How To Have a Better Night’s Sleepby Dr Emma Gray - 13th March, 2019
Having trouble sleeping, either struggling to fall asleep, staying asleep and/or waking up early is very common and is usually a symptom of another problem e.g. stress, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem. So, if you want to sleep better over the longer term you will need to work out why you can’t sleep, maybe by speaking to your doctor or a psychologist. However, in meantime the tips in this blog will help you to improve the length and quality of the sleep that you get.
Tip 1 – Wake Up
Getting your body clock into a good routine and keeping it there is pivotal in getting a good night’s sleep. However, because most people prefer a day that is closer to 25 hours than 24, it is quite easy to fall out of a routine. So, the first step is to aim to go to bed and wake up at a similar time every day. In the beginning, this includes the weekend, once your sleep pattern is more settled you can allow yourself a lie in.
We have far more control over when we wake up than when we fall asleep and trying too hard to control this end of our sleep cycle can lead to anxiety, which will then make it even harder to fall asleep. So, start by ensuring that you wake up at the same time every day. Over the course of a few weeks if you wake up at the same time you will find that you start to fall asleep at the same time.
Tip 2 – Bedtime routine
Basically, have one. Give your body as many cues as you can that it is time to wind down and go to sleep. Start this routine at the same time every night and try to follow it as closely as you can.
Tip 3 – Bed is just for sleeping
Your bed should only be used for sleeping. Human beings quickly make associations, good and bad e.g. bed is where I go to look at Instagram. So only get into bed when you feel tired enough that you might fall asleep within 10 mins and if you don’t, get back up again. Also, whilst you are trying to improve your sleep, aim to get up within 5 minutes of waking up, this way your mind and body will learn that bed is just for sleeping.
Tip 4 – If you can’t fall asleep……
If you don’t fall asleep within 10 minutes of going to bed, get up and follow this routine:
1. Write down any thoughts that are running through your head. This will stop the circular thinking patterns that often keep us awake by slowing them down and giving them a beginning and an end.
2. Read a book or practice meditation. This will calm your mind enough to enable you to have another go at falling asleep.
3. Only get back into bed if you think you will fall asleep within 10 minutes.
In the early days you may need to repeat this cycle a number of times, but over the course of a few weeks you will notice that you are using this strategy less and less. Also run through this routine if you wake in the night or more than an hour before it is time to get up.
Tip 5 – No Tech
Avoid any screen activity for 2 hours before you would like to fall asleep. This is when our bodies start to produce the hormone melatonin, responsible for helping us to sleep and the blue light that is emitted from most devices interferes with its production. Secondly, you are more likely to come across content that will trigger strong emotions (good and bad) online and on TV, and strong emotions will stop you sleeping.
Tip 6 – Try Not To Worry
Although the ideal amount of sleep for an adult is between 7-9 hours, this is the ideal. We can survive on a lot less and particularly in the short term, the biggest problem associated with not getting enough sleep, is worrying about it. So, set the intention to create some good habits around bedtime and sleep and also get some support to work out what underlies your sleeplessness.