How much sleep do I need and how to sleep better

With the current pandemic going on around the world many of us are struggling to sleep
as our lives have changed overnight and we ask yourself how much sleep do I need?.

We were living our lives normally from going to work,going outdoors, seeing our friends
watching TV, shows  going to the pub etc.

Now we have mask wearing, lock-downs , Constant bad news, Deaths world wide.
We have daily updates on the news and social media the majority is negative.




People are constantly reminding us of the pandemic even I am doing it now mentioning it damn.

Anyway for example you turn on a TV and you're guaranteed to see adverts about the pandemic.
my point is because it's on our mind constantly it will affect our sleep.

We can only limit our exposure to a degree unless 
we all moved to an island in the middle of the ocean  like the cast of LOST.



All the constant uncertainty on our future and stress of the pandemic as well as our normal stress in life is affecting us and our mental health and sleep patterns.

So we need to make sure we look after ourselves as the effects can have longer term effects on our mental health and health in general etc.

We all need better sleep, nothing worse than going to work tired and fatigued. If you drive a car, getting in a car tired is more or less the same as drink driving so avoid driving if you're tired.


How much sleep do I need

Every person is different, some people can cope on 5,6 hours a night  it all depends on our lifestyle
if your doing a high stress job for example you're going to need more.

You need on average around 7 hours per night now every person is different so again this depends on the person.


Many nights I would get around 4 hours sleep then bike it to work on a pedal bike 10 miles total everyday there and back now I coped for months.

But it starts to fatigue you like on your day off.

I would sleep till like 1pm in the afternoon as my body was trying to catch up on the months of lack of sleep.

I was drinking 3 cans of red bull energy drink a day at work. 

I was doing an office job. It was quite stressful as if I had one day etc it was bye bye Mr.Watto.

The problem with that job and many jobs now is I was agency staff and had no permanent work contract even though I worked there for 5 years.

The boss was a power hungry clown if you were not a yes man or a gossiper or basically told him anything what other staff members was up to you was not in his good books.

Well as you can guess I am not either. I just wanted to go work, do my job and go home.

Very good book I would recommend if you're having problems at work.
You can learn a lot from this book.

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You can cope for months without the average amount of sleep but it will catch up with you and you will
end up ill and fatigued and could damage your health.

The body has the ability to function on lack of sleep for a limited amount of time but the effectiveness of your body starts to decline if sleep isn't in the seven to eight-hour range.

You will start asking yourself how do I make myself sleep. I feel so tired and weak.


Why do I need sleep

Your body has to rest to repair and recharge the same as when a battery starts to run out it needs to be charged or replaced.

The longest record of a period of voluntary sleeplessness 
by a human is 264 hours (11 days) without no sleep. 

Randy Gardner the high school student from America who did the study in 1965
was later taken to a naval hospital where researchers monitored his status and his brain waves, as he finally went to sleep.

Randy Gardner recovered well after the long 11 days and had no long life issues or side effects. 

Don't try to go without sleep it will more than likely be fatal as many have found out.

Without sleep we would die. People have since died from lack of sleep.

Studies have been done on rodents and they lasted around 2 weeks before death
which to be honest was cruel.

Some parts of your body are still working when you sleep
you have to remember your heart's still beating,Lungs,organs,brain etc.

The human body needs to sleep you often see it in scfi movies likes aliens where they freeze people to travel in space because they just could not stay awake that long to travel great film by the way.

Even some shark species such as the great white need sleep.

Apparently they still swim with their eyes open but parts of the shark's brain are less active and go into a trance like sleep to rest.

All animals need some form of sleep or rest. Just ask my dog.
He must get about 15 hours a day.


We need sleep to

  • Grow muscle
  • Tissue growth
  • Repair damaged tissue
  • Improve memory function
  • Reduces stress
  • Synthesize hormones
  • Helps the brain store new information
  • Helps the brain get rid of toxic waste
  • Helps the brain to work better
  • Repairs body's cells
  • Restores energy
  • Boosts immune system
  • Improves appetite

Signs of Sleep Deprivation

  • Feeling sleepy
  • Daytime fatigue.
  • Falling asleep
  • Eyes hurting
  • Mood changes
  • Forgetfulness
  • Being unable to focus on a task
  • Frequent yawning.
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Feeling ill
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Loss of appetite

Longer lasting effects

  • Memory problems 
  • Poor wound healing
  • Effects on mental health
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Weakened immune system
  • Stronger feelings of pain
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Heart attack 
  • Obesity weight gain
  • Lower sex drive
  • Wrinkled skin
  • Bags under your eyes
  • Bad decision-making

Food that helps with sleep

Many foods can help us sleep as they contain many vitamins and nutrients that can aid in the sleep cycle. 

