Home Health & Wellness World Sleep Day: Sleep Well, Feel Well

World Sleep Day: Sleep Well, Feel Well

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Do you engage in revenge “bedtime procrastination”? Staying up too late just to get some time to yourself. Or do you feel tired all day and, as soon as your head hits the pillow, you’re wide awake?

We know that getting the right amount of sleep is vital to good mental health, but for so many people, it’s elusive, frustrating, and has a negative impact on all areas of their lives.

Our public perceptions survey found that 24% of people going to counselling for the first time said it was due to sleep issues.

Our member and integrated therapist, Abby Rawlinson said, “Many of my clients say they’ve had difficulty falling and staying asleep. They also say they wake up feeling tired and fatigued all day.”

For World Sleep Day, our members have shared advice, tips, and their own experiences with sleep problems and solutions.

Bedtime is not a punishment 

It’s important to not see bedtime as a punishment, says our member Eve Menezes Cunningham, author of 365 Ways to Feel Better: Self-care Ideas for Embodied Well-being and preaching about “sleep hygiene” can put people off a sensible sleep routine.

“Whatever self-care practices you use to support your sleep, remind yourself that you deserve good (or even slightly better) sleep. If you have any resistance to even the term ‘sleep hygiene’, making your routine as cosy and enjoyable as possible will help you sustain them.”

“But recognising the direct impact of sleep in terms of potentially improving quality of life for people with a range of mental health conditions (as well as different seasons of life, including menopause and perimenopause), can also help motivate people to take those steps.”

Eve suggests taking a gentler tone: “I tell myself, instead of a bossy go to bed (even at the age of 48, even when it’s me telling myself, it brings out a toddler response of ‘No! I don’t want to!’ Now I say, ‘Are you ready to go to bed now?'”

Try to keep regular bedtimes and mornings

“Set up a bedtime routine and start this routine at least 30 minutes before you want to go to bed,” suggests our member, Amanda Macdonald. “Even if sleep has been elusive the night before, get up in the morning when the alarm goes off. This helps your body clock learn the routine.”

Abby adds, “Be mindful of what you eat and drink. Heavy meals, alcohol, caffeine, and excessive fluids close to bedtime can cause discomfort and disruptions during the night.”

Eve recommends “eating earlier where possible to allow your body to take advantage of ‘rest and digest’ (when our nervous system feels safe and relaxed).

“I’ve got a ‘stop work’’ reminder on my phone for 9pm each night and then a bedtime reminder set for 11pm.

“I aim to be done with everything and ready to turn my light off by midnight but… I’m human; I don’t always take the best advice! It’s important to give yourself a break, as it’s not always possible to follow the rules.”

Wind down your way

“Even if it feels impossible, ask yourself what kind of wind-down routine you’d enjoy in an ideal world,” says Eve. “Trying to incorporate all the sleep hygiene recommendations at once is as futile and disheartening as trying to run a long distance when you haven’t even jogged a short distance for years.”

Eve uses lower lighting and scent (currently a lavender balm) for a few hours in her bedroom in advance and some sleep yoga (a short sequence designed to support better sleep).

Abby recommends creating a relaxing bedtime routine: “Develop a calming bedtime routine to signal to your body that it’s time to wind down. This may include activities like reading, taking a warm bath, or practising relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation.”

“Don’t use devices once your bedtime routine has started; instead, use this time to wind down”, adds Amanda. “The routine of getting ready tells our body and our mind that the day is done and we are preparing for sleep.

Make a sleeping nest

Abby suggests optimising your sleep environment: “Keep it nice and cool. Invest in a supportive mattress and pillows for ultimate comfort.

“You should also manage the light exposure in your bedroom. Our natural sleep patterns evolved with exposure to bright light during the day and darkness at night, guided by moonlight and fire.

“Today’s environment disrupts this rhythm: we’re often confined to windowless spaces by day and glued to bright screens at night.

“To reclaim restful sleep, prioritise natural light exposure early in the day. Open blinds upon waking and walk outdoors during the day. Create a dark sleep environment with eye masks or blackout blinds.”

Amanda says the bedroom, where possible, should be a place associated with bedtime. “Try not to use the bed as somewhere to work during the day.”

Keep a note pad nearby

Eve likes to write her thoughts down to clear her mind. “I keep index cards by the bed for me to jot down late-night thoughts without feeling as compelled to act on them immediately.”

Amanda agrees, “Once you’re in bed, if your mind is whizzing away, then write down anything that feels like it is hanging over from the day, filing it away to be revisited in the morning.

“Try relaxation techniques such as mindfulness, breathing exercises, or meditation if you find yourself lying in bed but unable to sleep.”

Don’t blame yourself

Eve says she knows all the rules but when she doesn’t manage to follow them, she doesn’t blame herself and accepts that you can’t always get it right.

“Stop blaming yourself for not getting to bed at an earlier hour and recognise that getting to bed on time isn’t a personal failing when we all live in a world in which overwork and ‘go go go’ are valued,” says Eve.

“We need to consciously bring our nervous system back down with rest and breaks through the day to support winding down enough at bedtime to sleep.”

Amanda agrees that our actions throughout the day will impact how we sleep. “So eat well, get fresh air and exercise, and avoid caffeine towards the end of the day. Work out what helps you relax and sleep and prioritise keeping that routine going as much as you can.”

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