Today I want to give you some tips for getting better sleep. Insomnia is absolutely debilitating and soul destroying, both mentally and physically and getting good quality sleep forms the ultimate foundation for our health and general wellbeing.
Now stick around to the end of this blog, because I’m going to give you 2 extra bonus tips, so be sure to hang on for those.
One thing I do want to stress is that creating good sleep habits does require focus and discipline and the results won’t be seen overnight.
You do have to work at it, but you will thank yourself and once you do improve your sleep, you will never look back. It’s going to involve ditching old habits and being open to change your routines.
Your initial reaction may be resistant to these changes, but you need to think very matter of factly about your approach to better sleep. Your current routines and habits surrounding your sleep time are not working and as a result, the quality of your sleep is suffering.
And it’s like anything in life. If you keep doing the same thing, you’ll keep getting the same results. If nothing changes, then nothing changes.
Right let’s get straight into this!
Tip 1-Use your bedroom to sleep and nothing else!
My guess is that the majority of you either read, watch tv, use your mobile phone or laptop before bed and there are three reasons why these habits have detrimental effects on your sleep.
Firstly, all of these habits have a stimulative effect on our brains and mobile phones, laptops and tv’s serve as a double-stimulant, (especially mobile phones).
Not only are we becoming wired because of the content we’re consuming, but the blue light emitted from our electronic devices actually interferes and disrupts our naturally built in sleep inducing hormone, otherwise known as melatonin.
The second reason why these devices aren’t good before bed is down to the actual content we’re consuming. Watching something stimulating on tv, especially if it contains violence, or heavy drama, explosive action, this kind of content is going to make our brains wired.
Thrillers before bed!
Even if you’re engrossed in a book, the last thing you want to do before bedtime is stimulate your brain with a tense thriller!
The third reason why you may want to re-think these habits lies in the fact that over-stimulating your brain before bed increases the chances of having nightmares or weird dreams during sleep time.
How often have you had a nightmare or weird dreams and there is a strong or subtle connection between what you’ve dreamt and what you’ve seen on tv or social media.
Think about it. If you go to sleep with a wired brain, the chances of having a calm and restful sleep are pretty low, simply because you start as you mean to go on.
In other words, if you go to sleep and your brain is buzzing, the likelihood is that you either won’t get to sleep, or you’ll have difficulty staying asleep, whereas if you go to bed feeling relaxed and calm, you are dramatically increasing the probability of achieving good quality sleep.
There are many who feel that reading a good book before bed helps them to fall asleep and whilst this might work for some, the chances are that you’re going to get caught up in the storyline and the characters,(especially if it’s a thriller) and so once again, your brain is going to be wired, rather than winding down for bed.
Tip number 2- Do not sleep in!
However tempting this may be and I’m sure at the time you have very valid reasons, one of the keys for having good sleep is consistent routine, in other words, go to bed at a decent hour and wake up at the same time, or thereabouts every day.
As a general rule, most adults need between 7-9 hours of good quality sleep. Some need less, some need more, but it is more about your quality of sleep. Just lying in bed for 7 hours is not going to cut it unfortunately.
Many choose to sleep in, especially on weekends and I’m afraid this only works against you, because you are disrupting your regular body clock and it is your body clock that regulates the quality of your sleep.
For instance, If you spend all week going to bed at 11 and waking up at 7 and then for two days you interfere with that routine and sleep in til 12, your body clock, (otherwise known as your circadian rhythm) becomes compromised and out of synch.
Tip 3- Don’t dress too warmly for bed!
Getting our body temperature right is absolute priority for achieving good sleep and the biggest cause of disrupted sleep, is body temperature; ie if we become too hot or too cold during sleep time, we are most likely going to wake up.
Numerous sleep studies have revealed that it is far better to under-dress, than over-dress for bed and the ideal scenario is to warm up naturally under the covers, than wear excess clothing to get warm.
Similarly, when it’s hot, you might want to invest in a fan or portable air con unit to keep you cool during those warm summer nights.
Right, now as promised, I’m going to give you those 2 extra tips on how to avoid bad sleeping habits, so here we go:
The first one and this is mainly aimed at parents and their kids, but try to minimise the number of your children’s sleepovers as much as you can. Listen we’ve all been young right, including myself, and we know that not a lot of sleep takes place during a sleepover.
Whilst this is all very fun and exciting for your kids at the time, if it’s done repeatedly, it can really cause problems in later life, because not only have they not had sufficient sleep, but they’ll inevitably need to make up for that loss of sleep by sleeping in. Now you might think this is all harmless, but this is how the bad habits form.
Did you know that 40-50% of young people have sleep issues and this has arisen from simply getting into bad habits?
The final tip-Jetlag
So how can jetlag possibly affect your sleep in the long term?
Well my friends, again, this is about how we create bad habits and how they can affect us permanently and jetlag is no exception.
When you return from your holiday and you feel completely jetlagged and you’re desperate to go to sleep, you must stay up as close to your regular bedtime as possible and it is just as important to wake up at your regular wake up time. For sure you’re going to have to set an alarm and drag yourself out of bed.
Travel and sleep.
Trust me on this, I have seen so many people get into bed sleep habits, because they allowed their jetlag to totally mess up their sleep routines. Let me give you an example.
If you’re taking an overnight flight and your plane lands in the morning, chances are you’re going to feel wiped out and struggle to keep your eyes open.
You might find that you return home at sometime in the morning and then you have to somehow keep awake until your regular bedtime, let’s say for argument’s sake that’s 11 pm.
Because it is particularly challenging to last for the whole day without falling asleep, by the time your regular bedtime comes, your body clock is completely out of sync and then it becomes a struggle to sleep at your regular bedtime.
Before you know it, you start developing all sorts of sleep problems, such as waking up several times in the night, falling asleep in the daytime and failing to get off to sleep at your regular bedtime.
The majority of the time, if you can just stay up until your regular bedtime, without falling asleep in the day, (drink some extra coffee if you have to), wake up at your regular wake up time, you should get back to a normal sleep routine pretty soon.
I am a private counsellor and coach, specialising in bereavement, depression and anxiety. Please contact me for a free 15 minute video/telephone call.