“I’m tired!” A common complaint from children and adults. We can all empathise. We know how hard it is to get through the day when you don't get enough sleep. So today I want to say a bit about sleep. I’m going to talk about how much sleep we should get, how to improve our sleep quality and quantity, tell you about a technique that helps if you are kept awake by worries, and some information about relaxation.
The thing is that people worry about sleep a lot when they can't sleep because it affects so much in their lives. It affects their mood, their anxiety, the way they can, or can’t, hold their temper. It can affect relationships and the ability to work. It can then also affect financial health, as well as physical and emotional health.
I remember one client who had such poor sleep I requested that his GP sign him off work because he was a butcher and worked with very sharp knives. There was a very real risk to his well-being!
So, sleep is such a big issue for a lot of people. We all need sleep, and we notice when we don't get it. But how much do we need?
I bet you said eight hours. It's what we've been told, isn't it?
Did you know we actually need less sleep the older we get? Babies and toddlers need between 12 and 17 hours. Children and teens need around 9 to 13 hours. Adults can need between seven and nine hours but the older we get, the less we need. And some people can manage to survive on just 4 hours a night. It's very individual. It can depend on how much energy you exert during the day as well. So, someone who has a sedentary lifestyle might not need as much sleep as a very active person. We are all individuals, so it's best not to compare ourselves to anybody else.
There are several types of sleep issues. We may have a problem getting off to sleep. We may have a problem waking up in the night. We may wake up too early in the morning. Or we may suffer a combination.
And it’s not always about the number of hours we have slept, or not slept! Sometimes it can be more about the quality of our slumber. Getting deep, restful, restorative sleep is just as important.
Whatever the issue, there are some guidelines that can help some people to improve the amount or quality of their sleep.
Wake up at the same time every day.
Get some daylight before 9:00 AM.
Exercise throughout the day.
Make sure your mattress, pillows, and bed linen are all comfortable and clean.
Prepare an hour before you intend to go to bed. Have a relaxing bath. Read a book. Turn the lights down low. (As you would for a young child)
Make the bedroom dark, quiet and not too warm. (Use blackout blinds, an eye mask or ear plugs, if necessary).
Go to bed at about the same time each night, but only when you feel sleepy.
Do not have a lay in, even if you've had a bad night's sleep.
Avoid any stimulants (smoking, caffeine, recreational drugs)
Do not nap in the daytime.
Avoid exercise for at least four hours before bedtime.
Avoid eating a big meal too close to bedtime.
Avoid looking at screens such as the TV, computer, smart phones, and tablets, at least an hour before bed.
If there are medical or mental health conditions that are affecting your quality or amount of sleep it is always a good idea to seek support for them first.
One of the things that causes lots of restless nights is worry. Either not being able to switch off the what ifs when our head hits the pillow or listing all the activities and appointments for the whole household for the rest of the week at 3:30am when lying awake, frustrated with the lack of calm.
Although it would be lovely to be able to switch off our brains at night, they have a lot of work they need to do. So instead, we can help them out by spending a few minutes, a couple of hours before we go to bed, writing down what's in our head. Just noting it down. Not censoring it. Not trying to do anything with it, just getting it out and down on paper. This allows your brain to know that something has been done with it. Then if you should think about those things again in the night you can tell yourself that you've made a note of it and can come back to it later. Then bring your attention to the feel of the bed clothes against your skin.
Another good strategy is to learn relaxation techniques. These can help induce a better night's sleep so that we can face the next day a little bit brighter and more equipped to deal with whatever comes our way. If you would like to learn a scientifically proven way to reduce stress, increase the relaxation response in your body and relieve physical tension, then the Relax Your Body, Relax Your Mind FREE webinar is just for you. Click HERE for details.