A: Often worries that keep us from sleeping are those that we haven’t paid enough attention to during our waking hours. Although perhaps counterintuitive, scheduling time to worry can prove really helpful in this instance. Rather than being at the mercy of intrusive thoughts, scheduling time for this allows you to exercise more control over your worries, and to pay them attention at a time that is more convenient for you.
Set aside some time each day, not too close to bedtime, to write down all that is worrying you on scrap paper – 15 minutes is more than sufficient. And, importantly, when the time is up, stop and do something else. You can always revisit the exercise the next day if your worries persist.
Writing down your concerns can help you to tease out what actually needs attention from what you can literally and metaphorically throw in the bin.
A: When it comes to restorative sleep, we want to consider not just the number of hours, but also the quality of our sleep. Regulating our circadian rhythm (sleep/wake cycle) is essential, so exposing your body to natural light first thing in the morning can be really beneficial.
Establish a daily routine that suits your lifestyle, and commit to those timings as much as possible. Routine is key when it comes to sleep, and our bodies respond very well to this, so stick to regular bedtimes, wake times, mealtimes, and exercise times.
To help you feel refreshed when you wake, consider your evening meal. Try to have dinner early (before 7pm), and make it light. Soups, vegetables stews, phos, ramens, and broths are brilliant in the evenings, as they are gentle on the digestive system. We really want to avoid overeating in the evening, when we are about to lie down for eight hours, so reducing portion size, and avoiding alcohol, can promote more restful sleep.
A: My first word of advice is forget about sleep! The more we focus on the problem, the bigger a problem it becomes.
Instead, ask yourself:
• Are you tired enough when you go to bed?
• What do you do before bed? Watching TV, scrolling on your phone etc. will reduce your production of melatonin (the sleep hormone). Fast-paced dramas can excite your mind and make it hard to drop off.
• What is your sleep environment like? Make sure your bedroom is as dark as a cave!
• What’s your current bedtime routine? Try to wind your mind down – you could read a book, listen to a self-hypnosis relaxation track, or try mindfulness. Your mind needs to associate the bedroom as a peaceful place.
Try some of these things to see what happens. Everyone is different, so it’s about finding what works for you, and building upon that.
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