How to improve your sleep
I don’t believe any of us escape from experiencing periods in our lives when sleep seems so hard to come by. It doesn’t matter how tired we feel, 11pm, becomes 1am, becomes 3.30 in the morning and there we are, wide awake, staring up at the ceiling in the dark, tossing and turning willing ourselves to fall asleep. The trouble is the harder you try to sleep, the less likely you are to achieve it and it can be frustrating. Improving your sleep is important for your health and happiness.
Why It’s Important
Sleep is essential. It helps our bodies to repair, it enables us to function physically and mentally, it helps us to fight off ill health and disease, it plays a huge part in our mental health and well-being and without it, we are at risk of disease.
Insomnia means that you have trouble sleeping on a regular basis. You may have trouble getting off to sleep or staying asleep. You may wake up for long periods, wake many times throughout the night, and wake up after too little sleep which leaves you feeling exhausted and irritable throughout the following day.
What Can you Do?
At the Cherry Tree Centre, we love Andrew Huberman’s advice on a better night’s sleep. Huberman says we need to program our body clocks and regulate our circadian rhythms. He advises that within 30 – 60 minutes of waking, we go outside for a few minutes in order to let in the blue light that the morning sun gives off. This triggers our brains to wake up. He then recommends that we do the same thing 30 – 60 minutes before sunset when the sun lets off a yellow light, which triggers the melatonin production we need to signal to the brain that it’s time to slow down and prepare for sleep.
Note – this is why blue light is not recommended in the evenings (so turn off your phones and computers if you want a good night’s sleep).
Another top tip is to get into a daily routine, wake up and go to bed at the same time every day. Yes, even on weekends. Train your brain into knowing when to sleep and when to wake up.
Napping During the Day
Napping is fine during the day but not too late and not for long. Over-sleeping during the day means your body and mind may not feel tired at bed-time. This will throw out your routine and could make it harder to fall asleep the next night, meaning you will feel more tired the next day and need a long afternoon nap. This can then become a negative cycle. Try to limit your naps to 20 minutes.
Before bed do activities that relax your mind. Do not do things that stimulate the brain, so switch off your phone and computer a couple of hours before bedtime. Let your mind wind down.
Food and Drink
Avoid caffeinated drinks before bedtime, these will only keep you awake. In addition to this, do not drink too much fluid just before bedtime as you are more likely to wake up to go to the toilet and then might find it difficult to get back to sleep
Avoid drinking alcohol. Alcohol may make it easier to fall asleep, but it is a depressant and because our bodies love to be in balance, several hours after drinking alcohol our bodies produce epinephrine, a stress hormone that stimulates the mind and body, thus waking us up and keeping us awake. You will also be dehydrated and may wake up due to thirst.
Learn to switch off the chatter in your mind. Try a guided meditation or relaxing music when you get into bed. Learn how to do a body-scan, and allow the mind to quieten. See Insight Timer for some amazing guided sleep meditations and bodyscan meditations.
The temperature of your bedroom is important. If you are too hot or too cold, you may have trouble staying asleep. The ideal bedroom temperature is around 16-18°C (60-65°F).
Light in the bedroom can also interfere with sleep so keep the room dark. This is because we release melatonin, the sleep hormone when it’s dark
A Worried Mind
If you are under a lot of stress, worried or anxious, speak to a counsellor or try some hypnotherapy sessions. Sleep hypnosis will help you to change negative thought patterns and address bad sleep habits.