Your burning sleep questions answered
Since a lack of sleep can be a major issue, we spoke to Dr. Kat Lederle, Sleep Therapist at Somnia, to answer your sleep questions.
How many hours of sleep do you recommend people should get a night, and how can a lack of sleep affect you?
“There’s no one-size-fits-all number, but most people need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep. Approximately 1% of people need 4-5 hours, which means that the vast majority of Americans who are reporting less than 4 hours sleep need more.
“A lack of good quality sleep can be associated with a range of physical illnesses, and can put you at risk of diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers. It also impairs your cognitive performance, your memory and levels of alertness, as well as your emotions. If you haven’t slept for long enough, you’ll likely become more irritable, anxious and less tolerable of stress.”
Why is waking up in the night so common, and how can we avoid restless sleeping patterns?
“Waking up during the night is normal – we all do it every 90 minutes at the end of a sleep cycle. Usually, these awakenings are very brief (which is why we don’t remember them) but for those who experience maintenance insomnia, they wake up fully and struggle to get back to sleep.
“In these cases, the brain can ‘hijack’ the natural awakening and make us mentally work on our to-do lists, or worry about something, when we should be resting.
“While you can’t consciously avoid waking up at night, prepare yourself in the day to support your sleep at night. Give your mind the chance to process your day before bedtime; go through your to-do list and then add three things you’ve achieved that day. During your day, take mini-breaks and be mindful of what you eat and drink, and give yourself an eating window of no more than 12 hours.”
What’s the best way to de-stress before bedtime?
“Prepare for your sleep from the moment you wake up. Hold off checking your phone and instead open your curtains, greet your family or partner, turn on the radio and have a shower. Maybe then, with a cup of coffee, you can open your emails.
“It’s also important to expose yourself to natural light in the morning and afternoon to confirm with your body clock that your day has started. In the evening, you need to confirm that night has started, so keep the lights dim and be mindful of using screen-devices.
“Eat a healthy diet, avoid caffeine in the afternoon and make sure you finish your dinner 4 hours before bedtime. Also, whilst exercise is important, avoid it too close to bedtime. Don’t expect that a tiring exercise regime will guarantee you a good night’s sleep, but rather treat it as a healthy habit that will support your overall sleep and health.”
What do dreams of falling and being chased mean?
“If you dream that you’re falling, ask yourself whether you feel insecure or unsafe in any way, and think about what could be triggering this. Similarly, if you dream of being chased, do you feel threatened – either directly or indirectly – in your daily life? Perhaps you’re anxious about something or someone, and you sometimes feel like you can’t cope. If you’re regularly experiencing these types of dreams, ask yourself what you’re worried about to get to the root cause.”
If you’ve been struggling to get a good night’s sleep, we hope these tips will help you to change your routine and feel more well-rested!”