A Guide For Sleep
Do you struggle to get to sleep? Toss and turn through the night?
Everyone has nights where they struggle to get to sleep.
Maybe you’ve had a stressful day and can’t stop thinking about it. Or an exciting day and can’t settle down. Or worries about something that could happen tomorrow…
The occasional restless night is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about. However, when you have constant sleepless nights or are repeatedly waking up leaving you tired and exhausted the next day, then that can become a problem.
When you don’t sleep well, it can leave you tired and irritable, unable to concentrate or function properly. Over time, the effects grow worse and can even have a negative effect on your immune system and health. In fact, research has shown that sleep deprivation can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, inflammatory response and other conditions. It has also found that getting enough sleep can strengthen the immune system, increasing the T cell count and reducing the inflammatory response.
So why do so many people have sleep problems?
Over the last few years I seem to have had more and more clients come to see me with sleep problems.
I remember in the 90s watching a show, predicting how in the future technology would take care of a lot of our work and leave us with more time to relax and do the things we want to. Indeed, the reverse is true. We are living in a time where there are more and more stressors (the things that cause us stress). In fact, we are never away from our phones or email, and even though it makes communication easier, it means we are constantly being bombarded and overloaded with information. And in those moments of rest, what do most people seem to do? Go and use social media!
It becomes difficult taking time to relax.
That’s just one area that can cause sleep issues. Others include:
- Bad sleep hygiene
- Negative thought patterns
So what can we do about it?
You can actually do a lot.
There are lots of even simple steps you can take to help you improve your sleep. It helps to start to reflect upon what you think is the cause of your sleep problems. For example, is it too much stress? Anxiety? Or just bad habits? Also, if you have been suffering from insomnia for a long time, visit your GP just to make sure there is no physical reason for the issue.
There are some simple steps you can do right now that can help you sleep better. These include:
- Only go to bed when you are tired: many people who are having problems with sleep think they just need to stay in bed even if they are not sleeping What happens is you end up lying there worrying about not sleep and getting into a more anxious state. You also start to associate the bed with anxiety, so it really doesn’t work. Instead, if you have been lying in bed for more than about 15 or 20 minutes without sleeping, go into a different room and do something relaxing. Maybe listen to some soothing music, or listen to a relaxation recording, or practice mindfulness.
- Learn relaxation techniques: regularly practicing relaxation or mindfulness can make a huge difference in helping you deal with stress. Over time, regular relaxation practice has also been shown to have a positive effect in helping people sleep better. Whether it is relaxation recordings or apps, mindfulness, self hypnosis or breathing techniques, practice regular relaxation.
- Keep the bedroom for sleep: don’t take work into the bedroom. That includes phones and computers and TV. Our mind makes associations rapidly. If you get used to working in the bedroom, associations get formed with the bedroom and being alert, which can make sleep more difficult. So work in a different room
- Limit the amount of ‘blue light’ before bedtime: this means computer screens, bright light, television, phones and tablets. Blue light that is emitted from these devices has been found to have a negative effect on sleep. So stop using them at least an hour before bed.
- Watch what you drink and eat: caffeine is one example. Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake. It isn’t just in coffee, but in many other drinks. I always suggest limiting any caffeine intake after lunchtime and definitely stop 4 or 5 hours before bedtime.
- Learn some CBT: cognitive behavioural therapy can teach you how to change negative thinking and control worrying thoughts that stop you sleeping. It can also help you explore your sleep hygiene and put in place better patterns to help you sleep.
- Get some sleep advice from a professional, or find a good app. I’d personally avoid apps that ‘monitor’ your sleep for you. Having something that tells you how bad your sleep is can actually make you more stressed! Programs that get you to note yourself how you are sleeping help you take more conscious control. I couldn’t find many programs that combined this with the other steps mentioned above, so I even decided to create my own app to help people sleep better, which should go live any day.