For example Prunes help create the hormone melatonin that helps you sleep better.
Dark chocolate contains serotonin, which is known to relax your whole body and mind resulting in better sleep.

It is always important to make sure you get a balanced diet with plenty of vitamins and nutrients. A lack of either could be why you are having problems getting some good sleep.

Just don't eat too near to your bedtime as it may keep you awake and don't go to bed hungry either as that will guarantee to keep you awake.

Foods that are known to aid in better sleep

  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Turkey
  • Chamomile tea
  • Passionflower tea
  • Other herbal teas
  • Honey
  • Warm Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Leafy Greens

  • Oatmeal
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Hummus
  • Watermelon
  • Fatty fish

  • Plums
  • Kiwi
  • Figs
  • Prunes
  • Cherries 
  • Bananas
  • Pineapple
  • Oranges 



Foods to avoid as they may keep you awake

It all depends on how our body acts
Many of these foods may keep you awake for a number of reasons; heartburn,acid reflux,digesting time is longer etc.

Even the food with high levels of salt will make you wake up for a drink or if it was celery you may wake to use the toilet as an example as its mainly water.

  • Alcohol
  • Coffee
  • Spicy foods
  • Chocolate
  • Energy Drinks
  • Soda cola etc
  • Breakfast cereal
  • Salty foods

  • Junk food
  • Soy sauce
  • Processed food
  • Ice Cream
  • Bacon
  • Red meat
  • Cheese
  • Pizza
  • Tomatoes
  • Celery



Exercise

Getting exercise is important. Exercise at least 4,5 hours before bed to close to bedtime and it may keep you awake.

This is not saying go for a ten mile run just do some exercise that you are comfortable with
a walk in the park,ride on your bike,wash your car etc

Exercise triggers an increase in body temperature, and the post-exercise drop in temperature may promote falling asleep plus it tires you out.


Look when you're abroad on holiday as an example you're walking about all day enjoying yourself
eating foods you like relaxing.

Do you have trouble sleeping at night no?

Because you're happy and you are tired from walking (Exercise)
The only thing that may keep you awake is maybe the heat if you go to a hot country like Spain.

Aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease tension, and stabilize your overall mood, 
which improves your quality of sleep even five,ten minutes exercise will help.

Aerobic exercise examples

  • Spinning
  • Running
  • Swimming, 
  • Walking, hiking
  • Push ups
  • Cycling
  • Boxing
  • Dancing
  • Kickboxing
  • Jumping on spot
  • Heavy weight lifting

People who say they exercise always seem to have better sleep than 
those who say they don’t exercise. 

Just go for a walk in the park if you don't want to start running etc
Try some yoga at home.

It is common sense really if your sat on a couch all day watching TV
you're not gonna burn any energy. 

Where as if you go for a walk in the park you will burn energy, get fresh air and feel tired at night.

I bought one of them home stationary bikes, not the one on the TV type
just a cheap one and it's quite good helps me get some exercise.

I only do maybe ten to 15 minutes most days helps keep me in shape and helps with my sleep.


Blue light

Many experts say our mobile phones,laptops,tablets etc should not be used two to three hours before bed as they may prevent you getting asleep.

Now I use blue light myself from my laptop and phone at night hence to write this blog as most posts take me about 6 hours to research and check everything so I know it's accurate.

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Melatonin

Blue light apparently from our mobiles,tablets etc
suppresses the natural production of a hormone called melatonin.

This Hormone is used by the brain to make you feel tired and sleepy so it helps you sleep.

You can buy blue light filters apparently that may help stop the light.

I have never used one of these so I can't say they are good or not but many of them seem to have good reviews. I may invest in one myself.

I often use my phone in night mode at
night to check over errors in my blog posts,read emails etc and I find the other normal mode on my phone is just to bright like a lighthouse.

Essential Oils

Oils can be great to set a mood in your room let's be honest if your room stunk of garlic as a example would probably keep you awake all night.

Rub a few drops of the oil on certain parts of your body such as your chest, neck, forehead, hands.

