Ten simple steps to ensure good night's sleep
Do you hit the snooze button several times every morning and fantasise about having a lie-in? Do you rely on numerous cups of coffee to get you through the day?
Chances are you may be one of the estimated 60pc of people who are not getting enough sleep. Earlier this year, research released by NUI Galway showed that not getting enough sleep increased a person's risk of developing hypertension, or high blood pressure, and heart disease. Meanwhile, other international studies have linked lack of sleep to increased blood sugar levels, stunting growth in children, reduced testosterone production in men, and depression.
"Fatigue is a common problem, and one that I see all of the time in my surgery," says Dr Sohere Roked, a GP and holistic expert and author of the newly-released book The Tiredness Cure. "The problem is that the medical community often doesn't know how to treat these patients. When their blood tests come back normal, they are told that there's nothing wrong. Medically, that is correct, so this is where a holistic approach comes in."
Here, Dr Roked shares her top 10 ways to beat fatigue…
THE 5PM CURFEW
Cutting down on your intake of caffeine in the evenings will help you to get a better night's sleep, but it's not the only stimulant that should be avoided at the end of the day. Dr Roked recommends a 5pm cut-off point for eating carbohydrates and sugar. White carbohydrates in particular are quickly broken down into fuel by the body, which leads to an accumulation of sugar in the blood and a boosted energy window. In effect, you're telling your body to ramp up rather than wind down.
EAT YOUR GREENS
Forget the traditional five-a-day, in order to beat fatigue, a person should have at least seven portions of fruit and vegetables in their daily diet according to Dr Roked. She recommends including bananas, kale and spinach in the diet, each of which contain compounds that aid the body in making the sleep hormone melatonin. She also recommends having lettuce with your evening meal as it contains lactucarium, which has sedative properties. Walnuts, Brazil nuts, chickpeas, shrimp and lobster also promote good sleep.
LIMIT DAIRY AND GLUTEN
"Unless you have specific medical conditions or allergies, you never have to fully avoid any one food - everything in moderation is the key," says Dr Roked. "However, with people who have gastric symptoms such as abdominal discomfort and bloating, reducing their dairy and gluten intake may help to improve a sluggish gut. People with these symptoms should try to limit their intake to five servings a week, which should allow the gut to recover and result in increased energy levels."
BALANCE YOUR BODY
Remember your science class pH test? The results can be used for more than just school grades. The body's pH level indicates the balance between acids and alkalis that are present. For good health, the body's pH balance should be slightly more alkaline. An acidic environment makes it harder for the body to fight infection and disease and can lead to rashes, inflammation and fatigue, Dr Roked says. You can correct the balance by cutting down on acid-rich substances such as grains, tea and coffee, and alcohol and cigarettes.
Good hydration levels are essential for good health. When your organs are fully hydrated, they work more efficiently, using up less of the body's energy which, in turn, leaves you feeling less drained. Water and sleep go hand in hand in allowing the body to repair itself, according to Dr Roked. "Getting the optimum amount of sleep allows the body to carry out vital repair processes," she says. "Between 3am and 5am is the time when the most regeneration work is done in organs such as the liver and pancreas. It's very important to give the body time to look after itself."
SUNSHINE = SLEEP
Vitamin D is essential for producing energy to help our bodies beat fatigue. The body's main source is through sunlight, which can be in short supply at this time of the year and so a dietary supplement is necessary. Dr Roked also recommends taking a Spirolina supplement. Available in tablet or powder form, this is a sea algae which is rich in iodine and iron, both of which help the thyroid gland to regulate the hormones - including serotonin for well-being and melatonin for sleep.
DON'T JOG WHEN IT'S DARK
Exercise helps to boost natural energy levels but we should be careful to do the right type of exercise at the right time of day, according to Dr Roked.
"There's no point in going out for a run and then trying to go to sleep afterwards," she says. "Your body will be full of adrenaline that won't let you unwind. Gentle exercises such as yoga and stretching are better for evening time as they help the body to lose tension and get ready for a good night's sleep."
HAVE A BEDTIME PLAN
Bedtime routines are not just for newborns, they can help adults to get to sleep quickly too, says Dr Roked. She recommends ending your evening with a wind-down routine, where you turn off computers and mobile phones and do some meditation or listen to relaxing music. The bedroom itself should be kept for sleeping - never use it to work or reading, which stimulate rather than relax your mind and prevent you from drifting off.
DON'T BE SCARED BY THE BEDROOM
If you find yourself staring at the ceiling with your mind racing at night, then it's time to get out of bed. Dr Roked says that psychological reasons are often the cause of disturbed sleep. Make your room as comfortable as possible, so that the body and mind are signalled to relax. If you have trouble sleeping, this can cause anxiety in itself whereby the mind makes the bedroom into an area of fear. Rather than tossing and turning all night, Dr Roked says to break the cycle by getting out of bed and "doing something boring like ironing" until you feel sleepy enough to try going to bed again. Don't have a cup of tea while you're waiting - the caffeine will stimulate rather than relax you. Warm, skimmed milk or a banana are better choices.
"In the modern world, the more we do, the better we think we are," says Dr Roked. "Sleep is often the first thing that goes as we try to achieve more and more. Sleep should be viewed in the same way we view diet - as an essential element of good health. Try to prioritise sleep at least a couple of nights a week. Getting an early night will give you more energy to be successful, do the things you enjoy and have a fulfilling social life in the rest of the week."
The Tiredness Cure: How to beat fatigue and feel great for good by Dr Sohere Roked is out now, published by Vermillion.
Health & Living