Is it blue light? Is it stress? Is it alcohol? Wonder no more. Sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo explains the most likely causes for your sleep problems. Plus, how to remedy them. Tonight.
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.
If you’re a regular here, you probably noticed last week our story on the latest (and rather unexpected) player in the meditation game – Harry Styles. And I’m assuming that improving sleep is your thing – so you probably also saw our recent piece on weighted blankets, too. And of course, I trust you didn’t miss our bible to beating insomnia (and if you did – get on it ASAP).
Regardless of whether you’re person A, B or C; if you’re looking to fall asleep faster and stay asleep easier, this article is for you.
To kick us off, I’m giving you the three reasons you probably can’t fall asleep right away – a problem I know is shared by many, if not most of you. Remember – you should be waking up feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to go. And if you’re not already, with my support, you will be soon. Enjoy the series.
Like what you see? Sign up to our bodyandsoul.com.au newsletter for more stories like this.
#1. WFH life
Changing our working landscape from office to home has induced a number of sleep sabotaging elements. First, blue light exposure is higher than ever, thanks to constant zoom calls and our heavier tech reliance.
Essentially, studies show that blue light suppresses melatonin – a hormone to promote sleepiness. Further, blue light enhances cortisol – a hormone to make you feel awake, alert and if excessive, ’wired’. Because of this, even if you’re disconnecting from your screen at your usual time, you’ve had more blue light exposure through the day – cue you can’t fall asleep.
Being winter, you may be tempted to grab a heavy doona, sleep with the electric blanket on or keep your bedside heater going throughout the night (I must admit, on those cold nights, I have done this too). However, this can destroy your sleep: akin to blue light, research shows a high body temperature impedes melatonin, thus leaving you less sleepy than normal… even if it’s 11pm.
Note this is relevant for your bedding too: although 1000 thread count sheets sound dreamy, they’re actually too dense for our own good: they trap heat and can leave you in a sweaty mess.
Particularly if you’ve been under more stress than usual, academic evidence notes psychosocial pain – pain attributed to psychological reasons – is higher when you’re feeling stressed, and you’re more likely to detect it.
Not only does this leave you tossing and turning all night, but also it impedes you falling asleep; over time, repeatedly tossing and turning creates the memory trace that your bed equals poor sleep. Consequently, the next time you’re in bed, you have the expectation of poor sleep, are restless and as you know, can’t fall asleep.
As you can see, there are many factors at hand – and each of these can be remedied. Ultimately, sleep should be your sidekick – restoring you for a productive, positive and powerful day ahead. And if sleep isn’t serving you in this way – take action to make sure it does. Implement this advice and reach out to sleep experts such as myself who can support you in the process.
Olivia Arezzolo is a sleep expert who holds a Bachelor of Social Science (Psychology); Certificate of Sleep Psychology and a Diploma of Health Science (Nutritional Medicine); Certificate of Fitness III + IV. Olivia is passionate about delivering straightforward, science-based strategies to improve sleep.