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Strategies to Support Sleep

    Strategies to Support Sleep

    WHAT IS SLEEP HYGIENE?

    Sleep hygiene is the term used to describe good habits and environment that supports sleep. Getting a good night rest is more within your control than you might think and is important for physical and mental health and functioning. Following these healthy sleep habits may make a difference between a restful and restless slumber.

    STRATEGIES

    Maintain a consistent sleep wake routine

    Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each day. Give or take 20 minutes, even on weekends. This creates a sleep framework which sets the body’s internal clock to expect rest at a certain time each day. Even if you have not slept well, try not to sleep more than 20 minutes past your usual wake up time.

    Choose sleep friendly food

    Spicy foods, large meals, citrus, and fatty fried foods are tough on the digestive system and can play havoc with getting your 40 winks. It takes approximately 3 – 4 hours for your stomach to empty so eating dinner (and dessert) earlier is best.

    Create a sleep supportive pre-bed routine

    Get into sleep mode with a warm bath, reading a book or magazine, colouring in, meditating, enjoying a herbal tea, listening to nature or sleep-casts, or any other relaxing activity an hour before bed time.

    Avoid caffeine

    As we all know, caffeine is a stimulant that can keep you awake. Caffeine is found in products such as coffee, tea, cola, energy drinks, some pain killers, and chocolate so avoid these for at least six hours before bed.

    Unplug

    Sleep and screens are not compatible. Limit the amount of time spent watching television or looking at your phone as the light disrupts your body clock and videos, social media, games etc are all designed to keep your mind active. If you need your phone for the alarm, set to ‘do not disturb’ or ‘night time’ mode to block vibrations and sounds during the night and keep it face down on the nightstand so you cannot see the lights.

    No nightcap

    While alcohol can make you feel sleepy initially, after a few hours it interferes with sleep causing restlessness, waking up, and decreases the quality of sleep later in the night. Alcohol messes with what is called sleep architecture which is the natural flow of sleep through the different stages such as light, deep, and REM. Therefore, try and limit your intake and avoid drinking a few hours before bed.

    Get regular exercise

    Engaging in exercise regularly helps both the quality and quantity of sleep. Being physically active during the day leads to deeper more restorative sleep. However, because exercise is stimulating, exercising right before bed is not ideal. Rather, it is best to exercise in the morning or afternoon allowing at least 3 hours before bedtime.

    Be realistic

    It is important to accept that having perfect night sleep every night is not realistic or normal (if you do, great!). Having restless night sleeps from time to time is going to happen. You might be sick, sleeping on an uncomfortable mattress, going through a life transition, a parent or expecting, ruminating on something, etc. Be kind to yourself and expect imperfect.

    If you are counting sheep

    If you find yourself laying in bed unable to fall asleep, try getting up and going into another room. The reason for this is to break (or not create) the association of the bed and sleep time with frustration and worry. Try engaging in a relaxing activity until you are ready to go to sleep.

    Use your bed for sleep and sex only

    This means, no lounging, napping, watching television, eating, internet browsing, telephone calls, or major conversations with your partner. By doing this you train your mind to associate the bed with your place of sleep and rest.

    A word on naps

    Many people rave about power naps; that is the 20 minute naps that famous people such as Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill did and some companies have embraced with workplace nap rooms. However, these naps may mean you are not tired during the evening and ultimately will leave you going to bed later impacting on your sleep.

    Consider your environment

    A quiet, dark, and cool bedroom can help with getting restful sleep. Earplugs and white noise devices can help with the volume of outside noise, block out blinds or an eye mask can help block light, and using fans or air-conditioning can help keep a comfortable temperature. Rather than having one thick blanket, layering with lighter blankets can also help regulate temperature.

    Create comfort

    We spend a great deal of time lying in our beds, hopefully asleep. Investing in a quality mattress, good pillows, and breathable high quality sheets can promote a decent slumber.

    If you are prone to manic episodes

    A lack of sleep or disturbed sleep can be a warning sign for and a part of mental health relapse. It is important in this instance to note other early warning signs of relapse and speak to your health professional.

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