Sleep problems can have a huge impact on our whole lives. Difficulties in getting of to sleep or early waking can reduce the necessary 8 hours a night down to as few as two or three. Further more the fears that flood our mind during the early hours can leave us with a depression that lasts all day.
Often, sleep problems are due to excessive worrying, or stress, not switching off early enough from our modern lifestyles, or the use of stimulants like coffee, nicotine or alcohol.
While the latter may help some people to fall asleep more rapidly it suppresses dreaming sleep and disrupts deep sleep, so often you wake early or wake up still feeling tired.
f you are using a computer, watching TV, a mobile phone or any other device with a bright screen within a few hours of wanting to be in bed asleep then this is likely to have a disruptive effect on how quickly you will fall asleep and how deeply you will sleep. Many screens emit a great deal of blue light that stimulates you brain to remain awake.
Red light, by contrast, stimulates the sleep response. In prehistory this natural trigger worked well, the sun would rise in the morning and the sky would get brighter blue, this would stimulate waking up, then towards the end of the day the sun would begin to set which would make the sky redder and this would trigger the response to settle down ready to sleep. So one step to sleeping better is to turn down lights and don’t use digital products at least 3 hours before you want to sleep.
Almost everyone has had the experience of trying to stay awake to watch a film or TV programme, only to fall asleep just before it starts, or trying to fall asleep because you have to be up early in the morning, and then tossing and turning all night long, struggling to get to sleep.
The paradoxical nature of our brains can actually be used to help you sleep! If, for example, you go to bed and aren’t asleep within 15 minutes, get up and find somewhere to stand and read a boring book for a while before going back to bed. Don’t sit down to read in case you fall asleep in your chair. It doesn’t have to be a dull book, of course. Some people I have known to do housework instead of reading a book, or work on their tax returns. If you can find a task you put off doing, or feel you never have the time to do, this can be a good task to help send you the sleep.
When you feel you can go to bed to sleep, then do so. If you aren’t asleep within fifteen minutes repeat the process and continue doing so until you finally get into bed and fall deeply asleep before the 15 minutes is up.
What often happens is that within a night or two of doing this, where you are trying to force yourself to stay awake, you fall asleep and then sleep deeply throughout the night.
If your sleep problem is caused by not being able to shut off your thoughts and worries then it can be useful to keep a log or diary in which you write down everything that is going through your mind before getting into bed.
If you can think of a resolution to the problems, worries and concerns you write down then include these too. This will help to stop your internal mental chatter and help you sleep and because you have closed the patterns by giving a solution to each worry it will help you to have a better quality of sleep through the night. You can also use self-hypnosis or guided meditations. Listening to a self-hypnosis track or to a guided meditation at bedtime gives your mind something else to focus on other than the thoughts whirling around in your mind.