Factors Affecting Sleep- Lifestyle
Factors Affecting Sleep- Lifestyle
Chris Idzikowski (Director of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre) gives expert video advice on: What lifestyle choices can affect sleep?; Can certain foods make you drowsy?; Can alcohol make you sleepy? and more...
What lifestyle choices can affect sleep?
In general, the more active one is, and that's say, three bouts of exercise thirty minutes each bout during the week, and that exercise, enough to sort of maintain a conversation with somebody but also enough to make one sweaty, that's been associated with improving sleep in the elderly. And I think I take that as a general rule, the healthier a person is, the better they sleep.
Can certain foods make you drowsy?
The evidence for the direct effects of food on sleep tends to be fairly meager in fact. The main things that impact on sleep are things like caffeine. Whether you're drinking coffee or not, and how late into the night that is. Alcohol is the other thing that will impact, nicotine will also impact on sleep. But things like lettuce, was one example that was used could promote sleep. The evidence is quite poor on that. It may have impacted on sleep in Roman times when the level of opiate within the lettuce was actually higher than it is nowadays. But just on the whole it's not great.
Can alcohol make you sleepy?
Yes, alcohol in low doses is definitely soporific, so it allows one to go to sleep. If anything, it acts as a relaxant. As you increase the doses, then it takes one into a state of unconsciousness rather than into sleep and then as the brain metabolizes the alcohol away, it then reacts to the lack of alcohol and awakens itself so that the night is quite a poor night. Over and above that, alcohol is a bit of a muscle relaxant and it depresses breathing so breathing tends to be poorer during the night, snoring increases during the night and people, if they've been drinking, say lots of beer will find themselves going to the loo, so the whole night is hugely disturbed. So whereas on the one hand, one would say, yeah, one or two glasses of wine are reasonable before going to bed as a relaxant, anything higher than that and you'll just get a hugely disturbed night's sleep. The long-term effects of drinking too much alcohol is to reduce deep sleep so the long-term sleep is poorer still.
Do people sleep deeper under the influence of alcohol?
With small doses of alcohol, it acts as a relaxant so one goes to sleep. Slightly higher doses means the brain is not going to awaken as readily so in a sense the sleep is a little bit deeper but it is actually responsivity that has changed. The brain can't react as quickly as we would want to. Associated with that is poorer breathing, snoring and disturbed sleep.
Why does caffine keep you awake?
Caffeine's an interesting compound in that people vary in how they react to it, and people within a lifespan can vary. An example is women who are pregnant may suddenly react very badly to having caffeine, and then after can drink it again. It's a complicated compound. It probably impacts mainly on the wakefulness promoting system. It doesn't actually cause <a href="http://www.videojug.com/interview/the-effects-of-sleep-deprivation-2">sleep deprivation</a> by switching sleep off, it just makes you more alert.
Are sleeping tablets harmful?
There are all kinds of sleeping tablets. They were regarded as particularly harmful up to around the 1960's, when they were mainly the Barbiturates. And the problem with the Barbiturates is, if you took too many of those, they stopped your breathing, and one would die because of that. When the Benzodiazepines were introduced, they were regarded as very safe, mainly because one couldn't overdose on them. Our country has varied in how they view the Benzodiazepine or the Z compounds. There is a newer class of Benzodiazepine; those compounds are called zolpidem, zaleplon, zopiclone, hence the z compounds. They produce dependency, as do nearly all the sleeping tablets. Some countries will accept dependency as not being a terribly big issue. Other countries react to that and tend to regard the whole group of sleeping tablets as unsafe because of that.
How does sleeping tablets work?
It's interesting with sleeping pills, we didn't really know how they worked up until roughly about ten years ago when we just started to get some idea. When the first barbiturate was synthesized at the turn of the twentieth century it just worked. It was noted in animals that it caused sleepiness and the whole class was developed to promote sleep. They work partly by mimicking what the output is of the sleep promoting system, that's that group. But there are also the sedating antihistamines, which can be bought over the counter. Those in fact, again were developed originally as antihistamines but the made people sleepy during the day. Now we realize that in fact that particular group acts by blocking wakefulness so sleep can cut in. So there are different mechanisms of action.
Can medicines affect our sleep?
Most medicines have an impact on sleep, particularly if they're psycho active. So those that are used in psychiatry, say for depression or schizophrenia, will have an impact on sleep. But on the whole, I would say that the majority will have an impact on sleep.
Can drugs affect sleep?
Recreational drugs are like medicines except they're not licensed so they also have big impacts on sleep. Taking cocaine is a huge disturber. If somebody's taking cocaine they're likely to then take sleeping pills to wind themselves down and so onto anphetimines, all over the place.
