Sunday, 25 May 2014


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We all have restless nights but sometimes we can find ourselves struggling to get to sleep over more prolonged period.  Even minimal sleep loss will take its toll on your mood, energy levels and your ability to handle stress.  The quality of your sleep directly affects the quality of your waking life.  It influences your mental sharpness, productivity, emotional balance, creativity, physical vitality and even your weight.

We all know it is important to get a good nights sleep, but sometimes we struggle to achieve this. However there are some steps that you can take to try and alleviate the factors that may be causing you to have a poor nights sleep.

1. Alter your wake up time

It is not the total length of time that we sleep that makes us groggy when we wake up in the morning.  We sleep in approximate 90 minute cycles so you may be waking up half way through your sleep cycle everyday.  

If you go to bed at 10 pm then try setting your alarm for 5:30 (a total of 7 ½ hours of sleep) instead of 6:00 or 6:30. You may feel more refreshed than with another 30 to 60 minutes of sleep because you’re getting up at the end of a sleep cycle when your body and brain are already close to wakefulness.

2. Keep the bedroom at a constant temperature

It is important to get the temperature of your bedroom correct.  Too warm and you will be sweating and shifting around, and sleeping on top of the duvet with all the windows open.  However, if the room is too cool then you will wake up shivering and it will take until you warm up to drift off again. 

The body naturally starts to cool as we drift off to sleep so a temperature of between 60-68F (16-18C) is ideal.  Perhaps more importantly is to keep the temperature constant and ensure that it does not fluctuate dramatically.

3. Turn off the light 

Your body responds at night to the loss of daylight by producing melatonin, a hormone that makes you sleepy. During the day sunlight triggers the brain to inhibit melatonin production so you feel awake and alert.

Darkness is a trigger within our brains for sleep, and so ensure you have a dark room in which to sleep in.  Buy the black out curtain linings and switch off the television and any bright lights.  If this is not possible then invest in a sleep mask that will do this job for you.

4. Get your cuddle blanky 

Small children will often have a favourite toy or blanky that they have to cuddle before they fall asleep.  As any parent will know lose that toy and all hell breaks lose.  Adults can adopt this trick too.  If you start to form a habit before you fall asleep you can help to associate that with deep sleep.  

It may be as simple as stroking your cheek before you fall asleep or inhaling lavender oil on your pillow.  Find a simple routine that can repeat easily over successive nights and you will start to associate it with successful sleeping.

5. Lower the noise

Loud bangs from the neighbours or street, claps of thunder or even the baby in the next room all register with us and can cause problems sleeping.  Try to keep the bedroom as quiet as possible, or perhaps select the quietest room in the house in which to sleep. It may be beneficial in some instances to block out the noise whilst you are trying to get to sleep with some earplugs, but remove them when you wake again from your first sleep cycle and do not become too reliant on them.  

6.  Change your diet 

Probably the biggest cause of a restless night is the intake of too much alcohol or eating too late in the evening before you sleep. Substances like alcohol, caffeine and nicotine can disrupt deep sleep so it is best to limit them before bed.  You may also want to avoid drinking for a few hours before bedtime if you are waking up in the night to visit the toilet.

7. Turn off your smart phone

My partner sleeps with his phone next to the bed and even though its on silent it drives me insane when it vibrates, waking me (not him) up. When he wakes in the night he will always reach over and check his phone for messages before he falls asleep again. 

More and more people are taking their smart phones into the bedroom, whether it is to charge the phone, use the alarm or for security reasons. However, because the phone is in the room in which you sleep you are not mentally switching off from it.  Don’t believe me?  Well try moving the phone for a week into another room that is not easily accessible, and do not check on the phone in the night.  I bet you will find that you sleep better then without the distraction of a phone nearby.

8. Breathe deeply and meditate 

Quiet meditation and breathing will help you to relax.  Breathe deeply through your nose and you can help to calm yourself back to sleep.  Lie on your left side, resting a finger on your right nostril to close it and take slow, deep breathes in the left nostril.

9. Try to stay awake 

Ever been lying in bed and thinking about all the thing you could be doing if you were up?  Try telling your brain you are going to get up and do these things, it may well just make you drowsy enough to fall asleep.  This double bluff is called the sleep paradox and can fool your brain into rebelling and falling asleep. Keep your eyes wide open and repeat to yourself ‘I will not sleep’.

10. Make a list 

Often your mind can be full of items to do; tasks at work, shopping to buy, kids to be collected.  When it all becomes too much start to visualise that you are filing these thoughts away in a filing cabinet to be accessed the next morning.  Alternatively you can keep a pen and paper next to the bed to jot down any worries or to do items until the next day.  

1 comment:

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