Now there’s sleep and there’s sleep. (Continuation of previous blog).

We all know that there are essential, health-giving properties of certain foods and I want here to briefly focus upon the topic of foods and fluids that are known, in some cases to promote and in others to deter sleep. One practice, which I have come across again and again in patients – and indeed in people generally – is the tendency to turn to a “nightcap”. All alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant and will admittedly induce sleep. The problem is that it will also reduce sleep efficiency. This is because alcohol tends to take – and keep – you in stages of sleep, which, over time are detrimental to your brain and body’s needs. The effect of alcohol in the body is to deter and inhibit that so vital Delta or slow wave sleep. As a result, the imbiber may sleep but not refreshingly in the manner required.

Another alcohol-related problem so far as sleep is concerned is “rebound insomnia”. This is where after two or three hours of alcohol induced sleep, one awakens and is thereafter quite unable to return to sleep again. Fairly recent studies have shown that a single glass of wine taken in the evening by middle age subjects (whose liver enzymes which “burn off” alcohol are less efficient) are prone to suffer more than ten per cent sleep impairment and deficiency. Caffeine too is a sleep inhibitor. Most people know about coffee and chocolate as sources of caffeine, but what about many prescription-free pain remedies being regularly consumed at bedtime because of arthritic type pains or whatever? (C)SB.

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