Sleep plays a very important role in our lives, helping us to maintain a positive general wellbeing. Poor sleep can lead to a number of unpleasant symptoms such as feeling drowsy, having difficulty concentrating, feeling irritable, and an increased vulnerability to stress and low mood. Developing a good sleep routine is a great way to ensure we are getting the quality sleep that our body needs.
Develop a Night Time Routine
Do a standard set of activities before going to bed each night to help the body prepare for sleep. Your routine may include activities such as having a bath, putting on your pyjamas, and reading a book in low light. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning. Doing this will help to condition your body into knowing when it is time for bed, which will facilitate the onset of sleep.
Set the Scene
It’s important to create a space that is comfortable and encourages sleep. Remove unnecessary clutter from your bedroom and arrange the furniture in a way that is pleasing to you. Ensure the room is dark and your mattress and pillows are comfortable. If possible, control the temperature in your room to a comfortable level. Make sure that your bedroom is used for sleep and sex only.
Avoid Making Sleep Harder
There are a number of things we can do that negatively impact our sleep, and we’re all guilty of them from time to time. Try to avoid:
- Using electronics before bed. Looking at the bright screen of a smart phone or TV can hinder the production of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone in our body that helps us sleep
- Consuming alcohol before bed. While sometimes alcohol helps us get to sleep initially, it has an impact on our ability to fall into a deep sleep. As such, we often have a poor quality of sleep and wake feeling fatigued
- Drinking caffeine in the afternoon. Caffeine is a stimulant that takes time to metabolise in our body. Having caffeine in our system can impact our ability to wind down and fall asleep for up to 8 hours
- Taking a nap during the day. Napping during the day can be very enticing, especially if we are struggling to get a good night’s sleep. However, napping can confuse our sleep/wake cycle and we may not feel sleepy at bed time
- Eating a heavy meal 3 hours before bed. We may feel uncomfortable going to bed with a full stomach and our body may have trouble winding down while our it’s digesting our food
- Clock watching. Constantly checking the time can make us feel frustrated and put more pressure on ourselves to fall asleep
Stress is often a culprit for keeping us up at night. Utilise some relaxation exercises such as breathing slowly and deeply, or visualising yourself in a calm place. If you have a smart phone, download some guided meditation applications to help you wind down at the end of the day.
Seek Professional Help
We hope to get a good sleep majority of the time however it is inevitable that every now and then we may struggle to achieve this. However, if you have noticed consistent problems with sleep that are impacting your daily functioning, it may be beneficial to seek some professional help. If you are concerned that you may be suffering from a sleep disorder or a mental health issue that is affecting your sleep, have a chat to your GP.
By Melissa Giaquinta, Psychologist, Lakeside Psychology