We continue with our blog series, ‘Dear Friend…’ where volunteer and blogger Kara will be answering some of the mental health and wellbeing questions we have during this challenging time.
‘I am having a lot of trouble getting to sleep, and wake up a few times in the night. It’s having a real impact on my mood and day-to-day living. Do you have any tips to get a better night’s sleep?’
Many of us are struggling to get a good night’s sleep and sleep issues do go hand in hand with mental health problems; either as a stressor or a symptom so in the current emotional climate of lockdown stress it’s no wonder that sleep problems are becoming ‘a nightmare’!
Interestingly there are over 70 different recognised sleep disorders, they are more prevalent in people who do have a mental health issue and in addition to this sleep deprivation can worsen the symptoms of mental health so it’s wise to look into ways to combat the problem.
Here are some tips to help:
- Look at your pre-sleep routine
What happens in that hour or two before bed? Is there anything there that isn’t conducive to relaxation or sleep?
An ideal soothing pre sleep routine would be a milky/herbal drink avoiding caffeine if possible, reading or a colour by numbers book, perhaps a journal entry to put a line under your day. A warm bath could be soothing, an exciting electronic game wouldn’t be! Build it around you.
- Tackle stress
The main issue for many of us during this lockdown period is stress, of course stress really hinders sleep so it’s particularly important to be tackling stress in a general sense. Our Second Step website and YouTube channel have many resources for dealing with stress as a separate issue to sleep, so do take a look around. We also have a really useful session featuring Sophie S with personal sleep hygiene tips https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVkBJwAIXXw.
If stress is the main problem, there are quite a few ways to manage it to ensure it stops affecting your sleep.
- Try a breathing technique, meditation, or a binaural or natural sounds YouTube video.
inaural sleep music – https://youtu.be/MM33sZXZLHQ
Gentle sleep music https://youtu.be/1ZYbU82GVz4
Natural sounds https://youtu.be/f77SKdyn-1Y .
- ‘Park the worry’ – either putting aside a worry time earlier in the day, letting yourself explore the thoughts thoroughly but for a limited time. Or use Sophie’s technique of the notebook by the bed, writing down the intrusive thoughts and then leaving them in the notebook for solving in the morning.
- Try the progressive muscle relaxation technique, simple but effective. Click here to learn how https://psychcentral.com/lib/progressive-muscle-relaxation/.
- Help to build a good sleep pattern
Other factors that can help you build good sleep patterns include…
- Exercising in the day.
- Making sure you have had enough daylight.
- Bed is for sleep/sex only. Don’t work or watch tv in it.
- Get up if you aren’t asleep in 30 min and do something else. Repeat your sleep routine or do a gentle relaxing activity.
- Keep lights dim and noise to a minimum.
- No electronics in the bedroom, use an alarm clock rather than your phone.
- Learn the autogenic technique, click here for a meditation using this technique https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6jrkbgb9os
- Stick to a daily schedule – a time to get up and go to bed, scheduling meals and periods of activity throughout the day.
One final note, if there are times that nothing seems to work, try not to add to your stress worrying about not sleeping as it won’t help the situation. Try scheduling an appointment with your GP for further support.