As a therapist, I find that a lot of the people who come to see me suffer with some form of disturbed sleep, or insomnia. And it doesn’t matter if they come for help with anxiety, phobias, low mood or anything else – the sleep problem is usually there.
Sleep disturbance can appear in many ways:
• Unable to fall asleep, even when tired (mind going 100 mph)
• Unable to stay asleep, waking after a few hours, wide awake and miserable
• Waking up too early, usually before the alarm goes off!
• Difficulty in waking up – groggy, tired and miserable
And the poor, suffering person can experience one or all of these symptoms.
Short-term, insomnia is really nothing to worry about. The occasional sleepless night happens to everyone. It’s just when it becomes regular, or long-term that lack of sleep can cause physical and mental problems. If you are a chronic insomniac, it’s always worth telling your GP, just so any medical conditions can be eliminated.
Because everything seems easier after a good night’s sleep, insomnia is one of the first things I look to improve in all my clients.
Of course, I use hypnosis and psychotherapy to help, but if you can’t find a good therapist, or want to improve things on your own, here are my five top tips for a restful night’s sleep!
1. Don’t obsess about sleep
Try not to ‘pre-worry’ about going to bed. Turn the clock away from you, so you don’t keep checking the time. Try not to think about what time you’ve got to get up. The more you think about sleep, the less likely you are to fall asleep. During the day, fully expect that you WILL sleep, rather than thinking, “Oh no, I’ll never get to sleep tonight!”
2. Don’t make your bedroom too warm, or too light
One of the things that happens during normal, healthy sleep, is that your body temperature will go down a little. If the room is too warm, and that decrease can’t happen, it can confuse your mind into thinking it’s not time to sleep. The same thing can happen if there is too much light in the room.
3. Try and manage your stress before you go to bed
Many people wait until they go to bed to relax and unwind, but this can be the cause of the mind turning over and over, and can make falling asleep very difficult. So instead, give yourself half an hour or so before bed to allow yourself to relax. Have a warm bath, think about what you need to do tomorrow (but don’t stress over it!) If it helps, make a list of things you need to remember. Take some deep breaths, slowly. People who come to me for help get a relaxation CD that they can use, but you can try a similar approach, with some calming, quiet music.
4. Get into the habit of getting up the same time every day
Everyone loves a Sunday lie-in, but if you are suffering from disturbed sleep then this can make matters worse. Sleep simply works better if there is a routine, with the added benefit that when you do go to bed, you’ll be that little bit more tired.
5. If all else fails, get up!
This follows on from tip 1, but if you find you can’t fall asleep, or have woken up in the middle of the night, don’t lie there trying to ‘force’ yourself to sleep. It just won’t work! In fact it’ll make it harder. Instead, get up and do something (maybe read, or have a warm milky drink) and then return to bed when you feel sleepy.
Bonus Weird Tip!
One of my clients once told me that her Grandmother told her to curl her toes, then stretch them out ten times if she couldn’t sleep! Maybe it’s the distraction, or maybe it’s the counting, but whatever it is, maybe it’s worth a try!