What is so important about sleep?
Sleep is known to be incredibly important for people’s health and functioning, despite this the process of sleep is still a relative mystery. The most prominent theory is that during sleep our brains are ‘cleaned’ (BBC, 2015). Without sleep our bodies and our minds begin to suffer.
Symptoms of sleep deprivation include:
- Memory difficulties
- Feeling more hungry than usual
- Becoming physically unwell more frequently
- Low mood
- Difficulties concentrating
Newborn babies sleep the highest number of hours per day and generally people need less sleep as they age. Most adults need between seven and nine hours per night, meaning many adults in the UK may be sleep deprived.
What is good sleep hygiene?
Sleep hygiene is a term used to describe the behaviours that we can engage in to ensure that our bodies and minds are best prepared for sleep. For minor or short-term sleep problems, try engaging in the following strategies:
- Prepare your bedroom for sleep, ensure an appropriate temperature and avoid working in your bedroom
- Invest in comfortable bedding, pillows and a quality mattress
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and other substances for several hours before you go to bed. Alcohol can appear to aid sleep, however, it results in sleep of a lower quality
- Avoid napping, especially during the evening
- Eat healthily. Avoid heavy meals for several hours before bed
- Engage in moderate exercise, such as a fast walk or cycle, a few hours before bedtime
- Write down any worries or tasks you need to remember before getting into bed. This can help clear your mind
- Establish a bedtime routine that calms you. This should include avoiding all technology for at least an hour before getting into bed. Try having a bath or reading a book instead. Complete the same tasks in the same order each night to cue your mind into knowing it is time for sleep
- Try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day. While weekend lie-ins may feel beneficial they can disrupt your overall sleep routine
- Don’t try to force yourself to sleep. Don’t watch the clock but if you feel you have been trying to sleep for more than fifteen minutes then get out of bed. Engage in a relaxing activity, such as reading, in another room until you feel tired
When to seek help for sleep problems
If you have been experiencing problems sleeping and are struggling to resolve these by following good sleep hygiene rules then it may be time to seek help. At Morency, therapists will be able to assess your sleep difficulties and then, depending on your difficulty, help you to:
- Perfect your sleep hygiene and bedtime routine
- Develop a plan which prioritises sleep quality over the amount of time you spend in bed
- Consider the cause of your sleep difficulties, particularly whether anxiety or stress is causing your problem
- Address any underlying anxiety or stress concerns
BBC (2015). Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-32606341