With young children, busy lives and stressful jobs, there are times in all our lives when we have trouble sleeping. When it starts to have a negative impact on your waking life though, you may find yourself with a sleep problem.
The most widespread sleep problem is simply not getting enough. Sleep deprivation isn’t always obvious; when you’ve been surviving on five hours a night for several weeks, yawning all day can start to feel normal. There is one test that can help you identify sleep deprivation: do you fall asleep within five minutes? Nodding off very rapidly can be a sign that you need to catch up on your sleep.
Dr Anna Clarkson, a clinical psychologist who specialises in sleep and works with the NZ Respiratory and Sleep Institute, says, “The myth is that we all need eight hours, so everyone gets obsessed with that number, but it’s highly individual. For most adults it’s between seven and nine hours – the average is seven and a half. What matters is how refreshed you feel in the morning and how well you can function during the day.”
Around one percent of people are extreme ‘larks’, waking early (as early as 4am) and have plenty of energy as soon as they get out of bed. Another 17 percent of us are night owls – avoiding breakfast, staying up late and working productively into the middle of the night. However, the majority of people – about 80 percent of us – fall somewhere in between these extremes, operating within the structures of the normal working day. Whether you’re an owl or a lark, there are three main factors at play when it comes to your personal sleep phases.
The first is your genes: research strongly indicates that you have a predisposition towards being more of a morning person, or an evening person. The second factor is your stage in life. Children tend to be more active in the morning, while ‘owliness’ peaks in the late teens and early 20s. When we get older, we move back towards ‘larkiness’ again, often waking early and sleeping earlier than ever. Despite the forces of genetics and age, you can have some control over your circadian rhythms (these are physical, mental and behavioural changes that follow a 24-hour cycle based on a response to light and darkness) because the third factor – and the only one you can change – is lifestyle.
If a sleep disorder is having a negative impact on your life, talk to your GP or Unichem Pharmacist about treatment. There are also lifestyle changes that can improve the quality of your sleep:
Talk to your Unichem Pharmacist to find out what’s most suitable for you. They can help you devise a strategy that incorporates the use of sleep aid products with positive lifestyle changes.