Improve Your Sleep
If you haven’t done it already, become aware of your energy levels and performance on days after a bad night’s sleep. Good quality sleep is, essential for maximising your energy and performing at your best both of which help in combating stress.
More than a third of all adults in the UK have sleeping problems. If you think you are one of them then don’t just accept it. There are many things you can do to improve the quality of your sleep, some of which are covered below.
Eat early to ensure good quality sleep
Are you eating and drinking less than 2 hours before you go to bed? It can take food up to 2 hours to fully digest, so if you do eat late you risk indigestion.
Drinking before you go to bed can also disturb your sleep, particularly if you drink coffee or tea as they act as a stimulant. However, some people do find that an early evening drink such as chamomile tea can help them sleep later on. Alcohol will also affect your sleep quality. It may help you fall asleep but it will also dehydrate you, causing you to wake early with a dry mouth and throat.
It is best to complete your workout at least a few hours before bedtime.
In general, exercising regularly makes it easier to fall asleep and contributes to sounder sleep. However, exercising sporadically or right before going to bed will make falling asleep more difficult. In addition to making us more alert, our body temperature rises during exercise, and takes as much as 6 hours to begin to drop. A cooler body temperature is associated with sleep onset. Finish your exercise at least 3 hours before bedtime. Late afternoon exercise is the perfect way to help you fall asleep at night.
Empty your mind
Is your mind too active? Are you thinking about tomorrow’s demands and challenges? If they are, try writing down all your plans for the following day before you go to bed to free your mind for sleep.
This is a simple but very effective technique. Anxiety always reduces when we increase our perception of control. The act of writing things down also means we don’t have to worry about forgetting to do them. It also un-clutters your mind and slows it down. It is better to avoid having things around that may trigger thoughts which could keep you awake. For example, keep work-related items (especially colleagues!) out of the bedroom.
Acquire relaxation skills
Everyone knows that you can’t ‘force’ yourself to go to sleep any more than you can ‘force’ yourself to remember things. A very pleasant way to drift off to sleep is to practice physical and mental relaxation. Diaphragmatic breathing is a way of calming yourself down in stressful situations.
Diaphragmatic breathing also works very well if you want to get to sleep. If you combine it with a visualisation of a peaceful scene it can be an enjoyable way to drift off to sleep. Remember, relaxation and visualisation are acquired skills; so the more you practice them the easier they become. Relaxation tapes can help this learning process.
Nightly rituals, whatever they are, can also send a strong message to your unconscious that you are ready for sleep. Examples include listening to soothing music, having a bath or reading a novel in bed. Try to maintain a regular bed and wake time including weekends. A regular waking time in the morning strengthens the circadian function and can help with sleep onset at night.
The above is certainly not an exhaustive list, but the main message is that you find, through trial and error, what works for you. And remember, we all need different amounts of sleep, so don’t worry if you are not sleeping as much as your partner. They may need more than you do.