Can’t sleep? Having trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep? You are not alone. According to a recent report released by Deloitte Access Economics, commissioned by Sleep Health Foundation, 39.8% of Australian adults are estimated to experience some form of inadequate sleep. This equates to 4 in 10 adults or approximately 7.4 million people.
Full disclosure, I am one of these 7.4 million people. Being a sufferer of insomnia myself for about two years now, I can tell you I have tried almost everything to solve my sleep problem. One of the solutions was a visit to my local doctor. After completing a short questionnaire, he concluded that I did not have sleep apnoea and that his “solution” was for me to go home and google “sleep hygiene”. Great, thanks Doc!
If this problem had any hope in hell of getting solved, it was down to me doing my own research and trial and error to see if I could come up with a solution - no easy task! Now just to clarify, this not an article about sleep apnoea, obstruction of your airways or snoring. It’s about other factors to help you get a good night’s sleep, and my personal journey of what helped me. I hope the research, self-experimentation, and information in this article that I have compiled over the last few years will help someone else out there. Poor sleep is one of the worst things you can deal with!
You’ll be pleased to know that after trying almost everything (excluding prescription drugs), I am happy to report that YES, I can safely say that I have found the solution. To be more precise, it’s a combination of four things that have worked for me, and are still working for me (several weeks so far and going strong), to eliminate my chronic sleeplessness and subsequently reduce the fatigue that follows after a bad night of sleep.
Insufficient sleep takes a huge toll on work, relationships, and gym training, overall energy levels and even your personality. Especially when you are so tired, you’re walking around the office like a zombie. Recovery occurs during sleep, so if you’re a poor sleeper, you can kiss those gains goodbye as well.
Ok, lets get to it. What do I need to do to get back to the good old days when I used to sleep like a baby? In my humble opinion of tried and tested methods, it’s a combination of the following four factors that has helped me go from lying awake for several hours, to fantastic deep REM sleep.
1) Cut all Stimulants After 12pm.
I love dark chocolate, especially the 85% variety. Chocolate contains caffeine, but also theobromine which is caffeine’s chemical cousin, and is a central nervous system stimulant. Does your heart race after drinking coffee or eating chocolate? Do you feel like your heart suddenly starts beating fast out of nowhere like you’re having a mild anxiety or panic attack? Most likely this is your answer. Don’t forget, the effects of chocolate or coffee can last for several hours in your system! Some people are also stimulant sensitive so even though your partner can have a coffee or half a block of chocolate an hour before bed and sleep fine, don’t assume that you can do that too! Everybody responds differently to stimulants, so if you can go without it, then great. If you can’t go without it, have your hit early in the day if you must (before 12pm), so your body has plenty of time to eliminate it by the time you go to bed. Eliminating stimulants has been my biggest factor in improving my sleep!
A) I’m a coffee/chocolate addict, I can’t quit! What should I do?
Suck it up princess. Your sleep is WAY more important than a quick dopamine hit. Otherwise REDUCE your addiction and consume your coffee/chocolate BEFORE MIDDAY (12PM).
B) I’m a big time gym junkie and need my high stimulant pre-workout to get a good training session.
Train before work if possible and take your pre-workout then. If your work is flexible, train during lunch time. The gyms are much quieter during lunch anyway, so you will be able to get in and out without waiting around for equipment like you would at the 6pm peak hour gum rush.
If you’re training 3-4 times per week, limit taking your pre-workout to days that you actually train. In other words: don’t take pre-workout on off days. This will prevent your body getting used to stimulants, which will reduce the effects of the pre-workout, (which is not what you want as you will then need stronger and higher dosed pre-workouts to get the same effect as you originally did before on a low stim pre-workout).
If none of the above work for you, try a Non-Stimulant Pre-Workout. Full range here:
2) Reduce Your Screen Time – Computers, Tablets, Mobiles etc.
Blue light or blue wavelengths (the type of light that comes out of your electronic screen) can interfere with a person’s circadian rhythm and melatonin secretion. Not good!
What does this mean? Circadian rhythm is basically a 24-hour internal clock that is running in the background of your brain, and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals. It’s also know as your sleep/wake cycle. Melatonin is a hormone made by the pineal gland. That’s a pea-sized gland found just above the middle of your brain. It helps your body know when it’s time to sleep and wake up. Normally, your body makes more melatonin at night, helping to send the signal to your body that it’s time to shut down and rest. If you want to sleep well, you’ll need to have a normal melatonin secretion.
In other words, all those fancy gadgets that you have your eyes constantly glued to are messing with your sleep!
a) Are you serious? I work a 9-5 job that involves staring at my computer screen all day. It’s my source of income. I can’t quit.
Fair call - I’m in the same boat. This is what I did and what worked for me… If you finish work at 5pm, SWITCH OFF! Screen staring that is. I’ve switched from staring at YouTube/Netflix after work to listening to podcasts instead. Yes, have the odd glance at your screen to be able to select the podcast and press the play button, but once it’s playing, put your phone away in your pocket and just listen!
