15 Ways to Help You Sleep | Sleep Counsellor
In the short-term medication can be an appropriate choice to help you get to sleep. Particularly if you just need to get through a short but difficult time.
However using medication to help you sleep in the long-term can potentially make things much worse. Depending on the type of medication used, you may become physically or psychologically dependent on it.
It is usually more helpful and healthier to try these simple behavioural changes first to help improve your sleep habits:
- Avoid caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant which stays in your body for many hours. If you drink beverages such as coffee, tea, cola and energy drinks, try to set a mid-afternoon cut off point. This will allow time for the caffeine to leave your body before bedtime. Caffeine can disrupt your sleep patterns leading to unrefreshing sleep.
- Avoid alcohol: Alcohol may initially appear to be helpful, as it can help you relax and feel sleepy. However as it is processed by the body it disrupts the natural sleep patterns, causing restless sleep.
- Check your environment: Make sure your bed is comfortable, and ensure the bedroom is quiet, dark, at a comfortable temperature, and free from potential night time disturbances. Close the curtains, ensure you are not too hot or cold, put pets in another room, turn off TVs and mobile phones, and wear ear plugs if noises disturb you.
- Establish a bedtime routine: Sleep can be very habitual. Therefore for the last hour before bed, develop and then follow a similar bedtime routine every night.
- Stop clock watching: Clock watching can lead to frustration, which leads to insomnia. Turn off clocks or put them somewhere were they can’t be seen.
- Try to go to bed and get up at the similar times each day: Your body and mind get used to going to bed and getting up at similar times each day. With repetition your body will begin to naturally feel sleepy at your regular bedtime.
- Don’t nap too late, or too long: If you must nap during the daytime, try to do it earlier in the day, and keep it relatively short, ideally less than 30 minutes. If you nap for longer than this, it may leave you feeling even groggier, and it can disrupt your night time sleep patterns.
- Get some morning sunshine: Light regulates your circadian rhythms. Exposing yourself to natural sunlight (or bright lights) in the morning helps tell your body it is the start of the day and to wake up.
- Dim the lights in the evening: The opposite of the previous point. Bright lights at night can confuse your body into thinking it is still daytime and that you should be awake. Turning off or dimming the lights for an hour or two before bedtime helps tell your body to slow down and prepare for sleep.
- Avoid using smartphones at bedtime: Minimise your use of smartphones or tablets before bedtime, as the blue-ish light given off by these devices can fool your body into thinking it is still daytime.
- Eat early: Eating a large meal close to bedtime can delay the onset of sleep. As your body processes a large meal, the digestion process itself can disturb the quality of the sleep you get. Ideally try to leave 3 to 4 hours between eating a large meal and going to bed.
- Exercise early: Exercising close to bedtime can also delay the onset of sleep, as well as disturb the sleep you do get. Try to exercise in the morning or early afternoon if possible. Ideally try to leave at least 3 to 4 hours between exercising and bedtime.
- Quiet your mind: Both worrying and exciting thoughts activate the sympathetic nervous system, which wakes you, prepares you for action, and increases alertness. Obviously this is not a good state to be in when trying to go to sleep. This can also develop into a vicious circle if you worry about not sleeping. Taking action on your worries during the daytime often helps, as well as learning to accept and let go of worries that are outside your control. Remember that problems can sometimes seem a thousand times bigger in the middle of the night. So learn methods to still your mind, such as meditation, self hypnosis, mindfulness, or try recalling relaxing memories. Also examine your worrying thoughts, particularly if they are about sleep. Then either stop or challenge them, and replace them with more realistic or positive thoughts. If you are struggling to examine or manage your thoughts and emotions, a qualified counsellor or psychotherapist should be able to help you.
- Relax your body: To sleep you ideally need a quiet mind and a relaxed body. Do or learn techniques to deeply relax the muscles in your body at will. A warm bath, a massage, some deep slow breathing exercises, listening to a guided relaxation, or doing a body scan exercise are examples of some things that may be helpful before bedtime. Luckily the mind and body are interlinked, if you relax one the other will tend to relax.
- Your bed should only be associated with sleeping: The only thing that should happen in bed, and ideally the bedroom itself, is sleeping. If you do something in bed, make sure it is something relaxing. Do not watch TV, use smartphones or tablets, play games, work, or do anything that is even remotely mentally stimulating.
15 Ways to Help You Sleep | Sleep Counsellor in Manchester
Websites Related to Sleep and Insomnia:
- National Sleep Foundation – Sleep Research and Education
- NHS Choices – Insomnia Treatment
- Sleep Manchester
- Anxiety Manchester
About Inner Changes
Inner Changes is the website of Manchester based UKCP and BACP Registered Psychotherapist & Counsellor, Nigel Magowan. Nigel is a professional and experienced Manchester Counsellor and Psychotherapist, NLP Master Practitioner, Life Coach, and Ericksonian Hypno-Psychotherapist He has been in full-time private practice as a psychological therapist for over 14 years, and uses a flexible brief integrative approach which combines all his training, skills and experience to produce a treatment that is tailored to your specific needs. As a sleep counsellor he regularly helps people with insomnia and other sleep related issues.