I need more sleep!!! Why so many people are struggling to get enough good quality sleep and tips that may help.
Sleep issues are getting worse. Maybe you are tossing and turning and take hours to get off to sleep. You may be waking up in the early hours with a jolt, start thinking of what you haven’t done, what you need to do, your mind is racing and again you are awake for hours. Lastly you believe you slept all night, but when the alarm rings you find you drag yourself out of bed, not feeling refreshed from sleep at all.
If this sounds like you, let me explain what our brain does when we sleep, how this interferes with our sleep pattern and some really easy tips to help you get more better-quality sleep.
When we sleep, our brain goes to work, and one of the many things it does, is sort out, and make sense of our anxieties from the previous day. Generally, we should have five cycles of sleep during the night, this goes from light sleep, down to deep sleep where it is really difficult to wake up from. Between these is REM (rapid eye movement) or dream sleep. During this part of the cycle the brain makes sense of what has happened to us and takes the emotional memory from the flight, fight and freeze part of the brain and places it as a factual memory in our conscious area. This is the reason we may say “I felt so much better when I slept on it”.
The anxiety no longer has the emotional attachment and we are able to see it in a factual and rational way. When we have a small amount of stress and anxiety, we are able to process it during the night and able to wake up refreshed the next morning. REM should be limited to 20% of the sleep cycle as the brain needs to be very active to process these memories. Our sleep deteriorates when we are more anxious and stressed as the brain then has too much to process, this is when we can see two sleep problems.
The first is when you find yourself waking up during the night and cannot get back to sleep, your mind is racing and often your thoughts focus on negative “What if’s” When we have used the 20% of REM sleep, and we still have more anxiety to process, our brain will wake us up. It is actually more rested when awake than during REM, so when we wake,it is the middle of the night and our not so helpful brain will then begin to focus on the negatives. When this occurs, not only are we not processing the previous days anxieties but we continue to add to them during the night, making it very difficult to get back to sleep and causing you to feel tired and unrested the next morning.
The second is when you sleep all night, this can range from 8 to 14 hours, but when you wake you feel groggy and not at all rested. When this occurs, the brain stays in REM for far longer than it should trying to work through your anxieties, as I have stated, this is very tiring for the brain. If you do not obtain sufficient amount of deep sleep you will not feel rested.
One last sleep issue is not being able to drop off to sleep, generally you should be able to fall asleep quite naturally within 20 minutes of going to bed. If this does not occur, you may then find yourself getting more and more stressed as the clock ticks by.
Now for some easy tips that may help.
1. Make your bedroom as black as possible. During sleep, we often open our eyes briefly as we start the next cycle, if there is any sort of light you will notice this and more likely to wake up. Illuminated alarm clocks, standby lights on TV’s, your mobile if you receive notifications. Remove them or turn them off.
Blackout curtains are another good idea especially in the summer.
2. Bedtime routine. Yes, this isn’t just for children. As humans we pattern match to make our lives easier. When you do the same thing every night leading up to sleep, it makes it easier for your brain to remember that your bedroom and bed are for sleep. Make sure your routine is relaxing, allowing you to wind down gradually, this would NOT include looking at emails, scrolling through social media or watching TV in bed. Your brain needs to know that bed is for sleep, not work, socialising or watching stimulating TV.
3. A couple of hours before sleep, we naturally produce a neurotransmitter called melatonin, and we need this to fall asleep. Blue light from your electrical devices, such as laptops, phones and I pads, stop the production of melatonin, which means if you are looking at your devices the few hours before bed, you will not produce this neurotransmitter and so will find it very difficult to fall asleep.
4. Alcohol and nicotine. You may think that you cannot get to sleep without alcohol. It may knock you out at the beginning but it will also interfere with your REM sleep. You will wake up more, have poorer quality sleep and not feel as rested when waking. Smoking can also have a negative effect on your sleep. Stopping smoking and drinking often helps improve your sleep.
5. Remember when you have a better night’s sleep. What was different about that day, did you do something different leading up to bedtime, often your best solution is already happening on some occasions.
6. Reducing your negative thoughts. When you start to do this, you WILL see the biggest change. Our brain does not know the difference between imagination and real life. If you negatively remember things that have happened, your brain will think that this event happened on several occasions, and not just once. If you think of what could go wrong the following day, again your brain will believe that this has already occurred. All of these imagined scenarios will then need to be processed during the night. Looking at an event, situation or problem in a positive way will allow you to find a solution which will reduce your anxiety and stress. When this happens, you will not have so much to process during REM and you will notice an improvement in your sleep.
7. To help you to fall asleep, you may find listening to a relaxation recording or meditation can help. Listening to the words can quiet the brain and distract you from the negative thoughts. There are many online, if you would like my relaxation recording please email me through my website Julie Elizabeth Hypnotherapy and I will send it as an attachment.
I hope this has been of some help. If you have any questions, or would like to know more, please get in touch.