Can’t sleep? Here are some tips to fix it…

12 Jul 2023
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Getting a good night’s sleep isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity at every stage of your life! Sleep is the foundation of your good health, everything else you do or feel is impacted by the quality of sleep you’re getting.

And let’s face it, we all know what it feels like when we haven’t had enough sleep. Add in the extra loading of hormonal fluctuations if you’re going through menopause and you have a perfect storm of brain fog, feeling hyper-sensitive, mood swings, and physically being more clumsy which can lead to a higher incidence of accidents, you probably find yourself reaching for sugary fatty foods to shore up flagging energy levels which leads to weight gain and eating habits you could do without, not to mention long term health consequences like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s (research suggests that a history of sleep deprivation may increase the risk of dementia for some people, and one study suggests sleep deprivation could increase your dementia risk by 20%).

There are three factors that impact on your sleep:

  1. Environmental – these are things like noise disturbances, light, room temperature, comfort, being disturbed by pets or children, basically anything that is external to you

  2. Physical – these are things like needing to go to the loo several times in the night, aches and pains, body temperature (hot flushes, night sweats), things that are within you

  3. Mental – stress, whirling thoughts, an overly busy mind, anxiety, worries, the inexplicable wakefulness of your brain that has you ‘wide awake, can’t get back to sleep at 3am’ state most people experience at some point in their lives

So, what can you do about it?

  • Prioritise your sleep – it’s not just something you happen to do at the end of the day without thought, make it important to you, create a bedtime routine that prepares your mind and body for sleep each night, doing the same things at the same time before you get into bed, and stick to the same bedtime and wake up time every day, even at weekends!
  • Good sleep starts in the day – your circadian rhythm (body clock) is set by exposure to natural sunlight so get outside as early as possible for 15-20 minutes, it doesn’t matter whether it’s bright sunshine or a cloudy day, your brain senses the light (especially in the morning when there are more blue light levels) and starts to produce melatonin, your sleep regulator hormone, so it’s ready to be released in the evening in response to dimming lights
  • If you are being disturbed by your environment, then try to address them – make sure you have a comfortable bed and pillows, good quality bed linens, keep your room cool (between 16-18oC is ideal) and dark (use an eye mask if necessary), remove pets from your bedroom and try to minimise noise or consider wearing ear plugs if you can’t, speak to your partner if their snoring is disturbing you (maybe think about sleeping in separate rooms – ultimately, sleep is a selfish act that needs your comfort to come first, but the pay off is you being brighter and having more energy for your relationship in the day when you’re awake!), if young children are disturbing you then hold on to the fact that they will grow out of it at some point and encourage them to find their own restful sleep, it may take some time
  • If it’s a physical issue, alleviate it as best you can – trips to the loo in the night are usually down to drinking/eating too close to bedtime or inflammation in your body, if it’s the former then give your body 90 minutes at least to digest and then switch off and taper your liquids in the evening, if it’s the latter then help your body to remove the excess liquid by going for a short walk before bedtime or lying on your back with your legs elevated for 15-20 minutes. Think about managing aches and pains with pain killers or topical creams before bed or gentle massage which could form part of your bedtime routine (you might want to speak to your doctor about specific pain and treatment options), and if it’s heat then have props available such as a fan, change of night clothes, spare pillow to swap out a soggy one, etc and speak to your sleep partner about how their body heat can affect you (again it might be time to think about separate beds or rooms, not forever but just to get through this period)
  • If you’re struggling to get to sleep, or struggling to stay asleep due to a busy mind – it’s time to address your stress levels. The mechanism of sleep involves a phase called REM (rapid eye movement) which is when your brain processes your experiences and thoughts, it’s restricted to roughly 21% of your sleep pattern and if you have a lot to get through, then once that 21% is used up your brain wakes you up, so you find yourself wide awake in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep. Or perhaps you struggle to get to sleep because your mind is on overdrive as soon as your head hits the pillow… either way managing your stress levels and finding time to rest your brain during the day, which supports your sleep at night, is key. Seeing a therapist may be a good option to explore.
  • And what do you do if you’re lying there wide awake? – whether it’s at the beginning of the night or in the middle of the night, or even waking up way too early, if you’ve been there for 20 minutes and you’re simply not going back to sleep, get up and go into another room. Do something gentle and relaxing, like listening to a funny podcast or reading with low lighting, do a crossword, whatever you enjoy doing, and when you feel sleepy go back to bed… if you still can’t sleep, do it again… and again. It might take some time for your sleep pattern to re-establish but you are essentially training your brain to recognise that being in bed means going to sleep, not being awake or scrolling social media!

If you need help with sleep, whether it’s insomnia due to stress or your brain being overloaded, other issues around sleep disorders, or you just want to set yourself up for a good night’s sleep, get in touch – using a mixture of clinical hypnotherapy and wellness coaching we’ll soon have you settling down for a good night’s sleep! | 07919 45900

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