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Where are you, Sleep?


I’ve had a lot of clients come to me of late presenting with issues related to sleep – trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, restless sleep, insomnia, and tiredness in the morning to name but a few.


Does this sound like you?


There are so many reasons for us humans to struggle with sleep; probably as many as there are reasons why a good night’s sleep is our daily objective. Sometimes a rough night's sleep cannot be avoided (life can be tough!) but maybe a few of these tips might be useful. Experiment and let me know how you get on...


1.       Get up, get out, and get some sunshine and daylight on your face! Daylight is the strongest environmental cue that helps reset our sleep-awake cycle / circadian rhythm so make a plan to get outside at least once a day.   

 

2.       Exercise in the morning rather than the evening. Keep that energy for the daytime when you need it most.

 

3.       Cut out your afternoon coffee break or switch to decaf (don’t shoot the messenger!). I think we all know this one: as much as we love it, caffeine is best avoided in the afternoons for the majority of us if we want a good night’s sleep.

 

4.       Dinner – try making your last meal of the day lighter, try eating earlier, quit snacking, and avoid those sugary treats before bed. We want our bodies to focus on resting and repairing, rather than digesting all that extra food.

 

5.       Limit alcohol - better yet, cut it out completely in the evenings. Alcohol disrupts the sleep cycle and diminishes the quality of sleep. It is also a really big factor when it comes to insomnia. Nicotine and recreational drugs can be put in this category too.

 

6.       They can wait! Avoid engaging with texts, emails, messages, and heavy conversations as before bed, especially if they are going to increase your worry or require action to be taken on your part. Your time is precious, and your sleep is necessary!

 

7.       Keep it cool. The recommended room temperature for the best sleep is 18-19 degrees Celsius (65 Fahrenheit), so turn it down, and consider sleeping with a window slightly open for fresh air.

 

8.       Keep your bedroom for rest and sexy stuff only! Try to create a sleep inducing environment by keeping all your work stuff in another room (if possible), adjusting lighting, watching TV elsewhere, and keeping phones and chargers in another room (or at least out of reach), and changing up your mattress, bedding and décor if needed.

 

9.       Try sleeping with a weighted blanket. Another favourite! Weighted blankets are very comforting, and know to be therapeutic in that they help by relaxing the nervous system.

 

10.   Nighttime rituals - routine is the name of the game. The body loves consistency, so try to start your bedtime routine at the same time every day, weekends included where possible. Then add in all your favourite winding down rituals.

 

11.   Switch off  – limiting screen time (TV, social media, etc.) for 45 minutes to 1 hour before bedtime has proven to be very beneficial.

 

12.   Journal your anxious thoughts, lists, stressors, wins, racing thoughts, as part of your nighttime routine. Getting your thoughts out of your head on onto paper frees up your mind for better rest. Doing this earlier rather than directly before going to bed might work better for some, experiment for yourself.

 

13.   If you find water soothing, try taking a warm shower or relaxing bubble bath as part of your nighttime routine.

 

14.   Pick up a (paper) book. Try reading for 15 – 30 minutes instead of scrolling or watching TV. Perhaps avoiding racing spy novels and highly emotive text – i.e. anything that winds you up rather than down.

 

15.   Slow, deep and gentle breathing. There are lots of specific breathing techniques, and one you might have heard of is the 4-7-8 breathing technique. Breathe in for a count of 4, hold for 7, and breathe out for 8. It can take some practice, and if you find it difficult, an alternative is mindful breathing: breathing slowly, deeply and gently while focussing on every aspect of every breath in and out.

 

16.   Sleep time “scattegories” is a tried-and tested favourite of mine. When lying  comfortably in bed, pick a category (animals, cars, actors, film titles, fruit, brand names…), and begin listing items from that category from A-Z. If you manage to get to Z before falling asleep, start again without naming the same item twice.

 

17.   The Body Scan technique. This technique has you focus on each part of your body individually, starting from one of your pinkie toes and working your way up to your head. As you focus on the body part, notice temperature and any sensations, aiming to relax that part of your body before moving to the next part. And if you like, you can do this while listening to some soft, calming music.

 

18.   Visualization. This one is for those of us who have great imaginations and busy minds. Think of a peaceful place – perhaps a nature scene, beach, forest, waterfall, or a calm room filled with soft, comforting items. Imagine yourself examining all the details, bringing in your senses of touch, sight, hearing, smell, really connecting to the feeling of being in that place. Your mind might wander, and that’s ok, just come back to your visualization each time. You can revisit the same place every night, teaching your body that this visualization is a signal for sleep.

 

19.   Listen to a guided meditations. Look at using apps like Calm, and Insight Timer. When choosing a meditation, try and do it at another time during the day and take care to choose music and voice that you connect to. While we’re talking apps, this one might also be of help: Nothing Much Happens App.

 

20.   If you’re feeling restless, get up and move around. Pick up a book (but keep off those screens!), have a cup of chamomile tea. Go back to bed when you feel ready.

 

21.   Look into how you can improve stress management. How can you be supported in reducing the amount stress you are experiencing? (yoga, counselling, massage, meditation, exercise, peer support, self-care…)

 

22.   And last but most definitely not least, check in with your health team to see how they can support you (nutrition, sleep apnea, hormones, supplements, aromatherapy, bloodwork, counselling, bodywork, etc.)

 

Wishing you the deepest of sleeps and the sweetest of dreams!

 

 

 

 

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