Tips to Improve Sleep: From a Penticton Therapist

October 25, 2011  |   Blog   |     |   0 Comment



In my last post, I covered several ways to optimize Mental Wellness. Sleep was briefly mentioned and I included a couple of practical tips to promote good sleep hygiene. Good sleep is so important I have decided to contribute a post to this entirely. Our brains need to rest and repair and they do this through the process of sleep. The benefits of sleep are usually taken for granted- concentration and focus, high energy levels, improved health and healing. Poor sleep is related to our health in many different aspects- auto-immune deficiencies, mental health disorders, and cognitive impairment. How much sleep do adults need? In order for our nervous systems to work properly we need approximately 6-7 hours of sleep. But this can vary on an individual basis from 5-10 hours. Here are some tips and suggestions to improve sleep.

1.Rountine! Routine! Routine!

~have a regular routine every night before bed

~go to bed at the same time every night

~wake up at the same time every morning

~avoid caffeine and sugar a couple of hours before bed

~avoid doing anything rigorous right before bed

2. Keep the bedroom conducive to sleep.

~have a dark room

~limit distractions (turn off the phone, pets outside, wear earplugs if you have loud neighbors)

~bed needs to be comfortable with good pillows and comfortable blankets (not to heavy or too light), and clean sheets

~avoid budgeting, working or problem solving in the bedroom. The bed is for two things: sleep and sex

~ensure the room is at a comfortable temperature (a little cooler is better)

3. Avoid Screen Time at least one hour before bed.

~computers, cell phones, video games, and TV screens stimulate our brain and interfere with sleep patterns

4. Be mindful of caffeine. If you’re having trouble falling asleep at night, try to limit caffeine intake to mornings. You might want to check and be sure your herbal tea is caffeine free too. Other things to consider- over the counter medications, soda and alcohol.

5. Count Sheep! Many people suffering from insomnia complain, “I can’t turn off my brain!” and have difficulties falling asleep because their heads are full of thoughts. Focus and concentrate on counting your breaths, or just naming “in” and “out” breaths. When your mind wanders, bring it back to your breath. You may have to do this several times; but training your mind to focus will help.

Relaxation or meditation tapes are also very good to try and develop this skill of concentration to slow down the mind and make it easier to fall asleep. These are now widely available online or on the itunes “App Store”. It’s not something that helps overnight- practice is a must. Keep with it because the overall end result is so worth it! This will also help with “middle insomnia” waking up in the middle of the night.

6. Avoid Naps! If you must: 30 minutes maximum.

7. Pay attention to your physical cues in the evening. When you start to get drowsy, start the bedtime routine. If you push past this “window” it will be more difficult to fall asleep.

8. Exercise before 2pm everyday. Exercise promotes continuous sleep.

9.Increase light exposure during the day by spending time outside during daylight hours. Naturally regulate your sleep-wake cycle, boost your body’s production of melatonin, and keep your brain on a healthy schedule by allowing natural light into your office or home and keeping the curtains or blinds open. Long days in an office away from natural light, for example, can impact your daytime wakefulness and make your brain sleepy. Bright lights at night from hours spent in front of the TV or computer screen can suppress your body’s production of melatonin and make it harder to sleep.

10. Actively Manage Stress and Anxiety.

~use guided relaxation or meditations

~set out to learn deep breathing exercises or

~progressive muscle relaxation and

~visualization of a peaceful, restful place

11. How to fall back asleep in the middle of the night?

~move your head to the other end of the bed

~try a different environment (sofa or guest room)

~get up and sit quietly or do a small activity that does not require a lot of movement and then try going back to bed.

There’s a lot to consider in being mindful of good sleep hygiene. Sometimes when we are struggling with poor sleep, the issues are bigger than just not being able to fall asleep. Looking at the whole picture and finding the areas where changes can be made might make a huge difference. Don’t give up on anything new you try, give it time to work. Good luck!