After a night out it can be difficult to relax. The adrenalin released into the brain can keep the body and mind on edge, making sleep difficult. Sleep is important for good health and disturbed sleep or insomnia can cause some real problems, emotionally as well as physically. Sleep is important to maintaining your immune and nervous systems. Additionally, lack of sleep will impact on your fine motor skills and your capacity to remember and concentrate.
Some of us have developed different regimes for managing sleeplessnees. This may include the use of other drugs to assist with sleep. While this can work, it can also entrench poor sleep patterns and sleeping problems in the long term. Fortunately, there are other things we can do to get us back in to a natural sleep pattern.
Eating and Drinking
A light snack several hours prior to sleeping can be useful. There are certain foods and beverages which can assist in promoting sleep. Combining foods high in carbohydrate and tryptophan may be useful in promoting sleep. Tryptophan, which can be found in dairy foods, some whole grains and bananas, is crucial in the body’s formation of serotonin and melatonin, both of which help the body to relax and promote sleep. Carbohydrates assist the tryptophan to pass through the blood brain barrier. Evening snacks that may be beneficial include a small bowl of porridge or cereal, yoghurt, a banana smoothie or a cup of warm milk. It is best to avoid large high fat, or high protein meals.
There are also a number of teas that may prove beneficial to sleep including chamomile tea, which contains the mildly tranquilising Chrysin (also found in passionfruit).
It is suggested to avoid:
- Spicy foods, especially if you're prone to heartburn.
- Caffeinated beverages within eight hours of your desired bedtime. Your body doesn't store caffeine, but it does take many hours for it to eliminate the stimulant and its effects.
- Alcohol. Although it may initially make you feel sleepy, alcohol prevents the deeper stages of sleep and often causes you to awaken in the middle of the night.
(If you have been neglecting food for sometime, you may require more nutrients, including protein, as part of your recovery. See the pre and post loading with food article in the food and diet section for more information.)
An environment that is safe and comfortable is important in promoting good sleep. Factors that impact on sleep include temperature, noise, comfort and light. While it varies from person to person it has been suggested that the room temperature most conducive to sleep is between 16 and 18 degrees Celsius. Many people claim that music or having the radio on in the background helps them to sleep, but in fact it is more likely to stimulate the brain. It is suggested that noise and visual images such as television be kept to minimum in the bedroom. Light is another important factor as the body is programmed to respond to light. It is important therefore to ensure that the room is dark and will remain dark until you are ready to awake. This may mean using an eye mask or ensuring that your blinds can keep out the daylight if you intend sleeping during the day.
There are a number of things you might want to consider in terms of establishing (or re-establishing) a beneficial sleep routine:
- Going to bed at a regular time
- Trying to avoid sleeping during the day
- If you’ve been out partying, give yourself some time between getting home and going to bed to allow some of the hype and tension to subside. There is nothing worse than lying in bed when you brain is still stimulated.
- Utilise the bedroom as place for only two things – sleep or sex. Avoid reading books, eating, arguing or watching TV in bed. This trains the mind to associate the bedroom with sleep (if you want to set aside somewhere else for sex that’s your business).
- Avoid nicotine for several hours prior to going to bed.
If sleep difficulties are becoming a chronic problem you may want to consider giving using a rest and giving your body a chance to get back in to a routine, or consult a doctor to get further support.