There are numerous sleeping aids around that promise to help encourage a good night’s sleep. Some have been around for centuries and others look to new technology for the answer.
A good place to start the search is the bookshop or Internet. Information is the best tool for anyone suffering from a sleep disturbance. Understanding why sleep is illusive may be enough to be able to identify changes that can improve sleep. Insomnia in particular, can be the result of anxiety and can be improved by learning techniques such deep relaxation or cognitive behavioural therapy.
Sleep hygiene means identifying areas that may be causing sleep problems and introducing routines that will encourage a peaceful night’s rest. There are a number of books and other resources that will explain the basics of how to relax and sleep.
Learning how to relax can be helped by using a CD or tape that will help train the mind to ‘switch off’ and has been proven to be a very effective sleeping aid. There are a number of excellent resources that will guide you through relaxation techniques that will help the mind prepare for sleep. These can be used before bedtime or during the day.
Studies have shown that there is a shift in brain wave patterns during deep relaxation and when falling asleep. ‘Brain music’ is music that uses patterns in the brain to create relaxing sounds that have a calming effect similar to that achieved during meditation. Listening to the music stimulates relaxation and helps relieve anxiety and encourage sleep.
Light is essential to good health and emotional wellbeing. Sunlight is white, unlike artificial lighting and is stronger and may effect production of serotonin. Bright light therapy uses full spectrum light bulbs which are effective in treating SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and Depression.
Clocks and Watches
Light Clocks mimic the sunrise waking you with a gradually brightening white light. These allow the body to wake up ‘naturally’ allowing a gradual adjustment to daylight. Some incorporate noise blocking and other extras that work with the body and mind to encourage a gentler awakening.
Alarm clocks that wake you to a dawn chorus of gently tweeting birds or other soothing sounds are available for those who find a shrill awakening an abrupt start to the day.
A sleep tracker watch is designed to wake you up during the lighter stages of sleep and work with the body’s natural rhythm.
Gadgets that create ‘white noise’ eliminate sounds that may interfere with sleep. Others may simply offer the soothing sound of the sea to induce sleep as it is often annoying external sounds which keep you awake so there are a number of sound prevention devices available.
Magnetic pulse devises are available that claim to stimulate the sleep response. They can be found in mattresses, pads and in wristwatches.
Future and Beyond…
Japanese researches are not only looking at ways to encourage sleep but ways to help keep you awake. They are working on car seats that will recognise when a driver is losing alertness and in need of a nap and have invented glasses with a vibrating earpiece that reacts to the position of the head. These and other devices may contribute to an awareness of the importance of sleep and its contribution to accidents and loss of productivity.
Simple and Effective
Some simple tools for enhancing and encouraging sleep:
These effectively block out light and are particularly useful for travel and daytime napping. Made from various materials some can be cooled in the refrigerated or sprinkled with essential oils such as lavender to help relaxation.
Ear plugs are useful when peace and quite is disturbed in a busy household or while travelling. Alternately, relaxing music or CDs and tapes are helpful and readily available.
A sleep diary is a useful tool for identifying the causes of insomnia and identifying possible sleep disturbances. Used over a three week period it can help with self diagnosis or provide a valuable insight into sleep problems which can be discussed with a GP.
Over the counter medications can help encourage sleep. Herbal sleep aids containing Valerian, Hops and Lemongrass are available from most pharmacies.
Many poor sleepers are unaware of how their environment affects the quality of their sleep. The Importance of a good bed is often unrecognised and is a good place to start when making changes. Pillows and covers are also often neglected. Partners may have different requirements and it is worth exploring different options to make sure the bedroom is the right temperature for sleep.
Individual sleep disturbances may require medical devices to rectify or alleviate the condition. GPs are able to offer support and information that will lead to improved sleep.
Sleep differs between individuals and through different stages in life. Increased awareness and the availability of information means that many insomniacs are able to improve the quality of their sleep by and find new ways to get to sleep.