5 Ways to Getting Better Sleep
5 Ways to Getting Better Sleep
Sleep is a key pillar of lifestyle medicine in part because it directly affects your health, but also because it impacts all the other pillars. When you don’t get enough sleep you tend to eat the wrong foods, are less inclined to eat healthily, may overeat more often, exercise less, move less overall and find you are less able to cope with stress. It also affects your immune function, leaving you vulnerable to coughs, colds, flu and other nasty infections.
 
Getting the right amount of sleep can be easier said than done however. When your work load is high, stress is peaking, you have young children awake in the night, or you simply have a rocking social life, all can impact on your sleep.
 
So, here are a few tips from sleep experts on how to get enough good quality Zzzz.
 
Reconditioning
 
If you are frequently find yourself tossing and turning in bed at night, what can happen is that you associated the bedroom with frustration and insomnia. That in turn can make you already anxious about not sleeping before you even get into bed. Reconditioning yourself to associate the bed and the bedroom with sleep can help you to feel more relaxed when you are in bed and hence help sleep to come more easily.

"Reconditioning yourself to associate the bed and the bedroom with sleep can help you to feel more relaxed when you are in bed and hence help sleep to come more easily."

 
The trick to reconditioning is to avoid the tossing and turning. If you haven’t fallen asleep with about 15 minutes, get up and move to another room. Make a cup of chamomile tea, read a novel (not work related!), have a mug of warm milk, listen to soothing music or meditate. Only return to bed once you are feeling calm and sleepy.
 
 
Restrict time in bed

 
It is so tempting to stay in bed longer if you haven’t had a good night’s sleep, but unfortunately if insomnia is a frequent issue, staying in bed longer can make matters worse. We are truly creatures of habit and our internal body clocks are pretty spot on. That is what makes jet lag so hard to deal with. Try to go to bed at roughly the same time each night and get up at roughly the same time each morning. I’m not saying you can’t have a Sunday lie in, just try to make the rest of the week fairly consistent. This in effect trains the body to sleep within those hours.

You can have a nap in the day, but try to restrict it to no more than 30 minutes - and some experts say 20 minutes. Sleep any longer and you will likely wake up groggy and then find it more difficult to get to sleep that night. The 20-30 minute power nap can be a great way to give you a little boost you need to get through the day, without impacting on nighttime sleep. Many gyms now have sleep pods to allow you to do this when at work in the day, or if you are at home set a gentle alarm to wake you.

"You can have a nap in the day, but try to restrict it to no more than 30 minutes - and some experts say 20 minutes. Sleep any longer and you will likely wake up groggy and then find it more difficult to get to sleep that night."

 
 
 Relaxation techniques

 
We have all been there, when your mind is racing that it is impossible to relax enough to get to sleep. The hormones that accompany stress, whether that is good exciting stress or worrying, anxious stress, are designed to get the body ready to run or fight the stressor. They are the antithesis of those whose job it is to get us to relax into sleep. When your mind is racing relaxation techniques can help you to take back control from your hormones. Meditation and breathing exercises can both be done in bed and really can work. You can also try a warm bath before bed, having a massage or try one of the sleep Apps that can help.

"When your mind is racing relaxation techniques can help you to take back control from your hormones"

 
 
Cognitive Bahavioural Therapy (CBT)
 
For those with ingrained insomnia seeing a health professional for CBT can really help. The idea of the therapy is to turn negative thoughts and beliefs about sleep into positive ones. If you are convinced that you won’t sleep well, you probably won’t. So, in essence the idea is to turn that thinking around so that you go to bed in a positive frame of mind believing that you can sleep well. That might sound overly simplistic (and practitioners reading this forgive my basic explanation!) but there really is good research behind this and with a few sessions facilitated by a good practitioner this is excellent therapy.

"The idea of the therapy is to turn negative thoughts and beliefs about sleep into positive ones."

 
 
Create the right environment
 
It sounds obvious, but as adults we often ignore this point. Carers of babies and young children know that making the room dark and quiet, as well as ensuring the infant or child is the right temperature, helps to get them off to sleep. Doing the same as an adult can have the same effect.
 
Make sure you have good blinds or curtains to block out light, or simply pop on a pair of eyeshades. Do what you can to ensure it is quiet (not always possible I know but push a snoring partner onto their side for example!) and layer your bed rather than have a single quilt so that you can add or take off a layer to get the temperature right for you. That is especially important if you share your bed and one of you may be warmer than the other.



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