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E-Quipped to... Sleep Even When you are Feeling Anxious
This newsletter refers to Insomnia, an article I have written and posted on my website.
Although the COVID Pandemic seems to be having less of a negative physical health impact on us (things are ‘opening up’ and we are able to do more of the things we used to do before COVID), for many people there is still a major adverse mental health impact. Huge numbers of people, from very young children through to very old geriatrics, are experiencing extremely high levels of anxiety.
And this anxiety is having a detrimental effect on our sleep.
Image by: MaxPixel
Sleep is vital for physical and mental health. If you don’t get enough sleep it can have a massive impact on so many things – your ability to cope with stress, to fight illness, to be mentally alert and to be productive.
For more consequences of not getting enough sleep, please read my article Insomnia.
Fortunately, quality is more important than quantity when it comes to sleep, so if you are struggling to shut off your brain at night, there are several things you can do to improve your quality of sleep.
Six Tips to Help you get Some Much-Needed Quality Sleep
Set a Regular Bedtime and Wake-up Time
Create a habit of going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, even on days off and weekends. This helps anchor your body clock to these times.
Try to avoid alarm clocks. If you need an alarm clock to wake you up every day you are not going to bed early enough.
If you feel you haven't slept well, resist the urge to sleep in longer than normal - getting up on schedule keeps your body in its normal wake-up routine. Remember, even after only four hours, the brain has gained many of the important benefits of sleep.
Create a Calming Bedtime Routine
Having a set routine can help you fall asleep. Doing the same thing each night at a consistent time creates cues that tell your mind and body that it’s time to relax.
Think about doing things like walking around your home checking everything is locked up as it should be, turning down your bed, listening to soothing music or even a bedtime story. Practice rituals like mindfulness, meditation, prayer, gratitude journaling – whatever gets you mind calm and reduces anxieties that may be preoccupying your brain, so that instead you are focussed on being able to go to sleep
Watch What you Drink
Alcohol is a depressant - it slows brain activity. This means that it although it helps to induce sleep initially, it disrupts it later on. 'Nightcaps' can result in awakenings, nightmares and early morning headaches. Alcohol is also more likely to lead to snoring, which can restrict airflow into the lungs. This reduces oxygen in your blood which disturbs your sleep and contributes to your hangover.
Also pay attention to caffeine. When people have trouble falling asleep, one of the first things we look at is caffeine. Keep your intake to the morning or very early afternoon. It’s best to avoid it after 2 p.m.
Both alcohol and caffeine are diuretics, which means they encourage you to urinate – you wake up because your body tells you have to go to the toilet. Obviously this is not good when it is quality sleep you want.
Watch What you eat
Eating a large, heavy meal too close to bedtime will interfere with your sleep. Spicy or fatty foods may cause heartburn, which leads to difficulty in falling asleep and discomfort throughout the night.
Foods containing tyramine (bacon, cheese, ham, aubergines, pepperoni, raspberries, avocado, nuts, soy sauce and red wine) might keep you awake at night. Tyramine causes the release of norepinephrine, a brain stimulant.
If you get the munchies close to bedtime, eat something that triggers the hormone serotonin, which makes you sleepy. Carbohydrates such as bread, cereal or fruit will do the trick.
Milk contains a sleep promoting substance called Tryptophan. The so-called 'old wives' tale' of drinking a cup of hot milk laced with honey before bed, is actually true. It does help you sleep. (The milk must not be boiled though, as it loses its sleep-inducing properties).
Exercise Regularly – but not Before bed
Regular, moderate exercise is a great way to improve your sleep. Just be careful not to do it close to bedtime as exercise produces stimulants that stop the brain from relaxing quickly. You should avoid exercise within 4 – 6 hours of bedtime.
Since exercise produces stimulants, exercising in the morning is an excellent way to wake up the body. Going for a run, swim, paddle or doing some other aerobic exercise releases stimulants into the body, which perks you up.
Create a Calm Bedroom Environment
Your bedroom should be for sleep (and sex) only. Avoid turning it into an entertainment centre with televisions, stereos and devices.
It is important that you have a comfortable bed – with a good quality mattress.
Make sure you are warm or cool enough to sleep - make use of temperature regulators like electric blankets, hot water bottles, fans and air-conditioning to ensure you are at a comfortable temperature for YOU. Being cooler is better than warmer.
The room should be dark – invest in curtains or blinds which block out the light, especially if you live in an area where the sun rises early (or doesn't go down).
The room should be quiet. Use ear plugs for noise problems or create 'white noise' (for example, an overhead fan) if that helps.
For more tips to ensure quality sleep read my article Insomnia
If you are struggling with anxiety, you might like to read my article Axe Anxiety for information on anxiety disorders and what you can do to manage them.
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You may have been forwarded this email by a friend. In that case, allow me to introduce myself. I am a psychologist, speaker, trainer, coach and hat lover based in Kloof, a suburb of Durban, South Africa. I also do online counselling and coaching and I have clients all over the world.
On my website you'll find lots of free articles, posters and worksheets. I have written and created them all with the intention of helping you find your inner winner. Read, them use them, share them!
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