Struggling with sleep?

One thing I have been hearing a lot lately is that people are struggling with sleep. Clients are reporting that they are having vivid dreams, nightmares, feeling constantly tired but at the same time struggling to sleep. And some report that they are sleeping too much.


We all know that we cannot survive without sleep and that sleep is really important for both our physical and mental health. You only need to speak to a parent of a newborn to realize what effect the lack of sleep can have on your body and mind.

Lack of sleep can lead to a person struggling with poor concentration, having a feeling of fogginess and feeling irritable or short-tempered. It can be both a symptom and a trigger of depression. It can lead to obesity and physical ailments such as heart disease and diabetes.

Too much sleep

How much sleep we need is different for each person. It can vary depending on our circumstances and changes with age. When someone is experiencing grief for instance, they might feel the need to sleep more often. It is important to work out how much your body needs but not giving in to too much sleep over a long period of time. If you feel that you need more than eight or nine hours per night over a long period, it could be a good idea to see a doctor.

Since sleep helps to boost immunity, fatigue could be the first sign that all is not as it should be.

Due to people spending so much time in isolation at the moment and not getting outside, there has been an increase of people with a vitamin D deficiency. This is something that you can easily fix by taking extra vitamin D (but always consult with a doctor first).

Not enough

If you think that you are not sleeping enough but would like to sleep more, there are several things you could do to help.

1. Limit screen time

This might sound like an overplayed record, but give it a try. What have you got to lose? Try to refrain from using any screens including phones for at least thirty minutes before going to sleep. If you don’t know what to do instead, read a book, have a bath, listen to some music or just relax and focus on your senses. Adult colouring is a good way to wind down, be creative and focus on the present.

It is also a good idea to stop yourself from checking your phone if you wake up during the night since you might struggle to go back to sleep again or waste valuable time getting carried away on social media. If you are stuck in this routine, try not to take your phone into the bedroom with you.

2. Don’t set an alarm clock

Some people are afraid that if they don’t set an alarm clock, they might not wake up in time. If you are on furlough or working from home, now is the perfect time for it. Allow your body to show you how much sleep you need. You might be surprised with the result! You might be waking up at your regular time but waking up naturally is always better than waking up from an alarm clock.

If you sleep later than you usually would, it might mean that your body is trying to catch up on sleep and will soon regulate your sleep pattern once you are caught up. If you get stuck into a pattern of waking up too late, try going to bed earlier instead.

3. Limit your alcohol consumption

Alcohol and sleep don’t work well together. It is tempting to think that it helps you to sleep, but too often people become dependent on alcohol to help them sleep.

Since alcohol is a depressant (not a stimulant), it will have an effect on the quality of sleep you are getting and therefore you will need more time to sleep. You also might be waking up for more regular trips to the toilet, or find yourself struggling with feeling low or depressed in the mornings.

When people feel low or depressed, they often need more sleep.

Too much alcohol can trigger a vicious cycle where it becomes difficult to determine which came first - the need for a drink or the depression?

4. Use your bedroom for sleep and intimacy only

I understand that this might not be practical for many people since circumstances vary and some people live in a house share where it’s the only room other than a kitchen or bathroom that they have access to.

But where possible, avoid your bedroom or bed when watching television or doing work. It is quite amazing how our brains make links between concepts and objects. If you toss and turn each night before falling asleep, go to another room until you are ready to go to sleep.

5. Keep a gratitude journal

If you struggle with negative thoughts before bedtime that stop you from drifting off into peaceful sleep, write a list of things that you felt grateful for on that day. It will bring us back to a positive state of mind. Read through these again in the morning once you wake up to help you start your day on a positive note too.

If you cannot think of a single thing that you could be grateful for in that day, try and re-imagine your day. If you made a bad decision, try to imagine how you might have done things differently and how you would be feeling right now if your day had happened the way you would have wanted it. Our imaginations are very powerful and can really reset our thoughts.

6. Take a break from watching the news

I’m not recommending staying in the dark altogether but taking a break from the news if it is making you feel negative, then it is good to take a break from it for a few days.

Vivid dreams

A lot of people are currently struggling with vivid dreams. When we are not connected to those we love, our brains interpret this as danger and it sends our bodies into primal panic. Your body will respond in the same way it would respond if you were in actual danger which could cause nightmares, vivid dreams, lack of sleep etc.

During this time when many people cannot get close to those they love, it is important to remind ourselves that this too will pass. There is, after all, a reason why isolation is used as punishment in prisons!

May these tips help you to get the sleep you need.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London, W6 8AF
Written by Sonica Mushi, MBACP (Reg), BA (Psych) L4(DIP)
London, W6 8AF

I am an integrative counsellor trained in Psychodynamic counselling, CBT, Schema Therapy, (EFT) based on attachment and a person-centred approach. I offer online, phone and face-to-face sessions for individuals and couples.

I'm based in the Hammersmith and Fulham area and work with my clients on a plan that is designed around their needs.

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