Do you lie awake at night staring at the ceiling, desperately trying to fall asleep?
Maybe you are someone who has struggled to sleep for a long time, or perhaps sleeplessness is new and frustrating for you.
If you’ve had a hypnotherapy session with me you will know that I talk about sleep a lot and that’s because it’s one of the most important things we do, both for our physical and mental health. If you’ve never had problems sleeping it’s easy to take it for granted, in fact we often don’t realise how important sleep is until we run into difficulties.
How Much Sleep Do We Need?
The average amount that we should be sleeping is 7-8 hours each night, but of course everyone is different; some people need more, others less. Young children and teenagers need more sleep because their brains are undergoing rapid change, and as we age we lose the ability to sleep deeply meaning that we can be more easily disturbed and therefore have far less sleep than we feel we need.
How do you know if you’re getting enough sleep?
How do you feel during the day? Are you tired or sleepy? It’s common for all of us to say we are tired, very often what we mean is that we are bored or fed up, but if you feel sleepy, and by that I mean you could put your head on your work desk and doze off, you probably aren’t getting enough sleep.
How to help yourself get a good night’s sleep.
If you’ve always slept well and suddenly started to have trouble sleeping it’s time to play detective and ask yourself what has changed?
When were you last sleeping well and what’s different now?
Are you too hot at night, or is there something on your mind?
The cause might be obvious but if you can’t pinpoint a reason it’s always worth getting checked out by your doctor.
My 8 tips for a better night’s sleep
1. If your mattress is over 8 years old, or already feels uncomfortable, invest in a new one. Test out new mattresses in the shop so you get the most comfortable supportive one for you, and buy the best one you can afford, your body and brain will thank you for it.
2. Your bedroom should be a calm, clutter free space. How do you feel when you walk into your bedroom?Do you feel calm or do you walk in, see piles of clothes that need hanging or stacks of books that need to go to the charity shop and immediately feel that little stab of irritation? Your bedroom should be as clutter free as possible.
One of my clients moved house and, 2 years later, still had boxes piled in the corner of his bedroom that were a constant reminder of something that needed to be done, another thing on the ‘to do’ list. As soon as he got rid of those boxes he slept better. If you have piles of ‘stuff’ that you can’t bear to part with put them somewhere else, stick them in the attic, get a storage unit, but get them out of your bedroom!
3. Heat. The general rule is that your room should be cool, and your bed should be comfortably warm, so throw open your bedroom window to let the cool fresh air in or set a fan going an hour before bedtime. When I say your bed should be warm I’m not talking electric blanket warm, but think about your duvet, is it heavy enough for you to feel comfortably warm within 10 minutes, or is it too thin? Too cold can be just as disturbing as too hot.
4. Light and Noise. I’m going to talk about these two together because they both cause us problems in similar ways. Most sleep experts will tell you that your bedroom needs to be completely dark and silent, but, your brain likes what it knows to be normal. We get used to a certain level of light (or dark) and noise. If you’ve always lived in an urban area with traffic noise and street lights, it can be quite disconcerting to find yourself in the darkness and silence of the countryside and vice versa. Even moving to a new house in a similar location can throw you because all houses ‘sound’ different. If you are having difficulty sleeping have your light or noise levels changed? Silence can be deafening so consider using my relaxation audio or white noise recording, or ear plugs if noise disturbs you and black out blinds if the light mornings have you waking at 4am.
5. Bed is for sleep and only at night. If you are only having a few hours sleep each night you will naturally feel quite sleepy the next day but resist the urge to fall asleep for an extended period. A quick 20 minute catnap is fine, it can help to recharge your batteries, but any longer and you run the risk of it having an impact on your sleep the next night. If you find you’re drifting off in front of the tv, get up, do something, or if it is almost bedtime, go to bed. Your brain needs to associate being in bed with being asleep, not being asleep on the sofa!
6. Routine. Anyone who has raised children will know how helpful it is to have a good bedtime routine, that gentle winding down of the day. If you are working from home in the evening have a set time to switch off the laptop and other devices and stick to it. Until your sleep is back into a regular pattern get up at the same time each day, even on the weekends, even if you haven’t slept. Sleeping in on a weekend morning to ‘catch up’ is only going to have an impact on the next night. If you’ve ever travelled across several time zones and had to contend with jet lag, think about how you overcame that, yes you feel tired to begin with, getting up when you still feel the need to sleep, but it doesn’t take long to get back into your routine again.
7. Stimulants. Some alcoholic drinks and caffeine can be quite stimulating in large quantities. Have you started to drink more alcohol in the hope that it would help you sleep, have you increased the amount or strength of caffeine you are drinking? If you have always had a cup of tea before bed and it’s never caused you problems in the past, it’s unlikely to be the cup of tea that’s affecting your sleep, so what else has changed. Stimulants can also arise from the programmes we watch on tv and the books we read. The primitive part of your brain doesn’t know the difference between imagination and reality, so if you are watching a thrilling film your heart is racing because your brain thinks those scenes are real. If you are flooded with adrenaline from thrilling films or books you may have trouble dropping off.
8. Stress. Stress is a normal part of life. A small amount of stress can actually be beneficial, it motivates us. However if we have too much stress our primitive brain feels under threat, and of course if we perceive threat or danger we aren’t going to be able to drop our guard enough to relax and sleep. If you have trouble dropping off to sleep because you can’t switch off from stressful problem think about one thing that you can do tomorrow to help, what time will you do that, who can help you? You’re not ignoring the problem or pretending it doesn’t exist, you’re focusing on one action you can undertake that will help. Then imagine putting that problem into a box and closing the lid until you choose to unpack again in the morning. So, what do you think about instead? Well, you can’t make your mind go blank, it will always be thinking and scanning, so direct your thoughts to something more pleasant. Daydream yourself to sleep thinking about your favourite place, a holiday, anything that makes you happy. Similarly if you wake at night and your mind starts to focus on the problem again repeat the process so that can drift back off. The less pressure you put on yourself to sleep the easier it becomes so that bedtime becomes something that you welcome rather than fear.
For more information on how hypnotherapy can help you to sleep easier at night contact me today.