In this blog I will share some tips on how you can get better sleep. We can all have difficulties getting to sleep, staying asleep and maintaining a regular sleep cycle at times. However, getting a good night’s sleep is probably the best thing you can do for both your mental and physical health. Many of us will have struggled to get up an hour earlier on Monday following the clocks going forward. As well as feeling tired, studies have found an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and car crashes the day after the clocks change. This highlights just how important sleep is. Read on for advice on how you can improve yours.
7 tips for better sleep:
1. Try and stick to the same bed time and wake up time
Sticking to the same bed and wake up times as much as possible helps your body to learn your sleep routine. It can be tempting to lie in at the weekend. However, this often just means we are just catching up on our sleep debt from the week. Going to bed a little earlier every day avoids building up debt and needing to catch up at the weekend. Sticking within an hour of your weekday routine at weekends can make Monday get-ups much easier!
2. Make gradual changes
If you are currently sleeping 4 or 5 hours a night, aiming straight for 8 is a big jump and unlikely to happen the first night. Getting just 1 extra hour can make a massive difference, as we see when the clocks change. If you are not getting enough sleep, more sleep – however little extra – is better. Similarly, if you are currently going to bed at 3am and would like to bring that forwards to 11pm, if you do this on one go it is likely you will be lying awake for hours. Your body is more likely to be able to adapt to going to bed half an hour earlier each night. Over time you will still achieve the earlier bed time you are aiming for.
3. Create a sleep environment that works for you
If possible, keep your bedroom a space for relaxing and sleep and not working. This helps your body and brain become accustomed to going to sleep when you enter this space. Some people sleep best in absolute silence in the pitch black. Others prefer a night light and background noise. If you are not sure what works for you, try out different things. Calm has lots of different sleep sounds such as stories, music or white noise. Alternatively, if you find yourself disturbed by noises, you could try wearing ear plugs to bed.
4. Make a sleep journal
Many things can affect our sleep. If your sleep can be hit and miss, it can be helpful to keep a sleep journal. Note long and how well you’ve slept as well as anything throughout the day that may have affected your sleep. This could include if you have tried out sleep sounds, things you have eaten, how much you have exercised and if there have been any stressors throughout the day. Over time you can spot if there are any patterns. For example, you may notice a tendency for a worse night’s sleep after eating certain foods in the evening. Therefore you may wish to avoid these before bedtime in the future.
5. Make time to relax throughout the day
A good night’s sleep doesn’t start when you go to bed. If you have been racing around and haven’t stopped all day, it can be jarring for your body and brain to suddenly stop and be expected to sleep. To prepare for sleep, it can help to build in time to relax throughout the day. If you have time, you may do this by going to a guided activity such as yoga. However, relaxing can simply be sitting and having a hot drink mindfully for 10 minutes without thinking about your to do list.
6. Deal with racing thoughts
When you have a lot on your mind or haven’t stopped all day, getting in to bed can be the first time your brain has had to process things. This can mean you have thoughts racing through your mind and find it hard to shut off. It can help to set aside 10 minutes before you go to bed to write down any thoughts or worries you have. If there are issues or problems to resolve, schedule in time the following day to address them. This signals to your brain that it doesn’t need to keep going over these issues to find a solution right now. This can also be useful if you wake up worrying in the night. Listening to a guided Yoga Nidra meditation like this one can also be helpful in relaxing and letting go of thoughts.
The recommended 7-8 hours sleep is per 24 hour period – it doesn’t have to be in one continuous block overnight. If you are not getting enough sleep at night time and are still tired, napping can help top up your sleep. To avoid a nap interfering with your sleep later, it is best for this to be at least 6 hours before your bed time and no longer than an hour. If you find it hard to nap during the day, creating your usual sleep environment can help and just resting and relaxing even if you don’t fall asleep will still aid your sleep later.
Sleep affects every bodily function. Whatever your sleep cycle is like at the moment, there are things you can do to sleep better. In times of stress, our sleep is often affected and it can help to talk through what is going for you. If you would like to find out more about how counselling can help, please get in touch: