We spend a significant portion of our lives doing it.
And it’s fundamental to our mental and physical well-being.
It’s sleep – and we need to get it right.
Normally sleep is regulated by instinctive internal forces… Just as hunger is the drive to nourish our bodies, so drowsiness is the big flashing freeway warning sign telling us that we need to rest. But sometimes it’s just really hard to fall asleep.
It can be a vicious circle: stress sparks off sleep problems, but then – even after the pressures that prompted the bout of insomnia are relieved – continued disturbed sleep patterns can become a stressor in their own right.
First of all, try and understand what the triggers are for you, and address those where possible. And – it goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway – if you’re caught up in a phase of chronic sleep deprivation, please discuss it with a healthcare professional. However, if you’re just trying to get back on track after a brief phase of anxiety-induced insomnia here are a 6 of the many recommended techniques out there:
6 tips for a better night’s sleep
- As far as possible, keep a regular schedule for sleeping and waking hours. Going to bed between 10 pm and midnight is considered ideal. However, if you find you’ve been waking too early, try settling down an hour or so later than usual, but make sure those final waking hours are very relaxed – don’t use them to cram in extra work.
- Try a meditation technique that works for you – even if you find it difficult to chant or use visualization techniques, just concentrating on the rhythm of your breath for 5 minutes can work wonders for preparing an overactive brain for rest.
- Whatever you do, avoid screen-time immediately before sleep. Television in the bedroom is a really bad idea for insomnia sufferers. Don’t get distracted trawling the web and getting your brain stimulated, when really you should be winding down. And if you’ve taken to using a tablet or e-reader, instead of a book – set your screen backlight to a dimmer level, or consider using a sepia background.
- Avoid caffeine (both in drinks and food) for about six hours before your bedtime, and don’t overdo your consumption during the day. And don’t fall into the trap of believing that booze will help you sleep: it may knock you out at the start of the night, but as your body works hard to process the alcohol your sleep can become disrupted and restless.
- Make sure your sleeping environment is appealing, temperate, and suitably dark. A comfy mattress that suits you is really important. And don’t underestimate the effect your partner can have, whether they’re a snorer, thrasher, sleep-sprinter or chronic doona thief – work out a way that you can both get a good night’s sleep.
- Get into the habit of eating your dinner earlier in the evening, and make it a light meal. If you’re worried that hunger may wake you too early, have a light snack based on protein and carbohydrate, which will be easy to digest: a handful of unsalted almonds; a slice of wholegrain toast with nut butter or a thin slice of cheese; or something as simple as a glass of warm, low-fat milk – that age-old sleep inducer.