Being a mother of 3 beautiful children I can tell you that I have never valued sleep more than what I do today. I remember the forewarnings of those before me telling me to enjoy my sleep and get as much of it as I could before it was gone forever. I recall the sleepless nights, walking around dazed and tired and wanting nothing more than a whole nights uninterrupted sleep. My youngest is 4 now and most nights I do receive this luxury, But on nights when my bed is shared by that wriggly sprout, or those times when sickness runs rampant in the household, the sleep I’m denied is fiercely craved.

Though motherhood is synonymous with a lack of sleep, sleep deprivation at any stage of your life is crippling. Insufficient sleep, inadequate sleep or disruptions to the wake-sleep cycle are all common and affect 1 in 3 Australians. In this group of people, their everyday functioning is compromised, and inadvertently in time a persons behaviour, emotions, cardiovascular health, immunity and even weight will suffer from a continual deficit of sleep.

Sleep is as important to the body as food and water and the air we breathe. Though the amount of sleep a person needs is very individualised, the National Institute of Health suggests adults require anywhere between 7-9 hours of sleep a night.  Feeling drowsy and tired and generally sluggish at any time of the day is a good indicator that your body did not get the required amount of sleep the night before, and just like we cease to function properly when we don’t sleep enough our brains can’t operate properly either. So what are the consequences of this lack of sleep? We don’t think straight, we can’t make adequate judgement, we are clumsy, we lack coordination and we are highly emotional. This is typical of acute sleep deprivation that usually lasts a few days. If these sleepless nights continue, contrary to belief, our bodies will not adjust to the reduced hours of sleep we are getting and a chronic sleep deprivation kicks in instead. This denial of sleep is detrimental to your health and can cause, in time, a host of debilitating health problems. 

One of the problems chronic  sleep deprivation  causes, is that it reduces our bodies’ natural defence mechanisms and our immune systems are hence compromised. This will lead to an increased risk of illness. Digestive systems are also weakened and weight gain becomes a direct side effect of lack of sleep. As our brain isn’t functioning at optimal levels, it will prompt a higher level of insulin to be released after eating so not only is there an increase of fat storage occurring in our body, there is also an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Since weight gain is more prevalent when you’re chronically sleep deprived, there is an increased risk of cardiovascular problems. And for those people who suffer high blood pressure, just one night of interrupted sleep can cause elevated blood pressure for a whole day!

How do we compensate our bodies and fix this so called ”sleep debt?” Generally most people will seek advice from a doctor who will most likely prescribe a sleeping pill. Most medications for sleep are best used for short term or used sparingly, but at best, sleeping pills are a temporary band aid, an addictive crutch that can make insomnia worse in the long run. All prescription sleeping pills have side effects and the benefits of using them NEED to far out weigh the risks. The risks are based on the drug used, the dosage taken and how long it lasts in the system. Minor side effects can include prolonged drowsiness the next day, headaches, dizziness, constipation and unsteadiness. Serious side effects like drug dependance, drug interactions, withdrawal symptoms and rebound insomnia make these sleeping pills undesirable and definitely not a preference over alternative medication.

At Custom Made Medicine, we have created a customised formula for sleep that includes natural sleep inducers. These inducers are produced in the body naturally and declining levels in the brain or deficiencies in them, will lead to inadequate sleep. This formulation will not cause dependance as biochemically, these active ingredients are already naturally occurring in the body and all we are doing is enhancing what should already be there. A number of the ingredients also alleviate stress and pacify nervousness. By supplementing our body with these naturally occurring hormones and neurotransmitters we can re-establish a normal and healthy sleep rhythm.

Every night when the fridge is stacked with kids lunches for the next day and the uniforms are neatly folded besides their bed and the lights are dimmed, the echoing sound of stillness lures me to my bed. As I lay down and beckon sleep I refuse to count sheep nor restlessly thrash from side to side. I’ve worked long enough today, sleep should engulf me freely, with ease and I will welcome it and drift……

By Maria Zaknich B.Pharm

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