Sleep is key for good health and life in general.
Most of you will know that I am a big fan of sleep – I love it.
However, many people struggle to get a decent night’s sleep.
The reasons can range from simply not wanting to go to bed early enough to struggling to get to sleep and/or waking up multiple times during the night.
People often say that they wake up to go to the loo but more likely is that they go to the loo because they have woken up.
Your body makes a hormone at night which slows down your kidney function, so you normally make much less urine during the night.
Obviously some medical conditions can affect the production of urine at night and/or bladder control.
You could try restricting your fluid intake closer to bedtime to see if it makes any difference.
Studies have shown that waking up then leads people to notice the urge to go to the bathroom.
What can we do to improve our sleep and to wake less?
1) Keep A Sleep Diary.
Write down what time you go to bed and what time you wake up. Note down if you wake up during the night.
As you become more aware of your sleep habits you can start to spot patterns.
After a bad night you can look and see what you may have done differently from when you have a good night.
2) Tackle Your Negative Thoughts About Sleep.
Worrying about not sleeping well makes it worse.
If you wake during the night and start becoming anxious about getting back to sleep, you probably won’t!
If you tell yourself you can’t sleep well over and over, you are making a self-fulfilling prophecy.
3) Follow a good bed time routine.
Go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time in the mornings.
Seven days a week.
I’m sorry if you are a fan of a weekend lie-in but irregular sleeping hours just generate jet-lag that has to be dealt with later.
Avoid caffeine in the afternoon.
Have a shower or bath before bed.
Read for a while and limit screen time – or use blue light blocking glasses.
Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark and quiet. Use masks and ear plugs if necessary.
4) Stimulus Control.
Associate your bed with sleeping and sex – nothing else.
It is not a place for watching tv, playing with your phone or doing other things.
Have a simple alarm clock – only if you need one to get up in the morning.
Keep all other gadgets out of the bedroom.
If you wake up during the night and do not quickly fall back to sleep, get up.
Leave your bedroom and read or do a jigsaw or other task until you feel sleepy, then return to bed.
5) Sleep Restriction Therapy.
This method limits how much time you spend in bed.
To start with you estimate how much sleep you usually get each night.
You may spend 8 hours in bed but only get 6 hours sleep.
So you limit yourself to 6 hours in bed. This means it is likely you will get less than 6 hours sleep.
This sleep loss will make you more tired and first but it will also help you fall asleep faster and wake fewer times during the night.
You avoid compensating by napping to generate deeper more consistent sleep when you do go to bed.
As your sleep improves, you gradually extend the period in bed until you are getting the amount of sleep you actually need.
Give it a try and let me know how you get on.
6) Hide Clocks.
Checking the time every time you wake up increases anxiety about not sleeping and in turn leads to even worse sleep.
If you need an alarm for the morning, turn it face down and maybe on the other side of the room.
7) Paradoxical Intention.
This one means, instead of focussing on getting to sleep, you focus on staying awake.
You try to stay awake for as long as possible and ironically it can help you drift off!
Again, if you try it, please let me know how it goes.
8) Physical Relaxation Techniques.
You can try progressive muscle relaxation – where you first tense and then relax each muscle in your body, starting with your toes.
Sleep meditations can be very helpful.
Focussing on your breathing, counting each in-breath and each out-breath can also work really well.
These ideas are from CBT-I, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia.