Been feeling tired, run-down, low on energy, wanting to sleep at the drop of a hat but have trouble doing so? If you’ve clicked on this blog post, my guess is that you’re probably experiencing sleep problems such as insomnia and probably feeling pretty over your insomnia preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep. Whether you’ve been having sleep problems like trouble falling or staying asleep (insomnia) for years, or they have only just started, this information will provide you with many strategies that you can start doing straight away to start improving your sleep.
If you’ve been having a fairly ordinary sleep, you are certainly not alone; many people of all ages have trouble with sleep including insomnia from time to time throughout their life. In fact, our Gold Coast Psychologist sees many clients experiencing sleep problems. And if I can say so myself, as I write this article about poor sleep on the plane, I had a not the best sleep last night, thinking all about my trip to the Amazon Jungle I was about to embark on the next morning that I have admittedly been feeling kind of nervous about! Yes, even psychologists can get nervous at times too!
Commonly, sleep problems such as insomnia will generally be characterised by any of the following: trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep in the middle of the night with 1+ mid-awakenings, or waking up earlier than what you want not due to alarm. Getting to sleep for the first time and getting back to sleep after mid-awakening could take you anywhere from 30 minutes to hours. Or if you’re like some other people, your sleep problems might be having weird dreams or nightmares.
If the sleep problems are not because of some sort of medical condition (for which there are several that can affect sleep, like sleep apnoea, acute or chronic physical pain, thyroid issues, medication issues amongst others), chances are that your sleep problems are because of the activity in your mind!
Anxiety, worry about the things in the future that haven’t happened yet, stress about things like work, money, relationships etc, depression, ruminating about things from the past that have already happened, low self-esteem thinking about all the ways you can beat yourself up and be hard on yourself. These are all the sorts of things, plus more, that can run through your mind when you’re trying to sleep! You want to sleep, but your mind doesn’t! Now that can get exhausting. If you’ve been having sleep problems including insomnia for a little while now, you may have found that you’ve upped your intake of caffeine like coffee and energy drinks, or started taking drugs such as S to help you to fall asleep, or taking drugs such as Cannabis/Marijuana, or alcohol to help you to get some sleep.
So if you’re wanting a better night’s sleep, it is important to make sure that you’re trying these strategies to get on top of sleep issues and insomnia. All of these strategies are about helping to calm and relax not only your mind, but also your body. If your mind is not relaxed, your body is not going to be relaxed, and if your body is not relaxed, your mind is not going to be relaxed.
Here are 8 useful strategies to beat insomnia and get a better night’s sleep
1. Practice Yoga regularly. Yoga is not just for females, or males who are ‘feminine’. Yoga is perfect for everybody of all ages as it can be modified by your yoga teacher to suit any physical ability level. Yoga is a mindfulness (presence – focusing on the here and now, rather than being caught up on your thoughts) based activity. It is also relaxing and detoxing on the body, including balancing all of your energy centres. Yoga is a great way to calm both the mind and the body.
2. Practice Meditation daily. The benefits of Meditation are similar to yoga, without the muscle movements. To keep it simple, Meditation is about focusing on the breath, and bringing your awareness back to your breath whenever your mind wanders off. This helps to calm your mind and relax your body as it is hard to stress and worry and feel bad about yourself when you’re focusing on your breath! Meditation can also help you to cleanse your energy centres in your body which helps feel better within the mind and the body.
3. Drink enough water. When we’re worried or stressed, we tend to become more dehydrated due to increased flight or fight response and depletion of magnesium. Both dehydration and low magnesium levels create more stress on the nervous system which will make it harder for you to relax your body and your mind to get a good night’s sleep.
4. Have a night routine. Our body and mind can become conditioned. It is really important that you train your body and your mind to be in a relaxed state when it comes to evening time, rather than in a stressed state. Things that can condition for body for stress at night include such activities and environments of an evening time: arguments and conflict, loud TV, watching the News or trauma on TV, stressing about finances and bills, bright lights especially synthetic lights, among others. Instead, eliminate these and include the following instead: dimmed lighting an/or candles, herbal teas for sleep, relaxing music, relaxing book reading, burning essential oils or incense, soothing shower/bath, gentle self-massage.
5. Progressive Muscle Relaxation. This bedtime exercise is a great way to help relax the body to induce sleep. This involves going through tensing and relaxing every major muscle group in your body from feet to head. Tense these muscles for 5 seconds, and then release.
6. Break worry. If a busy mind or worry is something that keeps you can getting to sleep, get out of bed straight away if you think that there is no way that you will get to sleep anytime soon. Go and sit somewhere quiet and dim in the house and
do something non-stimulating like looking at patterns around you, then only when you feel tired enough to get to sleep, go back to bed. If you find that there’s a chance you could sleep, get out of bed until it has been about 20 minutes and you’re not asleep yet and do the same thing. This will help to train your brain to not worry in bed.
7. Stop worrying about your sleep. If you’re like most people, once you start to realise that you’re not going to get to sleep too easily that night, you’ll start to worry about how long it’s going to be before you finally get to sleep, about how tired you’re going to be for tomorrow, and whether or not you’ll actually wake up in time and not be late for work. If this sounds like you, practice awareness of these thoughts acknowledging that these thoughts will only make you feel more worried and stressed which will then make it even harder for you to get to sleep. Instead, reframe the thoughts with statements like “My body will become tired and ready for to fall asleep when it is ready to”, “ I might feel a bit tired tomorrow, but I’ve had a poor night’s sleep before and got through it”.
8. Practice Heart breathing. As explained earlier, focusing on your breath is a great way to calm the body and the mind, and Heart breathing is a wonderful way to make you feel really calm and relaxed quickly as the heart is very powerful. To do this, place your hand on your heart, and breathe into your heart space (even though the air is going into your lungs) for 6 seconds while drawing love and appreciation into your heart, and then breathe out for 6 seconds. Keep doing this until you start to feel drowsy and fall asleep.
Sleep problems are commonly treated within our practice, and often times there are underlying issues contributing to the sleep problems like a depression, anxiety disorder, PTSD amongst other psychological difficulties which are important that they are also addressed to better help improve your sleep.
Ashley Gilmour, Clinical Psychologist and Principal of Vitality Unleashed Psychology has extensive experience in helping people to improve their sleep problems. If you’re tired of being tired and feel like you need some help with getting on top of your sleep issues and getting back to Vitality, contact us today about how Ashley can help you with getting a better sleep.
Still struggling with sleep problems? Call us today! on 07 55743888 or email [email protected] to make an enquiry or book an appointment with our Gold Coast Psychologist who will be able to assess the underlying issues of your sleep issues and provide you specific and tailored strategies to improve your sleep.
Or book an appointment online now using our secure online booking system available 24/7!Book Online