and do not go to bed until late at night, so again it is not surprising that so many of our respondents classed their sleep as ‘poor’ in quality!
So we do know now that people are generally not getting many hours of uninterrupted sleep, are waking throughout the night, do not feel refreshed in the morning and suffer a great deal from stress.
Years of working in health food shops and advising people on sleep issues means that I am not surprised by this, as these were concerns expressed most often by customers, especially waking early or waking frequently through the night. Although it is a worrying state of affairs, the good news is that these are things that can be helped with a few well chosen lifestyle adjustments and herbal remedies.
The most important thing is not to write off your sleep issues as ‘not important’ or to think that it is normal not to sleep well as you get older. It isn’t! Read our advice for healthy sleep on this site or go to your local health food shop and see what they can recommend.