Does being a smoker affect sleep?
Smokers can have quite a hard time of sleeping. On the one hand the amount of time that nicotine is actually active in the bloodstream is quite low. So as soon as they've stopped smoking the reaction of not having nicotine around and that can disturb sleep. Generally their ciruculartory systems are quite poor so their breathing is distrubed during sleep. The two add up together to not having a good nights sleep.
Do allergies affect our sleep?
Allergies can affect sleep because they can disturb how someone feels. But the importance of allergies, or conditions to think about— say, asthma, which is an important one, can have quite a devastating effect on sleep during the night. May not necessarily wake the person, but will cause a lot of tiredness and fatigue the next day, so it's worth keeping an eye on. Over and above that, in fact experimentally, one can look at the affects of antihistamines' various responses on sleep. If the antihistamine is effective, then sleep will improve.
Does night time routine affect sleep?
Because sleep is a combination of biological systems and also psychological systems, then you need everything working together to get a good night sleep. Because routines can be a wind down, sort of relaxing part of and a prelude to going to sleep, they are as important as getting the environment right generally. In many ways, it is beginning to prepare the mental environment. There's a German proverb which comes out as the best pillow is a clear conscience and you can regard the winding your worries away prior to going to bed as one of the routines adopt before one goes to sleep.
Does diet affect sleep?
On the whole, sleep is quite resilient to what we do to ourselves, but if one is dieting, trying to reduce weight, then that mismatch in calories seems to have an impact on the brain and causes sleep to become more restless. If on the other hand, one is becoming overweight, then the sleep is also disturbed by not being able to sleep properly. But the daytime consequences are slightly different. If one is starving, one's tending to awaken and one's aware of that happening. If one's overweight then the sleep's being disturbed not to the point of the brain waking up completely, so one ends up feeling sleepy during the day. So one ends up with different things. As I was saying before, it really doesn't matter too much whether you are a vegetarian or an omnivore or whatever, the body adapts around that. The things that can go wrong are, say if one's a vegetarian, and particularly if one is a woman, then the odds of having low iron are quite high and low iron is associated with fatigue during the day. Sometimes that fatigue is mis-associated with the sleep and a greater attempt to get the sleep right, but in fact the main problem is low iron. In the longer term, low iron has an impact on a condition called restless legs, where a woman starts to get creepy crawly sensations in the legs, running up and down the legs prior to going to sleep and that impacts on the sleep, but it's caused by the diet.
Does exercise affect sleep?
Exercise, is a curious thing, because some people think that if they really Exercise hard prior to going to bed, they're going to get a better night's sleep. But in fact, the exercise itself at that point can both be a stress and can raise body temperature and can create a problem. But Exercising regularly leads to good health, and that experimentally has been shown to generally improve sleep.
Does body shape affect sleep?
Certainly if somebody is uncomfortable in the way they are and have difficulty moving in bed then that impacts on their sleep.
How does stress affect sleep?
How does stress affect sleep is certainly a big question probably because it's hard to define what stress is about. I quite often say, when somebody tells me that they're waking up during the night because they're so stressed, I point out that they usually wake up every nineteen minutes or so, it partly depends on what's going on in their minds prior to going to bed and what they're main preoccupation is. That can then awaken them, if they're worried about something of greater difficulty. But, also when they're stressed long term, then that starts to create a burned out syndrome on one hand, a depression on the other and both of those fold back into sleep. Stress per se doesn't necessarily impact on sleep, but eventually consequences of that affect sleep.
How do you deal with stress before going to sleep?
In terms of handling stress, one really should identify what's the cause of the stress and try to manage that and then sleep itself will follow. What one should really avoid is the notion that because one is not sleeping properly, one's going to get worse during the day and then that can feed into the stress. That anxiety about not sleeping becomes the bigger problem. So the best thing to do is always to focus on what's causing the stress and trying to deal with that. If one can't deal with it in real terms, at least mentally deal with it so whatever seems to be causing the problem just seems less when one goes to bed.
Why do you feel tired after a big meal?
There is a cycle there where the siesta time in the afternoon is part of the twenty four hours cycle. So peak sleepiness is around four in the morning, but there's a second peak of sleepiness that occurs between twelve and three in the afternoon. One element of the lunchtime meal causing sleepiness is that, if one was thinking about something like a Christmas meal, then usually the alcohol and everything else thrown in is having impact. Some people would say that it's the reason that siesta has evolved at all and one of the reasons sleep might have to evolved.