Sleep is an essential part of daily life and without good quality rest, we all struggle. Extreme sleep deprivation has even been used as a torture and interrogation technique! Poor sleep has been shown to lead to poorer concentration, memory, and reaction times. Fatigue also impacts our ability to make sound and reasoned decisions.
What we also know about lack of sleep is that it makes us more likely to feel irritable, angry, stressed, sad and mentally exhausted. Not only does sleep affect mood, but mood and mental states can also affect sleep. Anxiety and stress increase make the body awake and alert, which makes it hard to feel restful.
With such a strong link between sleep and mood, psychologists often assist people to develop good sleep habits. It takes some time to change any habit and our sleep schedule is no exception. Here are some handy tips that you might try experimenting with for several weeks. Remember to practice patience and persistence with these!
- Like clockwork: One of the most effective ways to train your body to sleep well is to go to sleep and wake up at around the same time each day.
- Minimise napping: Try to avoid napping during the day as this can reduce the quality of sleep.
- Listen to your body: A good sleep habit to waiting until we feel tired before trying to sleep.
- Bed = sleeping: It can be helpful to only use bed for sleeping and sex (no watching movies, eating dinner, typing etc.). This will help to form a clear association in your brain between bed and sleep.
- No stimulants: Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine for at least four hours before bed time. These all act as physical stimulants and make it difficult to settle.
- No clock- watching: Watching the clock when we can’t sleep can cause anxiety and panic (Oh no, I have to be up for work in 3 hours!), making it even less likely we will be restful enough to sleep! You might try moving your phone or clock out of reach if you can’t sleep.
- Winding down: Consider developing a sleep ritual where you do the same sequence of soothing activities each night before bed to remind your body that it is time to sleep. Some people find it useful to take a bath or shower, sit quietly with a cup of caffeine-free tea, or practice some breathing exercises/ gentle stretching.
- Get up and try again: If you haven’t been able to get to sleep for roughly half an hour, try to avoid lying in bed trying to force yourself to sleep. Instead, it can be a good idea to get up and do something boring or relaxing until you feel sleepy. Avoid things that are stimulating like watching TV or turning on all the lights. Perhaps you can fold washing or sit quietly on the lounge before trying to go back to bed.
These tips are general suggestions that many people have found helpful. If you are still struggling with sleep difficulties, please contact us or see your GP for further information and support.