Top Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep
Research shows over and over that establishing good routines and habits around our sleep can make the difference between insomnia and exhaustion and having a good restorative night’s sleep. This blog and the following one, will focus on top tips for a good night’s sleep – our brains may have learned bad habits over a period of time and so we need to commit ourselves to undoing these bad habits and laying down new ones. This may take quite a lot of effort on our part but people usually experience positive changes quite quickly:
Wind down with no screens.
Use of the internet and computers have been shown to significantly alter levels and quality of REM in subsequent sleep, so switch off your computer a couple of hours before you go to bed.
Routine routine routine!
We are very boring creatures: the body likes the same thing over and over again, particularly sleep. If you keep doing something over and over again, the body recognises that as now being normal. When you’re having a fragmented sleep or restless sleep, the body starts to recognise that as being the normal sleep. If you regularly have a nap when you get in from work or drop off to sleep in front of the TV, you are less likely to have good solid sleep later on simply due to learning bad habits. Getting up at the same time every morning from Monday to Friday and then sleeping late at weekends throws our body clocks out of sync, in much the same way jet lag does. If you have a three hour lie-in at the weekend, it’s nearly Wednesday by the time the body has recovered from that – one extra hour is probably the most we should allow ourselves.
Keeping to a routine includes eating your meals at the same time each day. Mealtimes are time-givers. Eating too late at night can also affect sleep and not eating after 7pm can help with sleep routine. Exercise can be beneficial for those suffering with insomnia, with studies showing regular aerobic exercise improves the quality of sleep. However it HAS to be at the right time. We need to give our bodies wind down time and finishing exercise at 7pm or 8 at the very latest.
Block out as much light from the bedroom as you can.
This is because we only produce melatonin when it’s dark. An eye mask will usually do the trick, but many people find them uncomfortable so investing in black-out blinds can be a good alternative.
Use the bedroom primarily for sleep
Rather than watching TV, being on laptops, tablets or phones. Even reading in bed can disrupt sleep. (Sex on the other hand can relax us and help us to sleep better.) Even having a very messy chaotic bedroom can affect our brain’s ability to switch off.
Watch what you eat and drink.
Try a light snack before bed. Warm milk and foods high in the amino acid tryptophan, such as bananas, may help you to sleep. It’s well-known that caffeine is a stimulant that can affect our sleep and drinking no more than two cups of caffeinated drinks a day, including tea is recommended. And don’t have caffeine after two or three o’clock in the day because it takes eight or nine hours to leave our system.
Alcohol also disrupts the body’s natural sleep pattern and should be avoided. It might seem like a good idea to drink alcohol to help you get to sleep but alcohol significantly disrupts the sequence, depth and duration of sleep states. Once the alcohol metabolises in your body, the imbalance is likely to wake you up. This is why, when you have drunk a lot of alcohol, you may find yourself waking up very early in the morning. It can also make you feel very tense the next day and so make it harder to go to sleep the next night.
Nicotine, like caffeine, is a stimulant. It releases adrenaline into your body. This wakes you up and keeps you on the alert. Try not to smoke for at least 90 minutes before you go to bed as it takes this time for the effects to die down. Never smoke during the night if you wake up. If you are a heavy smoker, think about giving it up.
Need some advice and support?
If you are struggling with any of the issues raised in this article, or indeed any other emotional issues or life challenges and would like to talk things over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.
Book a counselling session today!