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How to get a good nights sleep?

Oh to sleep like a baby
Oh, to sleep like a baby!!
  Some might sadly say that in today’s hectic world that sleep has become more of a luxury than a necessity.  I often hear clients indicate how they lead such busy lives that they almost don't have time for sleep!  So, please read on for information about sleep improvement. Sleep is vitally important for the emotional and physical well being of us all. Sleep difficulties such as problems getting off to sleep, remaining asleep or waking up at 'stupid o'clock' can create lasting health and emotional difficulties. If you have been experiencing sleep issues, it may be due to a number of factors such as stress, anxiety, panic or depression. In order to address your sleep problem, it is best to consult an experienced CBT therapist who can assist you to change your behaviour, and to manage your thought processes and emotions that may interfere with your sleep.   Here are some of the common steps that can be taken to improve your sleep:
  • Create a relaxed environment for sleeping – Your bedroom should be dark, cool and quiet. Whilst this may sound obvious, there is a science behind why.  Our brain's pineal gland secretes a hormone named melatonin, which is produced at night and promotes tiredness.  This is the reason why sunlight contributes to alertness, and why lack of light at night helps increase sleepiness.
  • Only use your bedroom for sleep and sex.  You'll be amazed by the number of client's who tell me they watch TV in bed
  • Please turn off all your technology such as computer, phone and television. Modern technology emits a blue light that affects the pineal gland and suppresses the production of melatonin, and inadvertantly increases alertness. This delays the onset of sleep and the amount of deep sleep we have. Please also be aware that the less sunlight we get during the day, the more sensitive we become to the melatonin-suppressing effects of light at night.
  • Avoid being in stressful situations last thing at night – When we as individuals are stressed, our body creates cortisol, which is the alerting hormone. This knocks off the production of melatonin as discussed above, and has an adverse effect on our ability to sleep.  Any inter-personal conflict that has an elevating effect on your anxiety levels is also detrimental to sleep.  Any uncomfortable conversations last thing at night are likely to increase the body's adrenaline response, which will increase the heart rate and increase tension, thus, interfering with your sleep.
  • Set a sleep schedule and stick to it – Please go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on the weekend or when on holiday. Without stating the obvious, also go to bed when you are tired!  I have had a number of clients who try and go to sleep when their partner does, even though they're not tired. Also, it is best to avoid any late afternoon naps, as this will have a detrimental effect on your sleep pattern the following night.
  • Exercise regularly – Exercising regularly can have a positive effect upon your sleep.  However, avoid exercising late in the day as this will have the opposite effect to sleepiness and will boost your energy levels and sleap is unlikely to follow.
  • Avoid late night meals, consumption of alcohols and limit fluid intake – Have your meals at least 2-3 hours before your bedtime. Limit alcohol to early evenings as it will interfere with the quality of sleep, as it has a rebound effect.  People tend to fall asleep quickly is they have had a few, but they also do tend to wake up early in the night afterwards.  Consider the effect that water has on your bladder, especially as you get older and need to wake in the night to urinate.
  • Limit the use of caffeine – This stimulant has a long half-life, which means it can stay in your system for a number of hours.  So try not to have caffeinated drinks in the afternoon, as they are likely to be in your system still at bedtime.
  • Avoid hot baths late at night – It is not a good idea to have a hot relaxing bath last thing at night if you are having problems sleeping. This simply raises the body's core temperature and makes it far more difficult to sleep.
  The above are only a few of the effective sleep improvement strategies CBT can help with, but for more information, please feel free to contact me.

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