Psychologist - Carly's Top Tips to Improve your Sleep
Getting enough quality sleep will set the foundation for all other positive changes in your life. Without good sleep, it’s virtually impossible to feel mentally and physically well. Many of us are chronically sleep deprived due to unintentionally engaging in behaviours that disturb our ability to fall and stay asleep. The good news? Having a restful night sleep is very much under your control, maybe more than you may realise. Establishing healthy sleep habits can help anyone maximise their ability to rest well.
Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day (yes, even on the weekends). This will help the body’s internal clock prepare for sleep and wakefulness at the same time every day. Even if you’ve had a poor night sleep, still try to wake up at the same time each morning. Our bodies are truly incredible and will consolidate our sleep the next night.
To ease the transition from wakefulness to sleep, try engaging in a soothing pre-sleep routine an hour before bed. This means putting down the phone, turning off the computer and avoiding any sort of stressful or stimulating activity. Physical and mental stimulation will only encourage the body to keep releasing the stress hormone cortisol, which is unconducive to good sleep. You could try dimming the lights, reading a book, or having a hot shower or bath. The fall in body temperature following a hot shower or bath will promote drowsiness.
Listen to Your Body
If we listen to our bodies, it will tell us when it’s ready for sleep. The problem is a lot of us resist what our body is trying to tell us because we’re in the middle of our favourite TV show or scrolling through Facebook. Feelings of sleepiness come in waves, and roll around every 60-90 minutes. If we try to go to bed when we’re not sleepy (ie have missed the sleep wave), we become frustrated about our inability to sleep which will increase alertness and interfere with our ability to sleep. Only go to bed when sleepy.
If you haven’t fallen asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed and engage in a boring and mundane activity until you start to feel sleepy again. If you lay in bed for too long not sleeping, your brain will start to associate your bed with stress and not sleeping. And we don’t want that, do we.
Your Bed is for Sleep
Hands up if you love your bed?!? We love our beds so much many of us like to eat, work, watch TV and surf the internet there. Unfortunately, the more time we spend in bed engaging in these types of activities, the more our brain will start to associate our bed with wakefulness rather than sleep. Try to only use your bed for sleep and being intimate with your partner.
Can you relate to this scenario – you’re lying awake in bed, you check the time, then start thinking “oh no, I’ve only slept for three hours, I have so much work to do tomorrow, I have to get back to sleep right now, I need another five hours sleep, I’ll never get back to sleep”? It’s pretty stressful. We don’t need to know the time while we are sleeping or attempting to sleep, it does nothing but hinder our efforts. Try to resist the urge to look at the time, or even better, make your bedroom a clock-free zone.
Avoid Caffeine, Nicotine or Alcohol
Many people believe that because alcohol helps them relax and switch-off, it also helps them sleep. This is wrong. Very wrong. When we drink alcohol our quality of sleep is severely interrupted because our body is busy trying to break down the alcohol. If you’re drinking, try to stop 4-6 hours before bed.
Caffeine & nicotine are stimulants so again, it’s best to avoid consuming these 4-6 hours before bed, too.
We all love an afternoon nap, but for those of us who have trouble sleeping, napping could be the culprit. If you absolutely must nap, make it a power nap (no longer than 20 minutes) and try to have it before 4pm.
Regular exercise is incredibly helpful towards getting a good night sleep, as long as we do it at the right time. Exercise stimulates the body so try to finish up any physical activity at least four hours before bed.
The Right Environment
A dark, cool and quiet room is usually best for a good night sleep. Use curtains or an eye mask to block out any light, and make sure you have enough blankets to keep warm. For those that don’t like silence or live near heavy traffic, use a “white noise” appliance, such as a fan. There are also a number of white noise apps, such as Rain Rain.
Remember, we are all different so it may take some time to find which habits will be helpful for you to include in your daily and nightly routine. Once you find what works for you and you practice it every day, your chances of achieving more restful sleep will improve. However, if your sleep problems do persist, please see your healthcare professional