A good night’s sleep is crucial in maintaining good health and well-being. We all know how bad we feel even after 1 night of poor sleep. For those who have problems sleeping on a regular basis, it can be downright devastating.
Poor sleep compromises your ability to think clearly. You’ll be less alert and unable to concentrate. Decisions become difficult to make. Stress can be harder to cope with. Memory will be impaired. Reaction time is slowed down – making driving and using machinery problematic.
And a huge issue is the relationship between poor sleep and mental health. If you’ve struggled with sleep for some time, the hormones that affect mood (serotonin and dopamine) will be disrupted. This can lead to feeling irritable, emotional and depressed.
In my private practice, I see a lot of anxious and depressed clients and sleep is almost always compromised. It’s hard to know if the anxiety/depression came first and led to poor sleep or if the sleep deprivation came first and led to anxiety and depression. Whichever way it is, having a plan to improve sleep is critical.
If you have problems sleeping, try some of the following 8 strategies and see the difference it makes:
- Choose an exercise you enjoy so that you are more likely to do it regularly
- Do the exercise in the morning or late afternoon (not in the evening)
- Combine your exercise with listening to relaxing music or an interesting blog
- Try to cut out caffeine
- Caffeine is a stimulant and will disrupt your sleep, so experiment with cutting down or cutting out caffeine
- Keep a sleep diary and track your intake of caffeinated products such as coffee, chocolate, tea and coke and notice if these affect your sleep
- If you continue to use these products, avoid them after 2pm.
- Create a routine
- Try going to bed at the same time each night and getting up at the same time every morning. This helps to establish your circadian rhythm and levels of melatonin which signals sleep to your brain.
- Cut out all daytime naps
- Try not to eat or drink anything 3-4 hours before bedtime. Alcohol can be a problem as it induces sleep but may cause a disturbed night.
- Learn to meditate
- Incorporate a daily meditation practice into your life (see separate post on meditation techniques)
- Try different options, including a meditation app, a class in the community or online, a CD purchased online.
- Have a wind down period
- Turn off your devices an hour before bed
- Put on some soft music
- Have a warm bath or shower
- Soak your feet in warm water with a few drops of lavender oil (or another relaxing oil)
- Do some yoga postures
- Listen to a relaxation or meditation script via your favourite app such as Insight Timer, Headspace, Smiling Mind or Calm.
- Place a few drops of lavender oil (or a relaxing blend) on a hanky and place it on the edge of your pillow when you go to bed
- Once you are bed, practice slow, deep breathing for a few minutes.
- Check for physical impediments in the bedroom
- Ensure your mattress and pillow are comfortable for you (sometimes a firmer mattress is in order or a softer pillow)
- Do not have an electric alarm clock next to your bed
- Turn off all devices, such as mobiles and laptops
- Ensure the room is dark and air is circulating (open a window or use a fan)
- Use earplugs if noise is an issue (including a snoring partner)
- Use an eye mask if the room has unavoidable light
- If you have restless legs during the night, see your doctor or naturopath (you may need magnesium).
- When you can’t sleep
- If you’re lying in bed awake for more than 20 minutes, get up and go into another room that has low light
- Use a relaxation download or read something mundane for up to 30 minutes (not on a device)
- Sometimes a small glass of milk and a piece of cheese will help.
- Solve emotional problems
- If emotional problems are causing insomnia, try writing in a journal an hour before bed, expressing your feelings, disappointments, and fears
- Keep a notepad next to your bed and jot down worries or things you can’t stop thinking about during the night (use a torch to see so you don’t disturb your partner)
- Talk to a friend or family member
- If problems persist, seek professional counselling.
So, there you go – 8 strategies you can put in place in your own life. If you follow them persistently, you will be on the road to a good night’s sleep.
Have you got any tips that I haven’t mentioned? If so, please share in the comment section. I’d love to hear them.