Anxiety, stress, noise, or even your phone or computer, could be coming between you and eight hours of delightful rest. So here are some simple steps that will get you blissfully back to the land of dreams
We all know we feel great after a good night’s sleep – we wake feeling refreshed and ready for the day! However, it is not always easy to achieve, and many people suffer from insomnia.
There can be various reasons for this, such as noise, disturbance, or pain. But the usual cause is often anxiety or stress. As a hypnotherapist, I regularly work with people to reduce their anxiety, in order for them to feel calm, and to sleep well again.
If we are suffering from anxiety, this will typically make us wake in the night feeling miserable, and leave us unable to get back to sleep, often with negative thoughts constantly going around our head in a loop.
While we’re asleep, our brain has periods of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, when our brain processes thoughts, emotions, and experiences, moving them from the subconscious to the conscious part of our mind, so we can come up with solutions to problems. So, ‘sleep on it’ is great advice!
Before you go to sleep, think of at least 3 good things that happened that day
The brain and the body are very busy while we rest – they restore and rebuild cells, and fight off infections. The brain cleans itself, removing the debris of the day. Sleep also provides the brain with time to embed memories, so reinforcing what we are learning.
REM sleep is also a time when we can replay and process stressful events in a peaceful environment, and these can appear to us as dreams.
So it comes as no surprise that a good night’s sleep can do wonders. Here are five top tips to help you get that essential peaceful night:
1. Take breaks from work during the day
Have breaks away from your desk to help you reduce anxiety. It is tempting to keep going, but you need to ease off the pressure, relax, think about something else, and let your brain process your thoughts – frequent breaks are good for you, and help you to find solutions and ideas.
Decide to forget about work in the evening. Choose a cut-off time when you stop looking at emails and messages, and focus on relaxing instead. You deserve time to rest!
2. Plan your bedtime
Allow time for enough sleep. It’s easy to be tempted to stay up late, but give yourself a reasonable chance to get eight hours of rest.
Since the advent of electricity, we no longer set our daily routines to our natural circadian rhythm, where we would sleep when the sun went down, and rise when it came back up again.
In the past, people would have had segmented sleep, a pattern of four hours sleep, two hours awake, and then another four hours sleep before morning.
3. Turn off all screens at least an hour before bedtime
The blue light from devices can suppress the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. This hormone makes us feel naturally drowsy, so we need it to work for us, and take us into sleep. If you have a bedside clock with an LED display, it might be a good idea to change it to a more conventional one, as the light could interfere with your sleep. Remove devices with screens from the bedroom to avoid temptation! If you read before you go to sleep, choose a ‘real’ book where you can.
4. Keep your bedroom a peaceful place
The bedroom should be designed for relaxation and rest, so remove anything that is not necessary, such as laundry or anything work-related.
Keep the lighting soft, choose curtains or blinds that keep the light out, and make sure the room is dark when you go to sleep. Decorate it with restful colours, with beautiful artwork, objects, and accessories, to make it a room you enjoy, that feels like a sanctuary.
Many people find the smell of lavender helps them relax; try a few drops of lavender essential oil on your pillow.
5. Focus on the positives
If you suffer from anxiety, remember to focus on what has been good during the day, rather than any problems. It is too easy to dwell on what went wrong. Remember the things that were good, that made you happy, however small or big. This is a good habit to acquire, as we often don’t notice the nice things. Get used to enjoying the happy moments!
Just before you go to sleep, think of at least three good things that happened that day – you may think of more. Sleep well!