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How to get a good nights’ sleep!

Posted by admin 4:19 am, 9 July 2015

Sleep is a very important factor in maintaining good mental health. When sleep quality is poor, it makes it hard to cope with life’s challenges and can make you feel like you’re running on empty. When sleep quality is poor, it’s often a sign that mental health issues may be present as poor sleep is a common symptom of depression and anxiety. Some people have difficulty falling asleep because their minds are full of worries, others wake up throughout the night and others wake up early before they need to. The type of sleep problems that you have may be indicative of different mental health issues. However there are some strategies that anyone can try to help improve sleep quality and improve their ability to cope with stress and improve their general well-being. We call these strategies Sleep Hygiene. Although the name may suggest that sleep hygiene is just about having clean sheets, there’s actually a lot more to it! Sleep hygiene practices are clinically proven to help with sleep problems and are advised by sleep doctors and psychologists to help people with sleep issues prior to turning to sleep medications, which can be addictive and should only be used when it’s really necessary.

The following are some sleep hygiene tips that you can try:

  • Go to bed and get up at regular times every night
  • Try to sleep when  you feel sleepy and ride the wave of tiredness to bed
  • If you have been trying to get to sleep for half an hour, get up and read a book in a chair next to your bed, and then try to sleep when the next wave of tiredness comes along
  • Avoid caffeine (including coffee, tea and chocolate), nicotine and alcohol before 4-6 hours before bed
  • Avoid looking at your phone/TV/iPad/computer half an hour before sleep as these devices emit a blue light that wakes your brain up and stops it releasing melatonin, the natural chemical your body releases as it gets dark to make you feel sleepy
  • Do not use your bed for reading, eating, watching TV, doing homework/work. Try to make bed a place that is just for sleeping so that bed is associated with relaxation and not associated with an active mind
  • Do not nap during the day. Even if you have a bad nights’ sleep the night before, naps will only mess up your circadian rhythm (natural sleep cycle) and make it harder to get to sleep that night. It’s better to tire yourself out and get an early night
  • Do not look at the clock when you wake up in the night. This will usually just make you more anxious about how much sleep you have or haven’t had and make it harder t sleep again
  • Have a bath or shower 1-2 hours before bed and relax afterwards-your body will relax as it cools
  • Create a relaxing ‘sleep ritual’ that mentally prepares you for sleep, such as reading a book each night before bed
  • Make your bedroom really comfortable with good sheets, a cool temperature and uncluttered space
  • Do not exercise just before bed as it wakes your body up
  • Good self-care is important-eat well and take care of your health

Dr Rani Simpson