Tips to get a better night’s sleep
Doubts can unhelpfully keep us awake at night, fuelling further tiredness and worries. Here are some top tips from the Sleep School on how to keep your doubts in check and sleep soundly at night.
Control the controllable
When faced with nagging doubts it can help to focus your attention onto fixing the things you can control, rather than worrying about the stuff you can’t. Make a list of all the small things you can do that’ll help to address your doubts and start ticking them off one by one. Taking positive action in this way will help you to solve your problems and feel more relaxed.
Learn to let go of your concerns
If you’ve done everything that you can possibly do and your mind is still overwhelmed with worries, learning how to let them go can be helpful. Mindfulness is a tool that allows you to notice your worries and release them. Practice by focusing your attention onto the movement of your breath. If your mind wanders off onto a thought, consciously return your attention back to your breath. Scientific research has shown that regular daily practice can actually reduce the size of your amygdala, the part of your brain responsible for worry.
Exercise triggers the release of endorphins, the so called happy hormones which aid mental and physical relaxation, helping us to achieve a calmer state of mind and more restful deep sleep. Aim to do exercise you enjoy, ideally outside and get friends and family involved too. Avoid exercising too close to bedtime though as this can prevent the drop in core body temperature needed for good quality sleep. Ideally you should allow two hours between exercise and going to bed.
A problem shared
Get into the habit of talking about your worries with your partner, family or friends. Scientists have recently discovered that the act of verbally telling someone about your problems moves us into the more rational part of the brain and out of the stressor part, proving that a problem shared really is a problem halved.
Keep your sleep regular
Going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time, including during the weekends, helps to keep your internal body clock on time allowing you to fall to sleep quicker and more deeply.
Avoid blue light
Looking at your phone, tablet or laptop before bed increases the release of the waking hormone, cortisol, meaning you’ll be more alert so it will take longer for you to fall asleep. Make a habit of switching off all your devices at least 30 minutes before bed to help improve the quality of your sleep.
Stay in bed
If you find yourself awake at night with a head full of worries, stay in bed and conserve your energy by lying still and focusing on being calm and relaxed. Practicing mindfulness at this time will help you to let go of your doubts and move you closer to sleep.
Make sleep a priority
Live a healthy lifestyle. Limit yourself to two to three caffeinated drinks daily and swap to herbal alternatives from 2pm. Limit alcohol consumption, especially close to bedtime and leave at least two hours between eating dinner and sleeping.
Have a comfortable bedroom
Aim to sleep in a cool, comfortable, quiet and dark bedroom. Turn off the central heating, get a mattress that fits your comfort needs, block out noise (use ear plugs if needed) and install black-out blinds to help create your perfect sleeping environment.
Label your worries
One easy way to stop the anxiety is to give each worrisome thought a distinct nickname or label - such as ‘money’, ‘health’ or ‘relationship’. If a thought then arrives in your mind you can quickly say “thanks mind for the ‘Money’ thought” before redirecting your attention back onto whatever you were doing. Doing so is proven to help you gain perspective on your problems, reduce anxiety levels and save valuable mental energy for more important tasks.