Tips for better Sleep
by Eleanor Segall
Sleep is well known to be nature’s healing balm, a restorative bodily process. Sleep restores energy, repairs injury or illness, encourages growth and psychological well being and good mood. Good sleep also improves concentration and memory and general performance. Most experts say one should get between 7- 8 hours of sleep per night, however, some will sleep less or more depending on their individual needs. Margaret Thatcher famously only slept a few hours each night, while others need at least 10 hours to function effectively.
Conversely, lack of sleep (sleep deprivation) provides the opposite of the positive effects including: poor attention and memory, irritability and mood disturbances, impaired judgement and reaction time and poor physical coordination. Severe sleep deprivation (no sleep for several days/ weeks) causes mental illness including hallucinations, as well as weakening the immune system.
“New parents, especially mothers experience severe sleep deprivation the first few months of having a baby. This is a shock to the system.” Jessica Valentine from The Brighton Wellness Centre states.
Common sleep problems include taking hours to drop off to sleep, disturbed sleep with frequent waking and inability to stay asleep, waking too early in the morning and general poor quality sleep (restless and disturbed). Indeed too, if one is in physical pain, this can cause one difficulty sleeping.
“Depending on what time you wake in the middle of the night can determine whether you are feeling sad or angry.”
So what can you do to improve your sleep quality?
1) Tackling sleep anxiety
If you have persistent worries and thoughts swirling around your brain about not being able to sleep eg ‘I will wake up exhausted’, this can lead to even more anxiety and stop you from sleeping. It’s so important to rest and lie as calmly as possible, even if you can’t fall asleep and to challenge those thoughts. Think about other happy things or listen to a relaxation CD which can help calm your body and mind.
2) Prepare your bedroom
Make sure your bedroom is a calm, relaxed place- non cluttered and at the right temperature for optimum sleep. The room should not be too hot or too cold. If you are a light sleeper, invest in some black out blinds or wear a eye mask to stop the day light waking you. Also, check your mattress as if it is uncomfortable for you it will stop you sleeping.
3) Reducing caffeine, cigarettes and alcohol before bed time
Caffeine is a well known stimulant present in coffee, tea, hot chocolate/ chocolate bars and cola. Experts say it is best not to have any of these things within four hours of bed time, however try replacing it with herbal tea. Caffeine boosts blood flow and will keep you awake.
Herbal remedies and teas that include valerian root, camomile and lavender will help.
Additionally, you should avoid smoking before bed due to the fact that Nicotine is a stimulant and will keep you awake (be careful with nicotine gum and patches, too. Furthermore, despite the fact that Alcohol can make you feel sleepy at first, it disturbs your bodies sleep cycle and so best to avoid it. Often, sugars in red wine can induce middle of the night waking.
4) Body Clock- consistency
Sleep experts say that it is important to set your internal body clock to go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time each day. Napping to make up for sleep regularly is not good for your body clock, so see if you can keep consistency with your sleep cycle. This is also extremely important if you have mental health concerns- to get good quality sleep.
5) Pre- Sleep routine
Make sure you use the hour before bed to unwind from technology (no phones or tablets, as the blue light stimulates the brain), have a warm bath, drink a milky drink, do a calming meditation or listen to relaxing music, journal if you are anxious and then put it away. You can even add drops of lavender oil or spray to your pillow to help you relax and prepare for sleep.
If you are having regular problems with sleep and want to discuss it with a professional, speak to Jessica at Brighton Wellness Centre today.
Jessica Valentine is a Chartered Counselling Psychologist who supports people within the local community and worldwide online. She offers online Skype therapy and face-to-face counselling in East Sussex, Brighton-Hove.
follow her on Twitter, FB and IG: @getwellbrighton