Another good option is a few drops on your pillow or quilt cover (Warning May stain)

Put a little jar in your room with some of the oil in it that works as well for some people.
 
Some people burn these oils in oil burners
Do not ever do this while you're going to sleep or feeling tired.
it is so dangerous due to the risk of fires



Always mix oils with a carrier oil. The reason for this is to dilute the oil as some can be strong so always best to dilute or may be to strong and sensitive too your bare skin. 

Simple to do all you do is just add a few drops of the oil as an example (Lavender) to some carrier oil (Almond)

It's up to you how strong you make it but just have a read on the bottle instructions they always tell you how many drops etc on the back.

I personally like lime oil,orange and rose oil
they seem to help with my sleep issues and I like the smells.



Most of these oils can be added to bath water as well 
again just have a read on the back to see if it's suitable.

Just try a few drops of oil to check for sensitivity on your skin etc and be careful you don't get it into your eyes.

As I always say buy a brand, that you trust such as (Fresh-skin) and avoid cheap bottles of oil from a market stall or from aboard.

I have bought cheap oil in the past from market stalls and had hand rashes etc and I was sure one of them was not lavender which it said it was.

Just stick to a brand you know there will be no harmful chemicals or heavy metals in it then that can cause you harm.


Always try a bit of oil on your hand or wrist and wait for around 24 hours if you get no sensitivity or rash then more than likely it is safe for you to use
put a little on your wrist and let it sit for 24 hours. 

I will list some oils below but there are many that can help.

Oils that aid in better sleep

  • Lavender 
  • Chamomile
  • Orange
  • Rose
  • Lime
  • Sweet Marjoram 
  • Bergamot 
  • Clary Sage
  • Valerian
  • Sandalwood
  • Ylang Ylang

Carrier  Oils
  • Olive
  • Grapeseed
  • Coconut
  • Sweet almond oil

Where do I get essential oil from then?

I always use the same brand when buying oils as I say you know what to expect then.
I have used (Fresh skin beauty) brand for about 5,6 years and I used them for a number of reasons.

  • I trust them
  • Used them for years
  • Products are good quality
  • Good customer service
  • Not expensive

There oil is always good, strong and pure. 

I will only recommend brands that I trust and if I am honest it is the only brand of essential oil I will buy online.

Here is a link to Fresh skin beauty blog 
where you can find out more information on the brand
and see all there products.



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Carrier oils






Cushion headphones

I often use some cushion headphones with my MP3 player or my phone. 

I either have a rain app playing on my phone or I download some rain noise or blizzard sounds to my MP3 player.

Most of the apps are free on your phone there is loads to use 
rain on a tent noise or thunderstorms.

The phone app I use is called 
(Relax rain) from google play store.

These apps help me so much If you're like me
the slightest little noise wakes you up this app will help.

I recommend using some of the cushion headphones; they are not expensive either.

The good thing about them is they are cushioned so you can sleep
on your side and they won't hurt your ears. 

You can buy wired ones or wireless just be careful of the wired ones wrapping around your neck.

I have a few pairs of the wired ones the wireless type have come down in price they used to be more expensive.


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Ear plugs

Not really a fan of ear plugs I would go through loads of these.

I tried most types. I found laser lite the best type to use but I just don't like sticking them in my ears and they never seem to block out sound fully. 

Another problem is they seem to create more ear wax.

Always important if you do use them, have spares don't keep wearing the same unwashed pair you could get an ear infection. 

Either buy a multi pack or buy some good type like these and wash them and keep them clean.

I used the ones below as they were easy to wash with soap and water.


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Sleep times

Try to go to sleep and get up at the same times the reason for this is the more you change your sleep patterns the more your body will find it hard to adjust to going to sleep at a set time.

You will notice if you go to sleep at the same time every night you will find it much easier to get some sleep.

Waking up

If you go to the toilet at the night the minute you turn a light on it wakes you up a little so you will find it harder to get back to sleep so try not turn a light on if you have to go to the toilet at night.




Alarm clocks

I hate and I mean hate alarm clocks waking me up
you can buy an alarm clock now that wakes you with light it simulates sunrise to wake you up rather than that annoying ring ring noise.

I can't say they are good as I don't own one but the reviews are all good.

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Stress free room

Stress is the most common reason for sleep problems for many people worldwide. We all have stress in some form,  for example trouble falling asleep and feeling restless when we are lay in bed during the night.

