Depression, anxiety and stress can result in poor sleep, and poor sleep can result in depression, anxiety and stress.
So whichever way you look at it, getting a good nights sleep is vital for our well being.
I know for myself, life just feels so much lighter and more joyful when I’ve had at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
But what if you can’t get to sleep at night? Or you wake up at 2am every morning and can’t get back to sleep? Let me share some ideas about improving your chances of getting a good nights sleep.
Here are some things I recommend cutting back on…..
- Caffeine, nicotine and processed sugar – try giving these up altogether, it can make an amazing difference, but if it feels too hard, try cutting out after midday
- Alcohol - again, if this feels too hard, just stop drinking a few hours before bed, and resist the temptation to drink yourself to sleep
- TV, computer, iPad just before bed – give yourself at least an hour without screen time before you head off to bed
- Work or study just before bed – again, give yourself at least an hour without this before going to bed
- Sleeping medication - if you must use medication, try using it for just a couple of nights to break the poor sleeping routines. Also, be aware that some medications (including some antidepressants) can cause sleep disturbance.
- Sleeping in the day – see if you can stop doing this completely as it can throw out your natural circadian rhythm (unless you have a baby who is keeping you up at night, in this case, sleep whenever you can!). If you need a rest in the day, try a relaxation meditation like this deep mindful yogic relaxation practice instead.
- Watching the clock in bed – you might like to get rid of your clock altogether, or perhaps just face it away from you in bed
- Telling yourself 'go to sleep right now' – it just doesn’t work! To get to sleep we need to relax the brain, not give it orders. Let the conscious mind take a break and allow the unconscious mind (the part of your mind that keeps your heart beating and your lungs breathing, even when you're asleep) to take over. Say to yourself 'I've done everything I can today. Now it's time to relax, switch off and let go.'
- Berating yourself for not sleeping - be kind and nurturing to yourself! Treat yourself like you would treat a partner or child who was having trouble sleeping.
Here’s some great things you can do to promote good sleep…..
- Make your bedroom a calm and nurturing space (so clean up your bedroom and get rid of any clutter), and only use your bedroom for sleep and sex (this will strengthen the association between your bed and sleeping)
- Get up at the same time every morning, regardless of the amount of sleep you had the previous night (in Ayurveda, they recommend getting up before 6am)
- Only go to bed when you're actually sleepy - mild sleep deprivation results in a more rapid and efficient sleep
- Practice yoga asana and/or exercise every day – try exercising 5-6 hours before bed, but not closer than 3 hours
- Avoid noise – so if your partner snores, turns, kicks or talks in their sleep consider sleeping in separate beds for a while or wearing earplugs (this can actually be great for your relationship, as if you’re sleeping well you’ll feel more loving and less likely to feel resentment that they’re keeping you awake at night)
- Find a comfortable sleeping temperature for your bedroom - 15-20 degrees (celcius) is considered ideal
- Avoid large meals close to bed time - only eat a light snack before bed if you are hungry
- If you have a tendency to lie awake thinking about all the things you need to do the next day, try writing your to do list before getting to bed (getting it down on paper can help to get it out of your head)
- Practice relaxation during the day like my deep mindful yogic relaxation – you’ll get really great at deeply relaxing and your baseline stress levels will gradually be reduced, both of which will help you drift off to sleep more easily
- Get happy - you're more likely to be able to sleep when you're happy. Make changes in your life to increase your happiness. Spend time doing things you enjoy. Make an appointment to come and see me for counselling if you’d like some help with this.
- Turning the lights down low, perhaps burning a candle
- Playing some calming music and/or burning calming essential oils
- Drink some calming herbal tea
- Slowly and mindfully brush your teeth and change into your pyjamas
- Listen to my Blissful Sleep Meditation to help you calm the body, the nervous system and the mind, and to easily transition from waking to sleeping
- Create a night time ritual that works for you
- Close your eyes, and become conscious of the warmth and the heaviness of your body, and your body breathing naturally and rhythmically – this helps to sink into a deeply relaxed state
- Remember that resting peacefully is almost as restorative as sleep – so don’t worry if you have problems getting or staying asleep. Try saying to yourself 'I'm just going to lie here peacefully and relax, if sleep comes that would be nice, but if it doesn't that's ok because resting is almost as restorative as sleep anyway.'
- If you’re having trouble resting peacefully, play my Blissful Sleep Meditation again (if you’re lying awake thinking, try the thoughts version)
Worrying about lack of sleep is a vicious cycle. The more you worry, the less likely you are to sleep, and the more likely you are to continue worrying. Worrying about sleep will most likely reduce your amount of sleep. And remember that the majority of things we worry about never happen (some people say 90%!). On the rare occasion that they do, we somehow manage to deal with them. Try saying to yourself 'whatever happens, I can deal with it.'
Some people believe that they will go crazy or have a nervous breakdown if they don't get enough sleep. This is simply not true. Sleep deprivation experiments were carried out on medical students where they were not permitted to sleep more than one hour per night for a month or more. None of them went crazy or had a nervous break down. If you start worrying about this, try telling yourself 'I may be tired tomorrow if I don't get enough sleep, but there's no way I'll go crazy.'
It is perfectly normal to wake during the night. Most people wake up once or twice, to go to the bathroom or just turn over, and then they go back to sleep. Instead of worrying when you wake up during the night, try saying to yourself 'it's perfectly normal to wake up during the night, I'll just go back to sleep now' or' it's not time for me to get up yet, I still have a few hours left to sleep.' If sleep doesn't come, just rest and relax (remember this is almost as restorative as sleep anyway).
But first and foremost, go gently! Be kind to yourself. Find out what works for you. All these are just suggestions, try them all, or just try one or two. Ultimately YOU are the expert on yourself. So listen to your intuition, and you can't go wrong.