What's stopping you?
Winding down and switching off can often be easier said than done with numerous factors keeping us awake and preventing us from getting that much needed eight hours of sleep.
Technology, noise disturbance, light pollution and pain are all big contributors to our sleepless nights, however, one of the biggest culprits is anxiety. Stress experienced during our awake time, fails to receive the bedtime memo, hindering us from reaching that calm state before we descend into sleep.
Rather than rising refreshed, we can find ourselves wired and still tired thanks to the thoughts whirling around in our head. Stress filled lives compacted with sleepless nights can result in us feeling pretty miserable.
THE BENEFITS OF BEDTIME
Both physiological and cognitive benefits are to be gained from our time spent in the land of nod.
When we sleep, we are able to process our thoughts, emotions and experiences in REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. Our brains have time to organise and store memories, converting what we have been experiencing subconsciously and transferring it to the conscious part of our brain. This improves our ability to problem solve and recall information. Helpful and much needed functions when we are feeling stressed and anxious but how do we achieve this?
The calming and relaxing nature of sleep lowers blood pressure and stimulates the production of extra protein molecules that help us to fight infection. Regular sleep patterns can also aid digestion and affect our appetite, reducing our cravings for high calorie foods.
SIMPLE SUGGESTIONS TO HELP YOU SLIDE INTO SLUMBER
Work: Breaks and Boundaries
Learning how to relax during the day, makes simmering down at night less challenging.
Breaks: How can we keep giving when we have nothing left to give?
Guilt free breaks are essential. Allowing ourselves short regular breaks enables us to process and take stock of what we are doing. It can offer a moment of much needed peace, time to socialise or a moment to get up and leave our chair. Incorporating regular breaks can actually increase productivity and when we relax, we are able to process, making it easier for us to find solutions.
Breaks also offer us a chance to release those happy hormones.
Finish your tasks and reflect on your achievements. This natural break, will dish out the dopamine.
Reconnect with your nearest and dearest and feel the warm fuzzy effects of oxytocin.
Take a brisk 10-minute walk and enjoy a double dose of dopamine and serotonin.
Engage in something that will make you laugh for a blast of endorphins.
BOUNDARIES: How can we get away from the stressors when we are available at all hours?
Blurred boundaries allow work to invade our much-needed personal time. Whether it’s your emails or the housework, choose a cut off and stick to it to improve your chances of conking out.
THE BEDTIME ROUTINE: Anyone with children knows the importance of the bedtime routine, so why don’t we do it as adults?
Assist your internal body clock by setting a regular time to go to bed. Melatonin is a hormone that induces sleep, regular bedtimes help our bodies know when to start releasing this chemical. When considering your routine, ensure that you allow yourself enough time to get the full eight hours. Going to bed at 2am and the alarm going off at 7am doesn’t make it possible. We can all be tempted to stay up late but this can automatically set us up to fail.
TACKLE TECH AND BANISH IT FROM THE BEDROOM: Sweet dreams and deep sleep are much harder to achieve with tech in the bedroom. The blue light emitted by devices suppresses the production of melatonin. Removing the screens, LED clocks and allowing yourself a tech free 2 hours before bed, will help melatonin work its magic. For those that like to read, paper books are a winner, though be mindful of the content, turning pages can set our minds ticking.
Over 55 and suffering from insomnia? Time to see your GP and discuss a short-term, 13 weeks, treatment of melatonin.
A POSITIVE PUBLICATION: Reflection is a powerful activity but anxiety and stress can leave us focusing on the negatives and what went wrong. Our days are full, meaning that there are positive experiences in there too, no matter how large or small. Take a moment to consider what went well and what made you smile. Aim to list three things before bed and who knows you might find more.
ZONES, ZZZ'S AND ZEN: To sleep we need to be calm, relaxed and zen. Take a look at your bedroom and answer this simple question: is this a zone of tranquillity?
Tips to stir the senses and establish a sanctuary for slumber:
• Décor: Consider the colour of your walls and opt for calming tones, choose fabrics and accessories that will make you want to relax here.
• Declutter: A place of serenity is not a dumping ground. Remove all unnecessary items such as laundry and paperwork.
• Set the tone with mood lighting. Dim the lights before bed and let your body sense the onset of sleep. When you hit the hay, keep the bedroom as dark as possible by using curtains and/or blinds.
• Smells: certain aromas are renowned for their abilities to soothe and relax the mind and body. Lavender is most commonly used in the bedroom and its qualities are said to facilitate sleep. Other stress reliving scents to consider are Rosemary and Frankincense.
Here’s hoping the above tips will help you get your head down.
REMEMBER: sleep problems don’t just appear overnight and so breaking this pattern and feeling the benefits of a new routine will take time, give it a go and be kind to yourself along the way. More ideas and information to help you get a good night’s kip can be found at the following: