Sleep Awareness Week
Did you have good night’s sleep last night? Did you wake feeling refreshed and eager to get on with the day? If not, then this is your week as 10th March to 16th March 2019 is Sleep Awareness Week and our blog post focuses on the importance of good quality sleep for both our physical and mental health. The quantity and quality of your sleep is particularly important if you suffer from stress or anxiety and depression - the focus of our recent blog posts.
Why Sleep Matters
There is a link between sleep and these mental health conditions. Those with stress or anxiety may find it difficult to get to sleep and their sleep may be fitful and disturbed. Those in a state of depression may sleep too much, though again the quality may be poor. The link can become a downward spiral - poor mental health leading to poor sleep, which worsens mental health in a continuing cycle. The spiral can start with stress and overwhelm affecting sleep and the affect of both causing anxiety or depression
Like stress, anxiety and depression, poor sleep is a widespread complaint. A staggering one in three adults are experiencing occasional disruption on a regular basis. 70% of adults report that they experience daily stressors, which can lead to not enough sleep or poor quality sleep. The recommendations, based on research, are that adults aged 18–60 years need at least 7 hours sleep each night to promote optimal health and well-being. The upper recommended limit is 10 hours so it’s important to establish how many hours sleep you require. Personally, I struggle on less than 8 hours and do best on 9, when I can get it!!!
Tips for Improving Sleep
Here are some simple tips to help you improve your sleep and hopefully break the cycle of poor sleep:
Tailor your environment – Controlling the light, sound, and temperature in your room can help you get a good night’s rest. The darker, quieter, and cooler you can keep your bedroom, the greater chance you have of calming your mind and falling asleep.
Establish a regular bedtime routine - Try to go to bed at the same time and have a standard routine, that could include taking a warm (not hot) shower or bath that lowers your body temperature and helps you fall asleep more quickly. Other ideas are having a warm drink (no caffeine), reading a real book, listening to music or to a guided meditation or hypnosis recording. The idea is to calm your mind and relax your body and the regularity tells both mind and body that we are winding down for sleep when we go through our routine.
Limit screen time – Your phone, tablet, and TV emit light that keeps your mind awake, (blue light says time to wake up!) so try to limit them for the hour or so before bedtime. Checking emails, doing work, even being on social media right before bed can trigger anxious thoughts and make it difficult to calm your mind. Consider setting an alarm to remind you to shut screens off at fixed time before bed.
Limit caffeine and alcohol – Drinking too much caffeine or consuming it too late in the day can increase anxiety and inhibit sleep. Consuming alcohol close to bedtime can also increase your heart rate and keep you alert. Drink plenty of water throughout the day and increase you intake gradually so that your body can get used to the new levels and not wake you in the night for trips to the bathroom!
Calm your mind – There are many techniques that can help you deal with stress and anxiety during the day so that you are in a better mental state when it’s time for bed. Mindfulness meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises can help you reach a calmer state. during the day as well as preparing you for sleep at night. It can be as simple as taking a moment, a few times during the day, to just sit and focus on your breath for a few breaths. Or taking a walk at lunchtime (not with your phone in your hand) and enjoying breathing in the fresh air and clearing your mind by focusing on the sounds you can hear or what you can see around you. Your mind will wander back to thinking about the problems of the day or what you have to do next and you can gently guide it back to the breath or the sounds or sights you were focusing on. It doesn’t matter how often you have to do this - our minds were made to think and they like to do this as often as possible!
Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you are struggling to break that cycle of stress or anxiety leading to poor sleep leading to more stress. Hypnotherapy is an excellent way to relax and restore a good sleeping habit - there are recordings available online to aid sleep and I am happy to send you a link to my relaxation for sleep recording. In my experience, these can work well with mild, infrequent insomnia. However, if the problem persists and you are beginning to experience increased levels of stress or anxiety and sleep (or the lack of it) is starting to dominate your whole life then I would recommend a short program of hypnotherapy sessions. I teach my clients techniques to help them manage both their sleep and anxiety, now and in the future, and these include self-hypnosis, which is an excellent way to relax your self into (and back into) restful and restorative sleep.