TIPS FOR BETTER SLEEP
Getting good sleep and enough of it is a key part of good mental, physical and emotional health. We’ve all had nights when it was hard to get to sleep or we ended up “tossing and turning” most of the night.
The good news is, we can manage pretty well with 2 or 3 nights of disrupted sleep. However, when it happens frequently or for an extended period, we can suffer from feelings of overwhelm, irritability, as well as poor concentration, decreased motivation and low energy levels.
If you're keen to improve your sleep, try these 5 tips to get started:
Make sleep a priority! We all get busy and there are always other things we could fit in before we go to bed … another must-see TV episode, folding the washing, reading just one more chapter of a great book. However, if you make a commitment to improving your sleep, it is more likely to change. Set a clear bedtime and make it your goal to stick to it. This is one of the simplest, cheapest, yet most effective self-care strategies.
Try not to worry about being awake late at night. If you’ve gone to bed at your set bedtime, but you are still awake 25 minutes after your head hits the pillow, do something other than worrying about not sleeping. You know how it is – everything seems worse in the middle of the night! It’s understandable to be frustrated if you’re struggling to get to sleep or stay asleep. However, getting worked up about not sleeping can make your sleep problems worse in the long run. Instead – plan ahead and have a few quiet activities close to hand that you can do during the night. A few ideas include jigsaw puzzles, sudoku, knitting, reading a book, meditation, drawing or colouring in. Do this activity until you start feeling tired, then try going back to sleep. If you’re going to be awake during the night, you may as well enjoy the peace and quiet, as long as it doesn’t overstimulate your mind (that’s right, xbox or games on your phone are out!).
Rethink your caffeine and alcohol intake. This may sound boring, but if you’re making good sleep a priority, it’s worth taking a look at your drink habits. Try cutting back in the evenings and see if it has a positive impact on your sleep. Many people find it helpful to avoid caffeine after about 3pm. Some of the decaff tea and coffee products taste pretty good and allow you to keep the nice routine of an evening hot drink. Whilst many people rely on a glass of wine or a few beers to “wind down and relax” in the evening and this may work in the very short term, alcohol can have a detrimental impact on sleep.
Plan for tomorrow. Worrying about tomorrow’s to-do list is one of the main culprits that keeps us awake. Try writing down the things you need to remember for the next day, then you won’t need to keep them in mind as you try to drift off to sleep. This practice is best done a few hours before bedtime, so your mind has time to wind down and relax before sleep.
Dial down your screen time. Make a cut-off time in the evening that you’ll stop using electronic devices (including TV). Looking at a screen with blue light at night can delay the body’s internal clock and disrupt your ability to get to sleep and stay asleep. Try turning off screens a few hours before bedtime. If this sounds too difficult, try 30 or 60 minutes before bed – whatever you think is workable for you. You can also change the settings on mobile devices to “Nightshift” type settings at a scheduled time each evening, which decreases the amount of blue light emitted.
These strategies are generally helpful in improving sleep quality and duration. However, if you try them and find no improvement within a few weeks, you may benefit from an appointment with your GP. They are skilled at screening for sleep disorders and can refer you for a sleep study or specialist assessment if needed. Your GP can also refer you to a psychologist if they think your sleep difficulties are related to a mental health concern like depression or anxiety.