In my hypnotherapy practice, approximately 90 to 95% of the clients I work with for anxiety suffer from some form of sleep issue. Unfortunately, many people unwittingly sabotage their chances of a restful sleep by making common pre-bedtime mistakes and therefore struggle to fall asleep or wake up in the night.
“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”William Shakespeare
“I’LL SLEEP WHEN I’M DEAD!”
A 2013 study showed that a third of UK adults sleep for just 5-6 hours per night, with at least a quarter experiencing poor quality sleep on a regular basis. The trouble is, poor sleep can cause a host of problems that far out-reach just feeling tired.
The risks of poor sleep
Poor sleep can have a wide-range of serious negative effects, including but not limited to:
- Increased risk for heart disease, heart failure, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes
- Increased risk of injury/death due to tiredness and lack of concentration
- Increased levels of hunger/decreased levels of satisfaction after meals
- Weight gain/obesity
- Decreased concentration and mental clarity
- Decreased libido
- Increased chance of anxiety/depression
- General lack of energy and motivation
- Decreased ability to recover from exercise
- Reduced immune function
- Poor skin/hair/nail health
Clearly, a healthy sleep schedule is integral, not optional, for sound mental and overall health. We spend a third of our lives asleep and with good reason!
So, generally, the first thing that I work on with new clients is improving their sleep. When I first suggest this to them, I sometimes get a confused look, as if they’re thinking “my anxiety has to be more complicated than that!” Generally, that is true but it’s nigh-on impossible to reduce your anxiety when you’re suffering from sleep deprivation…even if you don’t realise you are!
Cleaning out the closet
When we sleep, our brain goes through a number of different cycles, one of which, so very important to our mental health is known as R.E.M sleep, Rapid Eye Movement. This is where our brain processes events from the day so that we can; store information, process emotional events, consolidate memories and be able to concentrate properly the following day. It is essentially cleaning itself of junk and deciding what to keep and what to get rid of…kind of like a computer being “defragged”.
By missing out on sleep, or not keeping a consistent schedule, you may be robbing your brain and body of the ability to repair and process emotional events fully- leaving you tired, weakened and more emotional.
What can you do to improve your sleep?
Thankfully, it’s not all doom and gloom! There are lots of ways to improve your sleep -and in the process-make drastic improvements to how you think and feel, without spending a penny or making huge sacrifices!
Here are my top tips for you to get a better night’s sleep on a consistent basis:
Tip 1 – Pick a sleep schedule
Choose an appropriate bed time and wake time and stick with those same times each night. Our body has its own internal clock, known as a Circadian Rhythm and moving these times around constantly throws our body’s finely tuned processes out of balance, including our hunger levels and stress hormones. Take a week to work out how many hours uninterrupted sleep works best for you.
Tip 2 – No screens
Turn off all screens one hour before bedtime. That includes; mobile phones, TVs, tablets/kindles and computer screens.
The blue light from these screens and light in general, hits the back of your eye and interferes with our brain’s ability to produce Melatonin, the hormone that helps promote sleep.
Tip 3 – Wind down
Take some time to wind down before going to sleep. Perhaps read a book, or take a hot bath half an hour before bed. Avoid exercise too close to bedtime as this can keep you awake. Perhaps listen to a meditation/sleep tape (mine is available on Youtube here but there are lots of great ones out there).
If you have things on your mind, you could keep a notebook next to your bed and jot down anything that’s concerning you or things you’d like to achieve for the following day so your mind is clear and calm when you lie down.
Tip 4 – No stimulants
Avoid alcohol, caffeine and nicotine at least 4 hours before bedtime. These can stimulate our brain and can keep us rolling around in bed, unable to wind down and fall asleep. Alcohol also interrupts our sleep cycles, so even 8 hours slumber might still leave you exhausted.
Tip 5 – Environment
Ensure that your bedroom is dark, quiet and a comfortable temperature. Slightly cool is ideal, as our core temperature needs to drop slightly for sleep. Ensure you have a comfortable mattress and pillow that are supportive enough and bedding that doesn’t leave you either shivering or waking up in a sweat.
If you follow these simple steps, you could well notice over as little as a few days that you feel more energised, focused and more relaxed simply by taking care of one of the fundamentals of mental and physical health.
Need more help?
If you still find yourself struggling with poor sleep, Hypnotherapy can be a really powerful and natural way of learning new skills of relaxation that can help you in every area of your life. It can be as easy as going from A to Zzz. For more information, or to book an appointment, get in touch.