Try pre-downloading some podcasts or music in your 9-5 hours, so you don’t spend time frantically searching for content to listen to on the bus/train home in your “no screen time hours” – this way you can just press play and you’re set for the next hour or two.
How about reading a book or magazine? No light coming out of that. I have found personally that reading in bed 10-20 minutes before going to sleep, made my eyes really tired and drowsy and greatly assisted in the process of getting to sleep. I highly recommend this. Find reading boring? Even better, you will fall asleep faster.
A note: if you must watch TV when you get home, try to switch of all screens at least three hours before going to sleep. Try to go to bed around the same time if possible. If your normal sleep time is 10pm, try to have all screens off by 7pm at the latest to allow your eyes and brain to relax and “cool” so your body can start getting ready for sleep.
3) Healthy Diet and Exercise
This is a no brainer. If you eat fast food all day and sit on your backside, that’s probably not the best combination for an overall healthy lifestyle including having a good quality nights sleep. If you smoke and are overweight, that is probably not helping you much either, so that might be something you want to address, by quitting smoking and reducing your weight level to a healthier range.
Joining a gym is a fantastic way to build muscle and tone up or lose weight, as well as improve your cardio. In the last six months I have been doing Yoga twice a week in addition to gym workouts. (A great Yoga session is an awesome dopamine hit alternative to chocolate and coffee). I’ve found Yoga to be great for the mind as well as the body and have the added benefit of greatly improved flexibility!
I won’t go into too much detail here regarding eating healthy, but try to meal prep or make your own healthy meals at home rather than eating fast food wherever possible.
Can’t quit Fast Food? Oh boy. Ok fine, read this: https://www.proteinking.com.au/articles/healthy-options-at-fast-food-restaurants
Looking at perhaps a Ketogenic Diet to help lose weight? Click here: https://www.proteinking.com.au/articles/all-about-keto-part-four-what-to-eat
Full disclosure, I work at Protein King, which is one of Australia’s biggest supplement stores (and yes we do ship worldwide). The great news is I get to try pretty much any supplement I want, and yes I have tried quite a few.
After, and only after you have the above three factors under control, check out supplementation. There are huge benefits to taking a good quality sleep supplement which can assist in getting to sleep, staying asleep, and/or reaching a deeper sleep state. They can also help to calm the mind and body and help you to relax and get into a state where you can fall asleep easier than you would have otherwise. It is definitely no magic pill, but sleep supplements played a huge role in helping me get back to perfect sleep.
A lot of these sleep supplements will vary in which ingredients they have, and how much of each they contain. As every individual person responds differently to various herbs and other ingredients (just as everyone has a different stimulant tolerance) sometimes it will be a matter of trying a few different supplements out to see what works best for you!
I’ve personally taken calls and had people drive half way across Sydney to locate a specific sleep supplement that had worked wonders for them, which is great. If you find something that works miracles for you, that is fantastic.
Some of the common ingredients you will find in sleep supplements include: magnesium, valerian root powder, l-theanine, zinc, vitamin b, GABA, melatonin, 5-HTP, lutein, zeaxanthin, magnolia officinalis, ashwaganda, lemon balm, hops, chamomile, and passionflower.
Ok guys, here is my list of the Best Sleep Supplements available in Australia for 2019. Good luck and I hope your sleep improves as much as mine has. Cheers!
Fantastic product, awesome ingredients and amounts, and our clear winner! Body War is a top selling Australian brand and definitely worth a try. Wartropin I found was strong, and had to reduce my serving a little. I’ve tried both Passion Fruit and Strawberry Pine flavour, and both were delicious.
Only landing on our shelves this year, and taking the sleep supplementation category by storm, it contains a very special ingredient, and is a great replacement for the ever popular but no longer available Infinite Labs Cyclorem.
BPM Labs is another popular brand here in Australia with excellent dosages and ingredients. The taste I found was not as good as the Body War (I had the Pineapple Dream). Pretty much if you want one of the best sleep formulas available, and not too fussed on amazing candy flavours, try this one out. The high amount of herbal ingredients is definitely evident, but if you’re a tough bas***d that won’t be a problem for you when you just smash it down.
Another relative newcomer, this has a great ingredient profile and well worth a go as a super popular Canadian brand.
The following supplements, although not specifically “sleep supplements”, are definitely worth a mention as they are very special and unique. Their overall focus is on magnesium which helps to calm the body (and is something a lot of people these days are deficient in).
Adrenal Switch by Switch Nutrition is another Australian brand and is one of my staples in the supplement cabinet. It is all natural (so no artificial colours, flavours, preservatives), all flavours taste delicious (especially the Lemonade) and is focused on reducing cortisol (a stress hormone). It’s also vegan, gluten free, soy free, and lactose free. Drink this anytime in cold water. I highly recommend this!
If you’re just after magnesium alone in a delicious drink to reduce your stress, this is the one for you. Take anytime!