How To Sleep Better - Seeking Solutions When You Can't Sleep:

Last time out I wrote about sleep disorders and the epidemic of chronic sleep deprivation. That is, about how we often view sleep as something passive that eats into our busy lives and so we downplay it as a priority in our lives even though all the evidence shows how vital good quality sleep is for our physical and mental wellbeing.

In fact, sleeping less than six hours a night has been linked to an increased risk for obesity, stroke, diabetes and heart disease. If you are struggling with a sleep disorder or consistently can't sleep then it can impact on your memory and ability to learn, on your strength and endurance and can lead to an inability to focus and making more unhealthy food choices.

Perhaps ironically, although I tend to sleep really well usually, after writing about sleep deprivation last time I had one of the worst night's sleep I can recall having for years! Curses! The day after I felt lethargic, unmotivated, and like my whole body ached. Perhaps it was a reminder to myself of how important sleep is to my own sense of wellbeing!  Certainly since studying a University of Michigan course about sleep recently, I've become much more strict with myself about having a good night time routine and not sitting on the sofa channel hopping when I know I should be switching off the TV and switching off my brain.

Having worked with over 1500 clients, as well as from my own experience, I think that investing time and thought to ensuring good quality sleep is time certainly spent well if you want to feel better each day. But what can you do to increase your likelihood of sleeping better each night? How do you end the cycle when you can't sleep?

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Sleep Better Solutions

Whether you want to just ensure that your sleep is of a higher quality or you have been struggling with insomnia or a sleep disorder, there are active steps that you can take to promote sleeping better. Sometimes these steps are fairly common sense and some you may have tried before but persevere and make sure you do them thoroughly (remember if you think that you may have a sleep disorder you may need to seek professional support). 

1. Keep A Sleep Diary

When I work with sleep issues, it can be easy for someone who feels they can't sleep to lose track of how much sleep they actually do get. It's easy to fall into the mindset of focussing on not getting enough sleep and feeling sleepy in the day or stressed about how you are even going to get through the day. You may be adamant about your lack of sleep even where your partner says you were fast asleep all night or your fitbit records that you had plenty of sleep. 

So start measuring your sleep so you have a reliable starting point of what is going on now, how much sleep you are getting, and you can keep track of how the steps in below are working for you. Log the time you go to bed at night, and the following morning write down how long it took you to fall asleep, how many times you woke up in the night and for how long, when you woke up and when you physically got out of bed. Often discovering how to sleep better (and an adult needs around 7-8 hours+ a night) is about looking for clues in what is happening night by night at the moment, so that you can start to pick out what can help you to sleep better and what may be leading to those nights where you can't sleep.

2. Keep It Regular

Sleep works best when you keep a regular, consistent cycle each and every night. I often talk to people who have different patterns on the weekend which mean getting up much later and who then find themselves awake and frustrated when they try to change their pattern back to 'weekday' mode. Of course sometimes this is out of our control, for example, if you have to go out late for a social thing, yet the odd change in pattern doesn't mean that you should have no regular cycle at all. Your sleep will thank you for your consistency.

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3. Light Means Daytime and Daytime Means Waketime

If I had a pound for every person who I've told to switch off their ipads, smartphones and TV at least an hour before they plan to go to sleep then Christmas would already be paid for in the Regan household this year! Light means daytime to your brain, even if that is the dimmest setting on your kindle, and it also means being awake. So ditch the screen an hour before bed and do something more mentally and physically relaxing instead that leads to unwinding and promotes better sleep.  

4. It's not the time for e-mails and internet

How strong is your willpower? When your phone pings to let you know you have an e-mail or text, can you hold off checking it and go to sleep? Or do you take a quick peek just to see who it is from and what it is about. Don't go there at night!  I've known clients who wake up in the night, check the time on their phone, notice an e-mail, feel compelled to just have a quick look and who then spend the rest of the night lying awake thinking about it. At its best e-mails will eat into your sleep time as you check them and your brain starts working, you may feel you need to reply and lose more time, or you might lie awake with running scenarios in your head and keeping yourself awake. Either switch the phone off and get a separate alarm clock, or switch to airplane mode an hour before bedtime. 

The same applies to the internet and especially social media. Sitting in bed scrolling through post after post will not help you sleep. And who hasn't had the experience of clicking on one internet link and onto another and another and before you know it time has slipped away? It may take some self control but the light of your device and the distraction it offers could be massively imapacting on the quality and quantity of your sleep.

5. Do Your Daytime Thinking In The Daytime

It's quite common for people to avoid thinking about things that may be stressful or cause anxiety, in the daytime, only to find that when they try to get to sleep, or after they wake in the night, that their mind is full of these thoughts. And whilst they can be stressful or anxiety-creating thoughts, they can just as easily be 'daytime' thoughts, that is, things that you'd be better off consciously considering during the day.

So do just that, set aside time in your day to think about things and then either write them down or just take action upon them so that by the time you head for sleep, the thinking and action of the day is over and complete (or at least jotted down for the next day so you will remember it).   

And create a wind down routine that works for you in the hour before bed (with screens switched off, remember!) so that you brain is not still working on overdrive when you want to relax into sleep. If anxiety and stress are an issue for you then take action to address these or practice relaxation or meditation. You could try my rapid relaxation if you want to get better at feeling and being more mentally calm and phsyically relaxed.

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To Sleep Better Remember This

If you are finding that you can't sleep and that maybe even the thought of bedtime makes you feel worried and anxious then you may need to see a therapist to help you tackle those thoughts, perceptions and feelings. Remember that just about everyone goes through periods where they are dissatisfied with their sleep. However, if it is having a detrimental impact on your ability to function in the daytime then you need to take active steps to address it, such as the behaviours above.

Good sleep is not just about cutting out the caffeine and alcohol at night, exercising and avoiding anything stimulating in the hour before bed (although you should do all these too). It isn't just about having a comfy bed and a dark bedroom. It's about developing the pattern of thoughts and behaviours that work for you so that you can get enough sleep and function well during the day. 

Above all though, remember that very few people sleep through the night and don't wake until morning. What keeps you awake are your habitual behaviours, thoughts and feelings around sleep. Focus on learning how to calm your thoughts and stay physically relaxed and you will still be reaping some benefits.

Wishing you quality sleep night after night,

Dan Regan

Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket

If you’d like to learn more or if this has resonated with you in some way, then you may want to take a look at these pages:

1. Need help to sleep better? Maybe the quality and quantity of your sleep isn't how you'd like it to be? 

Hypnotherapy with Dan Regan

2. Want to know more about what people who have worked with Dan have to say?

What Dan's clients say

3. Maybe you are seeking powerful and effective hypnosis audios that you can use to help you to tackle anxiety, stress and worry?

The Dan Regan Hypnotherapy Audio Shop