Fitness, Mind & Body

3 reasons you can’t sleep properly and how to overcome them

Waking up throughout the night or lying awake for hours on end? Our resident sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo wants to teach you how to manage ‘the unmanageable’, like low melatonin, having a baby and overthinking.

Sleep: it’s free. And we all want more of it, so why is it so hard to get? Specifically – that consistent, restorative, uninterrupted, eight-hours-a-night kinda sleep. Which is why we’ve enlisted Sydney-based sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo to solve our myriad of sleep concerns with our new editorial series Sleep Well Wednesdays. Check back each week and you’ll be off to the land of nod before you know it.

According to Google, searches for “why I can’t sleep” have increased by 200 percent since last year. Two. Hundred. Percent. With the sleep sabotaging concoction of COVID-19, job insecurity, financial strain, and an increased reliance on tech; it’s not surprising.

And in case you were wondering, yes, sleep deprivation has serious consequences. Chronic fatigue, hormonal imbalance, gut issues, anxiety and depression – problems you may be experiencing right now.

Remember – feeling exhausted on a day-to-day basis isn’t how you are meant to feel. Although it’s normal, it doesn’t mean it’s ok; or that you have to simply ‘put up with it’.

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With that in mind, here are three reasons you can’t sleep properly – complete with science-based strategies to overcome them.

Reason 1: Low melatonin

As the hormone to help you fall and stay asleep, research indicates low levels of melatonin are linked to a host of sleeping disorders – including insomnia.

Symptoms include being wide awake in the evening and exhausted in the morning, waking regularly through the night – particularly around 3am, plus feelings of anxiety and depression.

And before you go and seek an over-the-counter melatonin supplement, know that a natural supplement is strongly advised: some synthetic formulas can have 10 times the recommended dosage of melatonin, exacerbating daytime fatigue and moodiness.

Overcome this by:

Taking a naturally melatonin rich sleep supplement like Sleepybare gummies by BetterBare Co. Hero ingredient tart cherry is perfect for those seeking a few extra zzz’s: it’s been shown in clinical trials to extend sleep by 85 minutes.

Complementing this is Manuka honey and Vitamin B6 – two more ingredients that support your body’s melatonin production.

Reason 2: Your baby keeps you up

Realistically, this one is a pickle to get around – your baby needs you through the night. And it’s so much so that research shows new parents get four hours and 44 minutes of sleep and lose 59 per cent of their sleep per night in the first 12 months of parenthood.

With consequences ranging from exhaustion to postnatal depression, doing what you can to minimise your baby’s reliance on you and promoting self-settling is ideal.

Remember – the sooner bub returns to sleep, the better – for the whole family.

Overcome this by:

Playing a recording of your own heartbeat: evidence shows hearing a mother’s heartbeat can help babies fall asleep 26 per cent faster, take a 43 per cent longer nap and sleep for 49 per cent longer.

Welcare’s Sleep Tight Sleep Sound Machine allows you to do this; plus play lullabies – noted in a recent study to aid calmness; feeding into the self-soothing cycle.

Reason 3: Overthinking

That incessant train of thoughts keeping you awake.. again? You’re not alone: with thanks to COVID19, over half of us are struggling – studies show 43 per cent of young Aussies are ‘consumed with worry’ when trying to sleep – more than double than other age groups such as older adults – only 18 per cent are experiencing the same overwhelm. The research also shows women are more affected than males too.

Overcome this by:

Listening to a stress-specific guided meditation, like one of the ones on the Fitbit app (FYI – you don’t need a watch to use the app). Topics such as “working with anxiety”, “grounding in the body”; and “breathing and allowing rest” means you can tap into the session which suits your unique challenges.

For best results, practice twice through the day, with at least one of those when you are relaxed. In doing so, your brain will learn to associate meditation with feeling calm, rather than anxious.

Olivia Arezzolo is a sleep expert who holds a Bachelor of Social Science (Psychology); Certificate of Sleep Psychology, Diploma of Health Science (Nutritional Medicine); Certificate of Fitness III + IV. You can find her online here.