Happy New Year to you. Have you made lots of New Year's resolutions about being healthier and fitter this year? Do any of them include improving your sleep (quality or quality)? It's not a resolution I hear often, yet it's the one which would probably bring the most benefit, and which would make achieving those other resolutions much easier.
A group of leading scientists recently described the modern attitude to sleep as “arrogant”, warning our short sleeping hours are unhealthy. Personally, I think that I think that the accusation of arrogance is a bit unreasonable. Most people who sleep poorly would love to sleep more – they’re not missing sleep from choice. Work patterns, stress and other problems can lead to insomnia - not only keeping people awake for hours, but often preventing good quality sleep when it does come.
What is certainly true that frequent lack of sleep is linked to all sorts of chronic health problems – including Type-2 diabetes, obesity and infections. Not surprising when you learn that there are around 500 genes affected by lack of sleep!
So, what can you do to increase the length and quality of your sleep? Here are six simple tips:
- Keep the lights down/use lamps for at least half an hour before bedtime (beware of switching bright bathroom lights on just before settling).
- Avoid using mobile phones, computers and tablets for at least half an hour before bedtime too as these emit levels of blue light which drive wakefulness.
- Sleep in a dark room – cover bright lights on any electrical equipment and use thick curtains in summer.
- Avoid caffeine and other stimulants after lunchtime.
- Avoid alcohol in the evening. Any more than a small glass of wine (or the equivalent) will disrupt your sleep. You might nod off faster, but your sleep won’t be as deep and you’re likely to wake in the early hours as a result.
Finally, if it’s your thoughts keeping you awake at night, then redirecting them to something harmless can help. Set yourself a very simple task such as thinking of an alphabetical list of names or a simple times table. Each time your thoughts wander, bring them back to the task. If you get into the habit of doing this, your brain will soon learn that this is what you do before you go to sleep. You might rouse later wandering “what is a girl’s name beginning with… ?” but that just shows how your brain carries on thinking about what it was doing before you fell asleep – and how much more peaceful for it to be a name than for it to be that big worry you normally drop off to?
If you have a lot of trouble sleeping why not download the free relaxation MP3 available on the hypnotherapy pages of this website? It might be just what you need.