Always try to keep your bedroom room stress free. What I mean is use your bedroom only for sleep, and other activities that relax you reading as an example.

Don't do paperwork or other work there as it will create a stressful environment.
and take away your place of peace.

You need to keep your room at a comfortable temperature dark and sound free so you can get the best sleep. We all know what it's like when a neighbor decides to mow his lawn at 5 am and wakes you up. Yep, my next door neighbor used to do that often.

Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature.

Don’t use electronic screens like laptops or cell phones if you can help it
while you're in bed.

Bed and pillows

Make sure your bed and pillows are comfortable and not the type that has springs sticking in your body from your mattress or if it is too hard.

If your bed and pillows are not comfy you will struggle to get some decent sleep.

If your bed is uncomfortable either get a new mattress or maybe a memory foam topper that goes on top of your mattress they are good.




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Stress,worry and anxiety

If you can control your stress in your normal day to day life it may help you sleep better at night.

If you hate your job I guarantee you will have sleep problems.

How do I know?
I have done jobs that I hated and would lay there many nights thinking I got to be up in 4 hours time some days I went to work with no sleep at all.

I would be up till 5am and could not sleep and  had work at 8am
so I just got up and waited until 7am to set off for work.

No one is saying get up and think right no stress today it's not that simple.



People put stress on us. 

I know all about this one. You could be in a good mood then your friend,family will say, have you seen the news about Covid-19 and the pandemic etc. 

The infection is getting worse it's a million people now who have it we going to be in lock down for years etc.

You just have to say look, stop being an (energy vampire) I don't want to talk about Covid-19 or the pandemic or WW3 or any negative news for that matter, stop lowering the mood.

Tell me something positive about who has saved an animal from a well as an example or who has donated to a good cause.

I am trying to write this blog now as an example and my neighbor is deciding to have a party in his backyard with thudding speakers so as you can imagine it's hard trying to concentrate.

We have to just train our mind to ignore some things and adapt.


Hope

We are all under stress at the minute with everything that has happened
this year and it is not over yet.

Start a hobby and avoid the stress and have hope we will ride out this storm and win
we just have to keep strong.

I started this blog and photography to keep my mind off the negative news etc.

But we need to be strong and think about how our ancestors coped during WW1 and WW2?
they never knew what the future held or what might happen.

Our ancestors all had 2 things in common
a strength to carry on no matter what the odds and hope we have to be the same as them. 

What choice do we have? Should we just give up? no we need to be strong and never surrender. 




Control stress by trying the below
  • Exercise
  • Do a hobby (Photography)
  • Take up art
  • Take up crafts
  • Try yoga
  • Get into reading a book
  • Walk your dogs
  • Avoid negative news  
  • Try meditation
  • Go for a walk
  • Watch nature shows avoid the horror films
  • Have a turn off time when you can relax
  • Create a blog,YouTube channel
  • Make face masks
  • Speak to pen-pals
  • Adopt an animal from a shelter (Parrot,cat,dog,budgie)


Caffeine

Avoid caffeine if you can but it's hard. I know this one from experience. When you try to stop it, instantly you end up feeling ill . After all, it is a stimulant and drug that we all use.

Caffeine starts to work around 15 to 45 minutes of consumption.

Caffeine is a drug avoid having too much even drinking, say a cup of coffee, six hours before you go to bed can affect your sleep. 

You will notice once you have had a coke or cup of coffee you are more alert. That's the caffeine making you alert as it increases alertness .

Caffeine is even added to many pain killers. The thinking is that it makes the painkiller work quicker
once in the human body and it also helps reduce inflammation.

Caffeine can take around 5 hours to be flushed from your body but some people even feel the effects of the drug the day after so all depends on the person's body.

Many athletes believe that caffeine improves both endurance and concentration 
so some use it often for this reason.

What is the first thing most of us do in the morning when we wake up we reach for a cup of coffee as it wakes us up and gets rid of that tired feeling.

The more you drink caffeine
the more your body becomes resistant to the drug,
if you regularly have caffeine you don't really feel any of its effects on small amounts.



Withdrawal from caffeine

I gave up caffeine for around 2 months 
did not drink coffee or drink any cola etc. I was more tired and fatigued
and just lacked energy.

If you try to give up caffeine stop having it gradually you have to get the body used to coping without it same as when you intake less sugar the body has to adapt.

If you give it up abruptly this will more than likely lead to fatigue and feeling tired like I did
you will get headaches and feel ill.

You may start to get muscle pain and just feel annoyed and have no ability to concentrate
you get mild flu-like systems as your body is trying to cope without the drug.

The side effects are only short term and will go and you will feel better just remember to keep drinking plenty of water.

You could also
limit your intake like I do instead of stopping all together. For example I drink ginger tea now instead of my 4 cups of coffee a day but still have a few cold Pepsi.

If you love coffee go for a caffeine free type they still have caffeine in them they just don't have as much as normal coffee would so they can help if you're limiting caffeine intake.

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Caffeine Side effects

  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Nervousness
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Excessive urination
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Diarrhea
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Increased rate of breathing
  • Feeling restless
  • Sweating more




Iron deficiency

Feeling tired is a common symptom of iron deficiency.

If you feel tired and and your getting enough sleep and have a good diet etc.

You may have an Iron deficiency.

Without enough iron, your body would not be able to create enough of a substance called hemoglobin that is in your red blood cells. Hemoglobin helps carry your oxygen around the body.

You may get some of these symptoms

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Chest pain
  • Fast heartbeat 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • dizziness 
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Soreness of your tongue
  • Weak brittle nails
  • Unusual craving
  • Poor appetite

Foods that have iron in them

  • Beans and lentils
  • Tofu
  • Baked potatoes.
  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Liver
  • Eggs
  • Sardines
  • Tomatoes
  • Pumpkin seeds 
  • Almonds
  • Watermelons
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Breakfast cereal
  • Whole-grain 


What should I do then?

If you think you have an Iron deficiency
Don't just start taking iron supplements thinking that will solve your problem it wont and I would not recommend it.

You would need to go to the doctors,Hospital because there is a risk that if you start 
Taking to many iron supplements they could damage your liver.

You can buy a tool now called (lucky fish) it's just a round piece of metal that I just found online that adds iron to your food when your cooking.

I have never seen one of these before and just found it now doing some research but looks quite good added the link below.

You can also buy a home test kit that determines iron deficiency in your blood.

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Sleep apnea

I thought this was worth a mention.

There are quite a few types of this sleep disorder 
The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea.

The cause of this disorder is your throat muscles intermittently relax and block your airway during sleep causing you to gasp for air and make a loud snore noise you may not even know you have it.


Sleep apnea is very common in people these days.
it affects around 18 million Americans and some experts say as many as 936 million worldwide may have the disorder.



Sleep apnoea is when your breathing stops and starts when you're asleep.  
Your breath can stop for up to a minute or even longer
this can happen most of the night as well.

You may all of a sudden wake up for a few seconds to gasp for air
and just think you were having a nightmare.

You're probably reading this thinking that happens to me as I say it is common in many people.

The disorder has been linked to obesity and age but you can get it at any age even children can get the disorder. 

Most people don't even know they have the condition.
In most cases it won't always wake you up fully.

You may never notice the symptoms but your partner may.


Not everyone who snores has sleep apnea
most of us snore. 

We all say we don't but we do.
 
Many of us do not notice the symptoms we may just feel tired during the day driving to work as a example.

So have a look below at the symptoms and ask your bed partner if they notice any of the symptoms in you.

Symptoms of sleep apnoea
  • Making gasping or choking noises
  • Pauses in breathing
  • Waking up at night gasping or short of breath
  • Loud snoring
  • Poor concentration
  • Daytime tiredness,fatigue
  • Waking up with sore throat
  • Morning headaches
  • Dry mouth

Longer term effects

Do not ignore this disorder if you think you may have it.

Don't think well I have had it for 5 years and I am OK up to now .

Sleep apnea can have longer term effects on your health that you may not notice straight away such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Falling asleep at the wheel
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Worsen effects of asthma
  • Linked to type 2 diabetes
  • Contributes to erectile dysfunction
  • High LDL cholesterol levels

See a doctor as soon as possible if you think you have sleep apnea
it can be a serious disorder if left untreated. 

Your doctor will be able to diagnose if you have the disorder and can even run some tests and make you an appointment with a sleep specialist.

It is treatable so don't worry too much, some medications can help many people with Sleep apnea.

Talk to your doctor

Some of the issues with your sleep may be health related, always worth making an appointment with your doctor for them to run some blood checks etc more than likely will be nothing to worry about could be something simple such as a vitamin deficiency etc.



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