Kerre McIvor: Sleep hygiene has become big business

I so envy people who can sleep. Who can hit the sack with a minimum of fuss and without multi-layered preparation; who can close their eyes and drift off within minutes.

These are the people who can then bounce out of bed, eight hours later, alive, alert, awake and enthusiastic, ready to face the day.

This week I posted a cri-de-coeur on Facebook after yet another night when I’d woken on the dot of three and stayed awake until my alarm clock went off at 6am.

It wasn’t the heat. This is something that happens regularly for me, spring, summer, autumn and winter.

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And it doesn’t matter whether I’m going through a period of clean-living abstinence or if I enjoy a couple of wines with dinner – it’s 3am almost to the second.

And that’s that. I don’t think I’ve slept properly since I had my daughter, 28 years ago.

Even when babies start sleeping through the night, you’re always attuned to their slightest movement or sound.

My work hours over the past 25 years probably haven’t helped either. When I was working in hospitality, I wouldn’t be in bed before 3am most nights, and working the night shift on NewstalkZB meant it was 1am at the earliest before I would retire.

I can go long periods without sleep – on one overseas working trip I spent three days and nearly three nights awake and on the go and I think that ruined me for sleeping naturally forever.

But study after study keeps appearing stressing the importance of seven to eight hours sleep.

They contain really scary facts and data – we’ve probably all heard that lack of sleep can lead to obesity and cardiovascular problems but one British study found that a week of six hours sleep or less can lead to negative changes to more than 700 genes.

Ha! Six hours sleep! In my (non-existent) dreams!

Those studies don’t help when I’m staring at the ceiling after three hours kip, imagining my genes mutating and malforming simply because I lack the ability to shut down.

People aren’t choosing not to sleep, for heaven’s sake! Why tell us the dire consequences of lack of sleep without giving a solution to the problem?

No wonder sleep hygiene is big business. If you’ve ever listened to NewstalkZB you’ll have heard Kirsten Taylor talking about her Sleep Drops.

The naturopath developed the drops for her own use but when she realised how many of her clients suffered sleep problems, she started her own company.

Now she is selling more than two million dollars of wholesale product in New Zealand every year and has her eyes set on the $1.2 billion sleep medication market in the United States.

In Auckland alone, there are dozens of sleep clinics and sleep coaches doing a roaring trade.

I have been trying to get in to see Tony Fernando, a sleep psychologist, for a couple of years and I finally confirmed an appointment for March this year. And that’s only because he’s increased his hours in response to demand.

Sleep specialists are one answer but they’re an expensive one. I had an enormous response to my Facebook post, with hundreds of people telling me they had exactly the same problem – although for some of them it was 2am or 4am, not 3am – and with many suggesting remedies.

The aforementioned Sleep Drops; Tart Cherry juice (a staple in the fridge); magnesium (but chances are you’ll get some very odd dreams); the Shakti acupuncture mat (I’ve ordered one and I’ll test drive that once it arrives); melatonin; talkback radio; getting up and out of bed and reading then going back to bed when you’re tired; getting your hormone levels tested if you’re a woman of a certain age (I am and I have an appointment booked next week); focused breathing.

And one that has proved enormously helpful – not checking the time when I wake up.

It seems simple but I’ve been able to get back to sleep as a result of not looking at my clock to confirm it is indeed 3am.

So the clock’s out of the room, along with the iPhone. I hope, if you’re a fellow waker, that some of these measures help you.

And if I find a permanent sleep solution, I will definitely pass it on to the rest of the team before another of our genes can mutate.

• Check out Kerre McIvor’s new Sunday Sessions show, 9am-midday, NewstalkZB today

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