Trouble sleeping? Part 2

If you have problems staying asleep…

If you wake up in the middle of the night and you can’t drift back to sleep after about 20 minutes, get out of bed and do a quiet, relaxing activity like stretching, reading or doing crossword puzzles. Staring at the ceiling will not help and just leads to excess frustration and a negative cycle of thoughts which maintain your lack of sleep.

If you wake up worrying about a particular problem then take your pen and paper and write, just allow yourself to write anything that comes into your head, it may not provide the solution immediately but if its all out on paper your anxiety should be reduced, just keep writing until you have run out of thoughts.

If you wake up in a panic, perhaps from a bad dream a wonderful affirmation to recite to yourself is I am safe and I am protected. Dreams cannot hurt you but in those first few seconds of wakefulness they can appear to be very real and the fear can be overwhelming.

Avoid having any electronics turned on in your bedroom such as ipads or iphones the blue light emitted can disrupt sleep.

If you regularly wake up in the middle of the night and cannot get back to sleep please contact your GP and discuss this with them, there may be a medical reason for this e.g. sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome or chronic pain which will need investigating and specialist treatment.

I sleep ok, but I am waking up exhausted, I feel like I haven’t had any rest at all?

There are a variety of causes of this type of problem, ranging from sleep apnea to too many dreams and your brain not shutting off due to heightened levels of stress. Most commonly though I would associate this type of unrefreshing sleep which is essentially a light sleep that, even after a full night, doesn’t leave you rested with ME/CFS and fibromyalgia, or chronic pain conditions where restorative sleep simply eludes sufferers, they often report waking up exhausted and feeling as if they haven’t slept at all — no matter how long they were actually asleep. The consequences of unrefreshing sleep go beyond mere tiredness. These include unrelenting fatigue, daytime sleepiness, poor concentration and other  cognitive impairment  (brain fog), increased sensitivity to pain (hyperalgesia) and general disability. Once again I would recommend seeking medical advice to discover the underlying cause before discussing treatment for this.

Having difficulty getting to sleep? Change your habits…..

Firstly and I know this may seem obvious but do not go to bed until you feel sleepy. If yu are not tired then al that will happen is that you toss and turn, and become anxious about the fact you can’t get to sleep. If you wait until you are tired, that pleasant kind of snoozy feeling then go to bed you will be far more likely to drift off and have restorative sleep. This may take practice especially if you have a routine already and you are concerned that staying up late may make you feel worse, but on balance spending hours laying in bed staring at the ceiling and becoming fretful is just as debilitating.

Get into a routine….

Try to use the hour before going to bed to
unwind and prepare for sleep. In the same way that you would not expect a child to go straight from an exciting game to bed, most adults need to wind down. For a child, a bedtime routine helps with the winding down process, for example, bathtime, pyjamas, teeth brushed, story, then bed. The same is true for
adults.

But I’m in bed and I can’t sleep….

If you have not fallen asleep within 30 minutes get up and have a malty drink. Listen to relaxing music, read a relaxing book until you feel snoozy.

Make sure your bed is associated with sleep.
The only exception to this is making love, the act of which can in fact help promote a good nights sleep.

Avoid smoking immediately before bed as it is a stimulant.

Although having a nightcap is often suggested as a way to help you sleep, and certainly if you have a night out with a few beers or glasses of wine you may fall asleep (pass out) quickly, the quality of sleep is non restorative. Therefore avoid drinking alcohol is you wish to gain healthy sleep.

Try deep breathing… focus on the sound of your breath as you inhale and exhale… then start by breathing in for a count of 5 then out for a count of 7. Keep doing this until you fall asleep, you should find that you gradually stop consciously counting and just relax into the breathing cycle which will help you drift off to sleep.

If you are feeling very stressed, worried or upset you can develop this routine further by imagining that as you exhale, choose a colour (I use deep brown) this colour represents all your worries and concerns, and as you exhale you can see all your negative thoughts and feelings leave your body. Then choose another colour to inhale you are breathing in (I use pale blue as its very calming) and as you breathe in you are filling your lungs and in turn your whole body with relaxing and calming feelings.

Another adaptation of this is to breathe out all the negative and stressful feelings from every part of your body, e.g. hands, arms, neck, brain by naming them as you go, then inhaling the positive colour with its relaxing nature and then saying goodnight to each body part, I would suggest you start from your toes and work up.

What can you do during the day to improve your sleep patterns.

Gradually increasing your daytime activity and exercise, will help but don’t exercise too near to bedtime or you will still be hyped up.

Try and avoid sleeping for long periods during the day as it can disrupt your sleep cycle, have you ever fallen asleep for an hour or two in the afternoon and woke up feeling worse for it? That’s because your body has a natural sleep cycle and hormones and chemicals within your body reflect this cycle so when its disrupted everything is a little out of whack and make you feel awful. Catnaps can be useful but no longer than 20 minutes at a time.

If you have had unexpected sleep deprivation e.g. no sleep for 36 or 48 hours due to a family emergency for example, then when you do sleep try not to recover all your sleep in one go, it is better to have 30 minutes extra every day for a few days than try and sleep an additional 8 hours straight off.

These simple guidelines really can improve your sleep but they take time. Please be patient, your hard work will pay off although it can take many weeks to develop new sleep habits.

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