Each week of the course has featured handouts, which often include material not covered in the course. This week’s handout had a section on sleeping well.
Stress is a great thief of restful sleep. There’s nothing like the dark quiet of 3am to leave anxious thoughts whirring around your brain, when you’re too tired to give them any perspective!
Sleep problems can manifest in various ways, from difficulties getting to sleep, to waking during the night, to waking up early or feeling unrested. Stress, illness, pain can all cause sleep problems, as can overeating, alcohol or caffeine, lack of exercise, or a change in routine.
Advice – as well as trying any of the previously covered relaxation techniques (one I haven’t mentioned yet: to stop the repetitive whirr of unresolvable issues, try counting backwards from 500) – includes:
- develop a relaxation routine for before bed, be that a hot bath, reading a novel, or some meditation, etc.
- the stretch-relax routine is a good one before sleep, as well as ‘saving’ the other kinds of relaxation for non-sleep times.
- avoid intense discussions or arguments before bed
- don’t fret about not sleeping! This can be worse than the not sleeping itself. Even just relaxing – awake – is better. Accept that some days you will be tired, and know that you can cope with the occasional one of those. You might want to try doing something relaxing if you really can’t sleep – a jigsaw, or watching (non-action-packed!) tv, or reading or just anything you want to get done. That way at least the time isn’t wholly wasted, and that might help you relax a bit more about not sleeping.
- avoid naps – they will upset your sleep rhythm
- try getting up at the same time every day, including weekends and after nights when you haven’t slept well
- if your brain is really whirring with anxiety, don’t just lie there – get up and go to a different room. Something like journalling might help calm your mind.
- get enough exercise in general, perhaps some light exercise in the early evening
- leave yourself at least 90 minutes of ‘wind down’ time before bed – do only undemanding (mentally and physically) during this time
- [it’s usually recommended that you also switch off electronics during the period before bed, too – and try not to keep any in your bedroom]
- even if you can’t sleep, try to enjoy relaxing.