We all know that a good night sleep does wonders for our health, but sleep can be elusive at times when we need it most. There are many times when we might need sleep, such as before an event like a triathlon or a big test. Others may find that they miss out on a few minutes every night, leading to overall sleep deprivation.

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I have complied a few tips for these common sleep ailments.

Pre-event sleep problems

Getting sleep is very important before any competition. Sometimes nerves can affect your sleep, I like to refer to this as the Christmas morning effect. You are so excited about getting up in the morning, it is hard to fall asleep. One of the biggest things to remember before a big event is to get plenty of sleep the night BEFORE the the night before the event, as strange as it sounds. This will lessen the effects of poor sleep the night before your event and ensure you have stores of energy. Another tip is to eat something that is easy to digest for dinner, a bowl of pasta  and vegetables with turkey cutlets would be just about perfect. Avoid caffeinated drinks after noon. Another important tip is not to try to force it, sleep is a passive act most of the time and ‘trying’ to sleep often fails, so relax and let it happen. If you have the resources, why not get a massage or see an acupuncturist to help you to calm down before your big day.

Sleep Deprivation problems

Long term lack of sleep is a big problem, and affects many aspects of day to day life. Aside from the well known mood alterations, lack of sleep can contribute to poor healing, increase the likelihood of illness, and may play a role in depression. Your brain literally doesn’t function the same when you have sleep deprivation. Here are some tips for getting a good night’s sleep:

– Pay attention to your sleep position. According to Mercola, The ideal position for sleep is on your back without a pillow or a very thin pillow. If you have pain in the neck or back in this position why not see your chiropractor to help solve this problem so that you can get to sleep.

– Avoid consuming alcohol. There is a common myth that alcohol will help you sleep, and while it may help you to fall asleep, studies have shown that it actually it may cause you to wake more often and earlier than if you didn’t drink.

– Pay attention to your light exposure. Many people sleep better in the dark, however there have been studies that show that increasing your exposure to sunlight during the day can intensify the affect of the dark in the evening. So take a walk during lunch and get some sun on your body.

– Use some natural supplements. Two natural substances have been well documented to help the efficacy of sleep, L-Tryptophan and Valerian. Both of these have been shown to help people fall and stay asleep, without the side-effects of prescription sleep medications. Remember when using natural supplements, the effects will take a while to show themselves. For example Valerian root may take a few weeks to really show it’s effectiveness.

– Stick to a sleep schedule. Varying the time you go to bed and rise from day to day may actually confuse your body. If you want to try to get more sleep on the weekend try napping in the mid-morning instead of sleeping in and it will play less havoc with your body’s daily rhythms.

– Know when to seek help. This is important in any health problem, because not paying attention to your symptoms and avoiding professional help may actually make your problem worse. If you have tried many of the previous suggestions and nothing seems to help you should strongly consider seeing a sleep specialist. Especially if you have the following symptoms:

  • Persistent daytime sleepiness or fatigue
  • Loud snoring accompanied by pauses in breathing
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Unrefreshing sleep
  • Frequent morning headaches
  • Crawling sensations in your legs or arms at night
  • Inability to move while falling asleep or waking up
  • Physically acting out dreams during sleep
  • Falling asleep at inappropriate times 

As always these suggestions are not comprehensive and should be discussed with your doctor.