Combating sleep problems: Your sleep self-assessment
It goes without saying that sleep is integral to our wellbeing. But we have all had sleep issues at some point in our lives; nights of tossing and turning while watching the clock tick through the early hours of the morning. Sometimes, the more we think about it, the worse it gets, and we can become entangled in a bad sleep cycle that can lead to stressful days. It can be day ruining and, for some, life changing. So, we have put together an assessment for you to work through some small changes in order to make a big change to your sleep problems.
How to make your sleep hygiene and bedtime routine better
When you go to bed, make sure you have your routine structured in a similar way every night by doing the following:
- Avoid blue lights from digital screens 1 hour+ before going to sleep
- Avoid heavy foods at least 2 hours before going to bed
- Create a gentle and comfortable sleep environment; try dim lights, soft furnishings, nice smells (try a diffuser with essential oils). Go to bed at the same time every night.
- Try to practice a calming activity before bed; try a gentle yoga routine or meditation session or read your book with a dim side lamp.
How to ensure optimal sleep duration
Whether you have insufficient or too much sleep, there are ways to help your sleep cycle.
- Head to bed earlier than usual and practice your bedtime routine, as above.
- Avoid caffeine or alcohol
- Talk to friends, family and your workplace to make sure you have enough support.
If you’re sleeping too much, try the steps below. Excessive sleeping can be a sign of over-exerting yourself during the day and having too much physical and/or mental load. If you have too much mental load, try to write down what’s on your mind every day and checking off the list as you go along your day.
Reduce your sleep anxiety and racing thoughts
Your pre-bed routine is just as important as how you can handle a sleepless night. It might be easier said than done, so choose one option below to start off with and increase it as the weeks go on.
Before bed, why don’t you try one of the following:
- Meditation and gentle yoga before bed: carve out 20-30 minutes to create a calming sanctuary at home (think candles, pillows, throws, soft music) and relax into a pre-bed yoga routine and/or meditation session.
- Don’t get over-tired: make sure that you don’t miss your ‘sleep window’ and become over-tired. When you start feeling drowsy, head up to bed and start your pre-bed routine.
- Exercise regularly: during the day make sure you’re exercising enough. Whether you prefer a HIIT session, weights, running or walking, making sure you use up your physical energy is vital for a good night’s sleep. But make sure you leave a few hours between working out and going to bed to wind down.
- Talk to someone: people often find themselves with sleep anxiety and racing thoughts because they have a lot on their mind. By talking to someone – maybe a friend, family-member or even colleague – you might find that the saying “a problem shared is a problem halved” is correct.
If you wake up during the night with racing thoughts, there are a few options to keep yourself calm and lull yourself back to sleep:
- Know your triggers: often sleep anxiety and racing thoughts can become apparent during stressful times, while things are very busy. Knowing what might set you off can be a good starting point so that you’re ready for the eventuality of waking up and you might prep some calming techniques.
- Play soft music or a calming podcast: line these up during the day so that if you wake up, all you need to do is hit ‘play’. You have plenty of options on the internet: from playlists of calming sounds and music to podcasts that take you through very calming stories or soundscapes.
Turn snoring into snoozing
Whether you sleep with someone who snores, or you are the person who snores, there are some options to give you a better night’s sleep. For the snorer, here are a few options:
- Sleep on your side
- Raise your head while sleeping with pillows
- Try to avoid eating or drinking alcohol before bed
- Quit smoking
- Seek medical advice about the causes of your snoring
If you are suffering at the hands (or nose) of a snorer:
- Wear earplugs during the night, or have them hand for when the snoring starts
- Try to find an alternative place to sleep while the snoring is happening
Staying awake all night
Here are a few tips to help you if you tend to stay awake all night:
- If you wake up, either put on a calming podcast or playlist on if you think you can be lulled back to sleep or – if you’re wide awake – get up and do a mundane chore like the washing up or sweeping.
- If you struggle going to sleep, try to alter your bedtime routine. Pick one or more from our options above to get you started, and tweak and add to it to find what works for you.
- Exercise and get plenty of fresh air during the day.
Waking up is a mammoth chore
Waking up can be hard at the best of times. But if you aren’t in the best of moods waking up, there are a few tips that can help you:
- Create a morning routine that works for you. If you enjoy exercise, carve out 20 minutes to do a quick HIIT workout, yoga session or run. If you prefer to take it easy in the morning, make sure you can enjoy a restful lie-in a couple of times a week.
- Take regular exercise during the day. This can replenish your energy sources.
- Look forward to something every day. Ask yourself “what am I going to do for myself today?”, and stick to it; be it a relaxing bath, a walk on your own, an early bedtime, reading your book.