In one of our recent blogs, we looked at some of the most common sleep questions asked on Google. We used our experience and expertise to offer answers which will hopefully help you achieve that most desirable of results: effective and consistent sleep. Here, we look at some more regularly asked queries and attempt again to clearly and concisely break down the best answers.
What is sleep paralysis and what causes it?
Sleep paralysis occurs when you cannot move your muscles as you are waking up or falling asleep. This is because you are in sleep mode but your brain is active.
It’s not actually clear what causes sleep paralysis but various studies have linked it to insomnia, disrupted sleeping patterns related to jet lag or shift work, narcolepsy, PTSD and anxiety.
Having a set bedtime schedule and sleep routine can limit the likelihood of sleep paralysis, as can avoiding sleeping on your back, eating a big meal, smoking or drinking alcohol or caffeine shortly before going to bed.
What is sleep apnoea / apnea and what are its symptoms?
The most common type of sleep apnoea is called obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) and put simply, is when your breathing stops and starts while you sleep.
Symptoms vary depending on whether it’s day or night, but during sleep they include: your breathing stopping and starting; making gasping, snorting or choking noises; waking up frequently or loud snoring. Daytime symptoms include feeling very tired, difficulty concentrating, mood swings and a headache when you wake up.
Mild sleep apnoea does not usually require any treatment or a CPAP machine and there are a few dos and don'ts that can assist mild cases. If you’re overweight, shedding some of the excess fat can assist with reducing symptoms, and sleeping on your side alleviates most of the night symptoms like loud snoring.
Avoid smoking, drinking too much alcohol (particularly before bed) and sleeping pills (unless recommended by your doctor) as these can potentially exacerbate your symptoms.
How can I sleep better?
Now you’re managing to get to sleep, it’s time to maximise the quality of your slumber. Start by setting yourself a sleep schedule and keep to your bedtime and wake up time. It can take around 2 weeks for your body to adjust to the new schedule, but you’ll soon notice the difference.
Keep an eye on what you eat and drink. Don’t hop into bed feeling hungry or overly full, both cause discomfort and will disrupt you during the night. Avoid stimulants like coffee, nicotine and alcohol.
Limit your daytime naps to around 20 minutes to avoid that groggy, unproductive feeling and wakefulness at night. Couple this with regular exercise when you can: physical activity during the day can promote better sleep, just avoid overzealous workouts close to bedtime.
How can I sleep well when traveling?
Many of us have experienced temporary sleep deprivation, irritability and the feeling of disorientation after a long flight, travelling across multiple time zones. This misalignment of your circadian rhythms and your environment, known as jet lag, is well known.
When traveling to a new time zone, our circadian rhythms are slow to adjust and remain on their original biological schedule for several days. Because of this, our bodies end up telling us that it’s time to sleep, when it’s actually the middle of the afternoon, or makes us want to stay awake when it’s late at night.
The Sleep Foundation has some great tips for treating jet lag (hopefully you’ll be able to use them sooner rather than later!):
Choose a flight that arrives at your destination during the early evening and facilitates you staying up until 10pm local time. If you sleep during the day, make sure it’s just a nap and don’t allow yourself to oversleep.
Adjust your bedtimes in advance. Prior to an eastbound journey wake up and go to sleep earlier than usual, and for a westbound journey wake and sleep later than usual.
Adjust your watch and phone to your destination time zone as soon as you board the plane.
Avoid stimulants like alcohol and coffee at least three to four hours before bedtime.
Upon arrival, avoid heavy meals or excessive exercise. Both will disrupt your sleep.
Bring earbuds and a sleep mask to avoid disruptive noise and light.
Use the daylight to your advantage: being outside during the day will keep you awake and help you adjust to the new timezone. Being indoors will worsen your jet lag.
What’s the best way to share a bed?
According to a survey from the National Sleep Foundation, almost one in four married couples in the United States sleep in separate beds. Surprised? There are a few reasons for this: contrasting work schedules, loud snoring and restless leg syndrome can all lead to disrupted sleep.
There is a concern that this leads to a loss of intimacy, though this is not necessarily true and you can find ways to make time for one another prior to bedtime. So what is the best way to share a bed?
Making time for intimacy prior to bed is extremely beneficial, according to neurologists at Sleep Standards in California, good sex before bed is one of the best ways to ensure a restful and fruitful sleep.
Endorphins and oxytocin (the hormone of love), released during sex, help ease anxiety and calm the mind, while the hormones dopamine and progesterone have been associated with a sense of relaxation and sleepiness following sex.
Investing in sleep accessories can also assist, blocking out light with a sleep mask or wrapping up under a luxury weighted blanket whilst your partner is insisting on watching their favourite Netflix show will ensure your sleep quality is not reduced (though their’s may be).
Layer your bedding if there are disagreements regarding temperature. One of you may like it cooler than the other and shedding a layer without disrupting your partner is ideal.
Do I really need to stop using my phone before bed?
Yes! The blue light emitted by your cell phone screen restrains the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep-wake cycle. Additionally, studies have shown the blue light emitted by your phone can damage your retinas, particularly when straining in an otherwise dark room.
In the days of hunter-gatherers it may have been easy to maintain a healthy sleep schedule, but since the domestication of homosapiens and the more immediate dawn of the smartphone, it’s proving more difficult to align your sleep-wake cycle with the environment.
Artificial light from computer screens, e-readers and smartphones are keeping a large percentage of the population up at night. It’s estimated that 90% of Americans use technology during the hour before bed, causing a rise in insomnia cases.
Why do I dream?
Simply put, dreams are hallucinations that occur during certain stages of sleep, they are basically stories and images that our minds create. They are strongest during REM sleep, when you may be less likely to recall them. As previously mentioned, this is a critical time for converting new learnings to our long-term memory.
Though much is known about the role of sleep in multiple aspects of our health, it’s been harder for researchers to explain the role of dreams. There are many theories about why we dream, but no one knows for sure. According to some researchers, dreams literally have no purpose or meaning, whereas other researches are adamant that we need dreams for our mental, emotional and physical health.
Check out more of the most Googled sleep questions.