We all understand by now that sleep is a pretty crucial part of our everyday health management. Our many, many, MANY explorations into the world of sleep have highlighted that 1. Loads of you have trouble with this part of your lives (same) and 2. There are a lot of potential reasons for your nightly discomfort.
Today, I’d like to take a look at the issue of broken sleep and what you can do to lessen the impact of this trend.
Why do I suffer from interrupted sleep?
According to Harvard Health, interrupted sleep becomes far more common as adults grow older.
Dr Suzanne Bertisch, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School told the university: “Your circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake cycle, may dramatically shift when you’re older, causing you to get sleepy earlier. So if 8 p.m. is the start of your ‘biologic’ night, then your natural wake time may be around 4:00 am”.
Wow, I hate that.
In addition to shifting sleep patterns and needs, Harvard shared lifestyle choices like “drinking alcohol within four hours of bedtime”, “Eating within a few hours of bedtime”, “Napping too much” and my personal vice, “consuming too much caffeine,” could be to blame, too.
In some cases, certain types of medication could be impacting your sleep patterns and in others, underlying health conditions may be to blame (so if you’re concerned about your sleep habits, it may be worth chatting to a health professional).
Chris Advansun, Head of sleep stories at Calm app shared that trouble with sleep is quite common. Over email, he shared that:
“According to the Sleep Health Foundation (2019), 60% of Aussies struggle to sleep well, and whilst it’s natural to wake up in the night, insomnia and other sleep disruptors often prevent us from enjoying a quality sleep.”
In addition to the above points sourced from Harvard research, Advansun explained that “many struggle to sleep because they can’t stop their racing thoughts from the day, and it can be difficult to get to an immediate relaxation point before bed. Sleep experts call this a cycle of rumination.”
There are ways to address that cycle of rumination, however
If you’re one of those people who struggle to shut their brains down, even the point where your thoughts wake you in the middle of the night, there are tools you can use to help you out.
Advansun suggested trying a regular meditation practice as an option. He shared that “even if it’s just 10 minutes a day [meditation] can improve your sleep quality and duration”. Other mindfulness tasks are often really effective in focusing thoughts, also.
Another useful habit to get into is setting up a bedtime routine (which we’ve written about before). Advansun used examples like taking a bath or shower before reading a book and stretching, as this “helps the body recognise that it is time to prepare for sleep”.
The other tool he suggested, naturally, was trying out the Calm app’s Sleep Stories. He described this as “a twist on the classic bedtime story, mixing soothing tales with music, sound FX and incredible voice talent to help you drift into dreamland. This audio experience helps listeners to relax their bodies and quiet their minds, mindfully soothing them to sleep”.
“It’s completely normal to wake during the night,” he shared.
“In fact, we move through different phases of sleep throughout the night regardless of whether or not we actually come back into consciousness. Refocusing on the breath in tandem with turning on a Sleep Story or relaxing music can help resettle your mind.”
I can tell you from experience that using a Sleep Story before bed is one of the most calming bedtime routines I’ve tried (along with using a Theragun).
At times, I find my mind will start running with weird and wild thoughts as soon as my head hits the pillow, but every time I’ve pressed play on one of these stories – which I’ve done a number of times over the space of a few months – it shuts those thoughts down.
Also, the fact that folks like Harry Styles, Cillian Murphy and Laura Dern appear in the list of voices ready to lull you to sleep of an evening doesn’t hurt. Who doesn’t want Harry Styles’ voice to be the last thing they hear at night?