Let’s talk about the simply habit changes you can put in place to improve your sleep. Did you know 30% of adults have problems with sleep? As someone who has struggled with insomnia in the past, I found that both healthy thinking and good sleep habits (or sleep hygeine) were vital to getting my sleep back on track. Research also supports a combination of these techniques as the best way to tackle insomnia.
When sleep problems occur, people often begin to change their behaviour habits as a result of their feelings of tiredness and beliefs about sleep loss. For example, feeling tired from a poor night’s sleep may lead to the decision to “take it easy” or to sleep in or go to bed early to catch up on lost sleep. Whilst this may be ok for a one-off night of poor sleep, when these choices become a regular coping response they can actually INCREASE your chances of poor sleep. So it’s very important to have good sleep habits, if you are struggling with insomnia.
Below are some suggestions of sleep habits that work and also habits to avoid:
|Go to bed at a regular time. Try to make this around a time when you feel a wave of sleepiness.||Going to bed early or spending more time in bed trying to fall asleep.|
|Sleep when you are sleepy. Only attempt sleep at night.||Day napping. This affects sleep cycles in the brain and makes it harder to sleep at night.|
|Get up if you haven’t fallen asleep in half an hour. Wait for another wave of sleepiness and then try again||Lying in bed for hours trying to make sleep happen. This will only make you frustrated – get up instead and wait for a wave of sleepiness.|
|Increase your activity levels. Take part in your regular activities even though you are tired.||Reducing your activity level. Expending energy and exercise will help you sleep better and it will take your mental focus of your insomnia.|
|Exercise. Exercise is a beneficial stressor to the body. The brain compensates for the physical stress by increasing the amount of time you spend in deep sleep. Exercise also encourages sleep because it causes one’s body temperature to rise and then fall by equal amount a few hours later. This drop in your body temperature makes it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.||Ceasing physical exercise. Often people decide this because they feel exhausted “I can’t exercise, I’m too tired”|
|Set challenging life goals and aim to complete them||Making insomnia an excuse for not setting goals for your personal, social and career life.|
|Use relaxation techniques when you are in bed such as slow breathing and progressive muscle relaxation||Giving up on relaxation techniques too early. You may need to do them repeatedly. The goal is to make bed a place of relaxation and rest|
|Develop a sleep ritual. This will cue your mind and body into the idea that sleep time is coming soon. (e.g. relaxation exercises, a cup of chamomile tea)||Stimulating activities before bed e.g. Technology at least 1 hour before bed. Avoid exercising for 4 hours before bed.|
|Eat nutritious food & avoid an empty stomach at bed time.||Caffeinated drinks & alcohol. Even small amounts of caffeine can affect sleep quality. Many people think alcohol helps them relax but it tends to cause restlessness or wakeful periods later in the night|
Applying both good sleep habits together with health sleep thoughts (see last blog article) increases your chances of improving your sleep and saying goodbye to insomnia. We all have a bad night’s sleep here and there, but the important thing is to avoid creating thought and habits which perpetuate the problem. It’s also important to try these changes for at least a month. Often people give up before change has a chance to happen, so stick with it. If I could overcome my sleep problems, so can you! Give these strategies a go, you’re worth it!
Best wishes for healthy & happy sleeping!
Disclaimer: matieral provided in this blog is for information purposes only. It is not a substitute for proper diagnosis, treatment or the provision of advice by an appropriate health professional.