3 top tips for a better sleep
When we go through particularly distressful periods of time, our sleep is very often the first habit that can be affected. Given it's strong role in nurturing our cognitive and physical skills in our daily life, it is important to take care of our sleep habits in exactly the same way we take care of other areas of our lives.
It can happen to anyone to go through particularly difficult periods of time and to experience occasional troubles sleeping.
Indeed, we could have problems falling asleep (the so-called initial insomnia), or we might wake up several times during the night and have problems falling asleep again (middle insomnia) or we might wake up too early in morning, not being able to fall asleep again (terminal insomnia).
Sometimes these problems could be triggered by specific stressful events, by bad habits regarding your sleeping routines or by distorted beliefs about sleep.
No matter what the cause is, if these troubles persist for at least one month and they have a significant impact in your daily life, it is recommended that you take care of the problem and consult a specialist, in order to avoid the chance of it becoming chronic.
Here are some of the little, but important, tips that are usually recommended in order to adopt a healthy sleep hygiene:
1) Check the time spent in the bed
We should not stay in bed for too long if not asleep. Usually the 85% of the total time spent in bed should be 'sleeping time'; this means that only 15% of this time should be spent awake.
As a consequence, the first tip to keep in mind is that we should spend as little time as possible awake in bed. If you find yourself for an extended period of time awake, with little chances of falling asleep, it is usually better to get out of bed, go to another room or the couch and do something else until you feel sleepy enough to go back to bed.
Why's this? Our bed should be a stimulus associated only with sleeping. Usually when we have trouble sleeping, we tend to start thinking, worrying and ruminating, fostering our anxiety and waking up our sympathetic system (that definition is not an alli of relaxation and sleep). Spending too much time awake in bed implies indeed the risk of associating it with the experience of being awake and having stressful negative thoughts.
2) Stop having naps
Having little naps during the day is not recommended if we tend to have trouble sleeping; think about naps as little thieves, every time we have a daily nap, a portion of our night sleep is stolen.
3) Take care of your bedtime routines
If you have trouble sleeping, the preparation before going to bed is particularly important. Try to create some relaxing routines that your body will soon associate to 'relax/sleep time' and that can represent a sort of clear boundary between your day time and your night time. Examples could be:
- having a bath or a particular washing routine
- having a chamomile or another soothing drink
- doing something relaxing before going to sleep (listening to music, relaxation techniques, reading a relaxing book etc.)
Looking after your sleep is important. If you feel that you have troubles doing it by yourself, seek help. A psychologist can help you understand the causes of your issues and work on your worries and on the bad habits that could continue to affect negatively your sleep.
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About Ilaria Tedeschi
Ilaria Tedeschi is a cognitive behavioural psychotherapist, BACP and HCPC registered, working in Marylebone, Chelsea and Liverpool Street both in English and Italian, with adult and adolescent clients experiencing depressive, anxiety, sleep and relational issues.