Sleep is an essential component of maintaining both good mental and physical health. Many of us however seem to neglect this aspect of our health, opting to cram as much into our day as possible. In this 24/7 society that we have created for ourselves is it any wonder that sleep patterns are more disrupted than ever?
Sleep problems come in all shapes and sizes. Some find it impossible to fall asleep in the first place. Whilst others suffer the frustration of waking multiple times during the night. The resulting effect is the same – a feeling of exhaustion, helplessness and loneliness. This can easily spiral into other mental health issues.
Countless doctors’ appointments are taken up because of sleep disorders. Patients come in expecting a quick fix for their sleeping problems, asking for sleeping pills to knock them out at night. What people do not realise is that these remedies are only a short term fix for the problem. They come with many side-effects and they quickly become addictive.
In order to help fall asleep at night and wake feeling well rested, we need to follow good sleep hygiene. Each of these tasks is easy to implement and performed enough times will improve the quality of your sleep dramatically. So what can you do today to improve your sleeping?
Create the Right Environment
Your bedroom should be a place of calm. It should be a place that your brain associates with getting restful sleep. In order for this process to occur, you need to ensure that you create right environment for sleep. Your room should be dark and there should be no electronic devices present. The temperature should be cool and therefore opening a window may be a good idea. Do not use your bed as a place to sit and do work. The bed is for sleep and sex, no other activity.
Have a Regular Sleeping Pattern
The time that you get up in the morning will vary from person to person. The average adult needs 7-8 hours of sleep every night in order to feel well rested. Say you decide that you need to wake up at 6.30 a.m. in order to be at work on time. Well, an 8 hour sleep would mean that you should be in bed by 10.30 in the evening.
Now to begin with you may find that getting into bed at 10.30 is too early and you lie there awake for a while, but after a few days your body will get used to it. You will fall asleep quicker and in no time waking up at 6.30 will seem like no trouble at all. You will be refreshed from a full nights’ sleep and still be able to get yourself to work on time.
It is important that you try and stick to this same sleep pattern every day, and this includes at the weekend. Lying-in makes it more difficult for you to sleep the next night and hence leads to the so-called ‘Sunday night insomnia’.
Follow a Bedtime Routine
By following the same 15-20 minute routine before bed, your brain will automatically start shutting itself down, ready for sleep. Put away all electronic devices such as phones and tablets, turn off the television and prepare yourself for going to bed. Pour yourself a hot drink, read a book and when you feel that your eyelids are heavy, settle down for a restful sleep. You will find that the more times you do this routine, the quicker your will drift off to sleep.
Take Part in a Daily Mindfulness Practice
When you have had a busy or stressful day, it can make it difficult to unwind at night. By taking some time out during the day to clear your head, you will find that sleep comes that much easier in the evening. Going for a short walk or sitting meditating for a few minutes can help you to cope with the stresses of day-to-day life and will leave you feeling more peaceful when it comes to going to bed. Although pre-bedtime meditation and yoga are always helpful, these activities will be much more beneficial if you have already tried to deal with difficult thoughts and feelings during the day.
Following these simple ideas, sleeping problems will eventually sort themselves out. It does take time, so do not be disheartened if you have a bad night. Just be patient.
Fran is a junior medical doctor working in the South West of England. During her spare time she enjoys photography, running, yoga and writing. She currently runs a self improvement blog called Lists For Life. You can follow her on Twitter using the handle @Lists4life