Sleep is the most common aspect of mental health which causes us to seek help from our GP. Problems here have a major knock on effect to our psychological health, immune system, perception of pain, digestion, concentration and feeling of general well-being.
The good news is that once we start to think about making our quality of sleep better the research suggests we can usually find at least some way of improving things.
Both quality and duration of sleep tend to increase.
What Can We Do to help address this?
How to Improve Our Sleep
Good sleep hygiene can improve our sleep quality
Stays in the system a long time as it is hard for the body to break down
Stimulates the Central Nervous System
Causes increased heart rate
Causes adrenaline production
Suppresses melatonin a hormone which helps us feel sleepy
Makes us fall asleep more easily but the quality of sleep is not as good
Interrupts sleep pattern in the second half of the night
Diuretic so need to get up to the toilet
Is a depressant and causes low mood which reduces sleep
Going cold turkey after a lot of alcohol causes withdrawal symptoms
Difficult to sleep if hungry so light snack can help (not protein)
Rice/oats cause small melatonin production
Diary contain tryptophan which aid manufacture of melatonin in body
Makes us more active and less sleepy
Better earlier in the day as increases adrenaline
Older adults found to sleep better with aerobic exercise
Physical fitness increases metabolism which results in better sleep
Reduces anxiety and improves mood causing better sleep
No IT equipment or TV in bedroom
No alarm with permanent light on bedside
Reduce blue light exposure
Stop interaction on social media etc at least an hour before sleep
Low lighting on run down to sleep
Blackout when wish to sleep (Blackout curtains in summer)
Noise stopped – or earplugs can help
Temperature – not too hot (17 degrees)
Most common sleep medications are called hypnotics. Only helpful in short term (NICE guidelines say 2-4 weeks) as they are addictive also have rebound effects once come off them which can make sleep worse than it was to start with.
Aim to challenge the underlying thoughts and feelings about sleep.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has been found to be an effective part in treatment of insomnia. Including this as treatment package as follows will maximise your chances of making a positive change;1. Sleep Hygiene (as above)2. Relaxation Training3. Adjusting sleep patterns4. Altering the thoughts and behaviour which hinder sleep
People with insomnia often find it difficult to relax naturally before they go to sleep
Useful to use1. Breathing – Finger breathing/breathing and visualisation2. Muscle tension3. 1 hour wind down
These all take practice before they are mastered and it may take a little while to start to feel it is a comfortable part of your routine.
Adjusting Sleep Patterns
Monitor sleep diary for 2 weeks to see what is actually happening
Review findings in light of sleep hygiene protocol
Altering the Thought and Behaviour Which Hinder Sleep
Make the bedroom the place to sleep not eat/work/watch TV. If you wake and don’t get back to sleep within a few minutes try a relaxation exercise. If still awake get up and do something relaxing like reading the paper in another room until feel sleepy then return to bed.