One of the most complaints we hear from people in our psychology practice is difficulty sleeping. It may be difficulty getting to sleep, difficulty staying asleep, waking up too early, or simply feeling fatigued. Well I wanted to share with you today my top five tips for improving your sleep. Typically, we would cover something like this in a session with Positive Mind Works, but I wanted to share these favourite tips with the Kiddipedia parents and friends who I’m sure many of you are also wanting a better night’s sleep.
Before I begin, let me suggest that these tips are most effective for people who have had difficulty sleeping for some time. These strategies are based on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for Insomnia which is considered the ‘gold-standard’ for treating sleep issues.
Let me explain first a little about what regulates our ability to sleep. Our sleep drive, our arousal levels and our circadian rhythm. Our sleep drive is best compared to our ‘appetite’ for sleep. When we wake up our sleep drive is at its lowest and gradually builds throughout the day until we are ready bed. If we take a nap during the day it is a bit like snacking before going out for dinner. We may still be hungry but not as hungry as we were before we snacked!
The circadian rhythm is best described as our biological clock. It runs on a 24 hours period and overseas things like digestion, body temperature and sex drive. An irregular sleep routine weakens our circadian rhythm. Melatonin helps to regulate our circadian rhythm and make us sleepy. Sunlight turns off the melatonin switch in our body and helps to wake us. However, the light from phones, tv’s and tablets also switches off the melatonin switch!!
When we have difficulty sleeping, we can develop something called conditioned insomnia. Which basically means that over time because you have not been sleeping well you begin to dread going to bed. Hence stimulating your arousal system (stress) and making sleep even more difficult. This is a vicious cycle we want to break.
Tip No 1- Create a good routine
Keep a sleep diary. For a period of one month attempt to regulate the time you go to bed and the time you get up, keeping it as similar as possible over the week and weekends. Try to avoid naps altogether and get up at the same time every day, regardless of how much sleep you have had.
Tip No 2- Learn to relax before bed time.
Mindfulness meditation or a relaxation meditation before bed are very useful in quietening a busy mind. You may also like to a progressive muscle relaxation when you are lying in bed. Or some breathing techniques to let stress dissolve out of your body.
Tip No 3- Stop trying to get to sleep.
I know this sounds counterproductive but believe me it works. We say ‘fall’ asleep for a reason, we have to relinquish control to fall into sleep. No amount of trying will make us sleep. In fact, it will make it harder. Go to bed when you are tired and if you are not sleeping then get up and do something in soft light like listen to some relaxing music. When you feel sleepy again then return to bed and try again. Avoid tossing and turning for long periods clock watching!
I really hope you find these tips helpful in restoring your sleep back to where you want it to be. If you have difficulty implementing these strategies or would like to hear more sleep enhancing techniques please feel free to get in touch with the PMW Team.
You may also like to read: