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Sleep Hygiene

Sleep Hygiene is used to describe the factors that play a part in ensuring you get the right amount of good quality sleep. Sleep is extremely important in keeping you healthy with a lack of sleep leading to poor concentration, memory problems, slower response to stimuli and low mood or anxiety the following day. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to increased risk of cancers, inflammation, suppressed immune system and poor memory.
Sleep deprivation can play a major role in obesity by altering appetite hormones. Chronic sleep deprivation increases ghrelin levels which causes you to feel hungrier and decreasing leptin levels which is the hormone responsible for telling you that you are full. These combined both lead to overeating.
There are many steps you can take to ensure you get a restful night's sleep.

Having a regular sleep schedule can help you fall asleep quicker as your body begins to expect sleep at a certain time and expects to wake at a set time. It can be helpful to maintain this sleep schedule on your days off too even though that is easier said than done! Winding down before bed can help with many people finding a warm shower or bath helps them to drift off. Using epsom salts and essential oils such as lavender can be useful in aiding relaxation before bed. Spraying an essential oil pillow spray or lighting a relaxing candle can also help.
  • Caffeine stimulates the body which can make it difficult to fall asleep. It is important to avoid caffeine for at least 6 hours before you go to sleep. This includes coffee, tea, energy drinks and some fizzy drinks including diet drinks.
  • Avoid alcohol before bed. Although people find themselves getting drowsy after alcohol, it actually decreases the quality of you REM sleep which is the sleep needed to maintain memory function.
  • Exercise can be very beneficial in promoting healthy sleep. Even 20 minutes of gentle exercise a day can help to improve both sleep duration and sleep quality.
  • Screens should be avoided in the last hour before bedtime. This includes laptops, phones and television. The blue light emitted from these can interfere with melatonin production which is the hormone needed to help sleep. These days we are all used to using our phones to relax in the evenings but if you are struggling with sleep it can be a good idea to set it aside an hour before bed. Many phones now have a blue light filter than can be set to come on at a certain time. It is a good idea to use this filter from about 6 or 7pm to ensure adequate melatonin production.
  • It is important to ensure your bedroom is cool, comfortable and dark. Black out blinds or eye masks can be helpful to ensure enough darkness to promote melatonin production, especially for shift workers. The room should be kept at a temperature that in comfortable for you, with 18 degrees being the general temperature that is best for sleep. You might need a heater or electric blanket in winter and a fan in summer. If you live in a noisy environment, ear plugs can be useful to ensure uninterrupted sleep
There are various herbal supplements available which help with sleep. Valerian and Hops both seem to increase GABA levels in the brain which is a chemical that calms the activity of nerves in the brain leading to lower anxiety and better relaxation. Using valerian and hops, people fall asleep quicker, have a better quality of sleep and sleep longer.

Supervising Pharmacist
Deirdre O'Sullivan

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