We are a sleep deprived species. In the UK alone the prevalence of insomnia is 37%, according to a study published recently. But insomnia and sleep deprivation not only result in the obvious tiredness and irritability; it’s also linked with increased rates of depression, anxiety and even pain.
My hypnotherapy practise is full of women with this problem. But what is at the root of all this sleeplessness? Issues I see coming up time and again are of stress, a need to try to be ‘perfect’, an inability to switch off and make time to relax, excessive pressure and worry. Does any of this sound familiar?
Woman have so much to juggle. Do you ever find your brain is still buzzing after a hectic day? Our mind may be racing at 1000 miles per hour, as ‘to do’ lists, worries, plans and even potential conversations whizz around. All the while, cortisol and adrenaline, the stress hormones, run through our veins.
This can create a lot of tension and worry about sleep itself, where the harder you try to sleep, the harder sleep becomes.
Sleep however, is vital not only for wellbeing and energy, but for things like our ability to solve problems, be creative and remember things. Sleeplessness can even impact on our immunity and can raise our blood pressure.
Over my years of helping people to sleep better I’ve collected a number of tips and tricks to make it easier. Give them a try!
- Knock caffeine on the head after noon. It can stay in our systems for up to 14 hours so even a 2pm coffee can impact on our sleep. Remember that chocolate and even green tea contain caffeine.
- Try reading some fiction for 20 minutes or so before bedtime as it can really help the mind to wind down and let go of the stresses from the day. You could even try listening to an audio book.
- Screens omit a blue light which actually suppresses melatonin, the hormone which makes us feel sleepy. Try to keep laptops and smart phones out of the bedroom and avoid using them just before bed.
- Journalling before bed can be a big help. Start by writing a stream of consciousness. Write down any worries, concerns and stresses from the day and get them all out and down on paper. After you’ve done this, write a gratitude list to put yourself in a calmer, more positive frame of mind. You can list the big thing like home or family, or the small things, like the weather that day or a delicious meal you had. This has been scientifically proven to boost wellbeing. Afterwards set your intention by writing some affirmations. They could be general, or sleep specific. ‘I am enjoying sleeping deeply and peacefully’ is one example.
- Get some sunlight in the morning. This has been shown to regulate melatonin levels and aid sleep.
- Make a worry list before bed. Write all of your worries down, so that you can return to them in the morning (if you have to!) and you don’t ruminate on them when you could be sleeping.
- Check out some sleep recordings to help you switch off and sleep better such as those in my sleep programme found at www.help-me-sleep.org.
Poor sleep doesn’t have to be something that you simply put up with; help is available so seek a professional to help you if it persists.