With all the different roles we each tackle every day – from work to parenting, to being a friend or a partner, a household manager/cleaner/cook, to fitting in exercise, and the never-ending list of other random tasks that seem to crop up, sometimes, if not often, it’s our sleep that becomes compromised. It might suffer because time disappears and there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to catch a decent 7 or 8 hours a night. But it might also disappear because the stress of the daily grind catches up with us and causes us to lie awake and stare at the ceiling for hours thinking of that endless to-do list; or it might wake us up repeatedly during the night or early in the morning, meaning we don’t get enough deep, restorative sleep.
Regardless of how we lose sleep, the impact can be significant. Sleep deprivation has been linked to decreased learning ability, impaired ability to accurately recognise and respond to emotional expression in others, impaired decision making, higher levels of impulsivity, and increased food cravings (making sticking to that diet even harder!). Primary insomnia also increases the risk for obesity, cardiovascular disease, and depression.
Here are some easy tips to help improve and maximise your sleep each night:
1. Set your alarm clock for the same time each day
Getting up in the morning may not be a favourite part of your day, but going to bed and getting up at similar times each day is the best way to train your body. This lets your internal body clock build a strong sleep-wake cycle. Yes, even on weekends!
2. Make your bedroom as sleep friendly as possible
The bedroom should be quiet, dark and always comfortable. Getting the right room temperature is essential, along with a comfortable bed, pillows and bedding. Electronic devices, such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops are a danger zone for distraction, so best to leave them outside the bedroom. If you have a clock that you can see in the night, turn it around to face the wall.
3. Start your sleep wind down at least two hours before bed
Many of us need to wind down before going to bed. TV shows that overstimulate are also not a good idea. It also pays to keep the TV out of the bedroom. In the hour before bed, avoid computer games and using any mobile devices. That “glow” from electronics is also at work against quality sleep. The small amounts of light from these devices pass through the eye into a part of the brain that controls several sleep activities and delays the release of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin. Melatonin, which is produced when it is dark, helps regulate and promote sleep. People who do not have enough of the hormone take longer to fall asleep. Instead, try to find other activities that may be soothing, such as completing Sudoku’s or engage in mindful drawing (e.g., Zentangle) or mindful colouring.
4. Avoid napping during the day
Only nap if you really need to. If it is a must, try to keep the nap short, no more than 20 minutes. Naps longer than this can make you feel groggy for a while afterwards. Also try not to nap past mid- afternoon as this can make it hard to get to sleep at the right time at night.
5. Don’t stay in bed if you are unable to sleep
Staying in bed if you can’t sleep can often make you feel more annoyed and frustrated. It is better to get out of bed and go to another quiet, dimly lit room. Stay there until you feel sleepy. Sleepiness comes in waves, wait for your sleep window to open and then go back to bed.
6. Avoid alcohol
Although alcohol may make you fall asleep more quickly, it has been shown to disrupt REM sleep which is the more mentally restorative type of sleep. In the course of a night you usually have about five cycles of REM sleep, which leaves you feeling refreshed. However, if you’ve been drinking you’ll typically have only one or two, meaning you can wake feeling exhausted.
7. Make sure you’re physically tired as well as mentally tired
Most of us are now living a largely sedentary lifestyle, which means we are not physically active enough. So at the end of the day, although we may be mentally tired from being alert and responsive throughout the day, we have not expended any physical energy or burned off any of the stress hormones produced during the day. Exercise is great to clear your mind and just 30 minutes a day has a range of restorative health benefits.
8. Use relaxation strategies
There are a range of great relaxation and sleep-related apps on the market that use guided meditation or progressive muscle relaxation techniques to help guide you off into a peaceful slumber.
9. Seek help
If all else fails and you are not having any luck getting a good night’s sleep, be sure to talk about it with your GP or your psychologist for additional help and support.
Disclaimer: Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only and is not intended to replace advise from your doctor or registered health professional. Readers are urged to consult their registered practitioner for diagnosis and treatment for their medical concerns.
Blog written by CBT Professionals Clinical Psychologist on the Gold Coast, Dr Danielle Riley. CBT Professionals are a team of clinical psychologists on the Gold Coast with offices in Coomera and Nerang. Gold Coast CBT psychologists offer services to adults, children, and couples. Please call and make an appointment on 56 683 490.