The 5-Step Sleep Strategy Used By Soldiers Sleep is an essential part of life, and it is especially important for army soldiers who are often…
How To Improve Your Sleep
How did you sleep last night? If you slept well, you might be in the minority. Worryingly, two-thirds of UK adults say they suffer from disrupted sleep, and half of the population says they don’t get enough sleep. Studies also show that the most common sleep disorder, insomnia, affects a third of the population but can increase to 50-60% of the population in some studies.
With eight out of ten adults wanting to improve sleep quality but only a minority actually seeking professional help, how can you find a science-backed solution that will actually help you feel rested and refreshed?
What’s Keeping You Up At Night?
The most common sleep disorders include;
- Insomnia – difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Snoring and sleep apnoea – affecting both the snorer and their partner
- Restless legs syndrome – uncomfortable feeling in the legs which causes movement
- Bruxism – Grinding teeth can cause jaw issues
- Narcolepsy – Affects one in 2000 people with difficulty switching from being asleep to awake
- Sleep talking, nightmares and night terrors – complex behaviours when the body partially wakes up
The Poor Sleep Cycle
The most prevalent sleep issue is insomnia. However, as well as being classed as a sleep disorder, it is also the most commonly reported mental health complaint. Insomnia is usually associated with racing thoughts, worries that keep you up at night or waking up in the middle of the night and allowing your thoughts to take over, so you can’t fall back to sleep.
The problem is that this can then manifest into a cycle of poor sleep. If you have one or two nights where you struggle to sleep, you may then start to focus on or worry about the thought patterns or behaviours that are ruining your sleep.
As soon as you experience several sleepless nights, then you may become anxious about your poor sleep. You may then worry about your sleep, which could be preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep. This is known as orthosomnia and is something I cover in this blog post.
The Problem With Poor Sleep
“Without sleep, there is low energy and disease; with sleep, there is vitality and health.” – Dr Walker
Sleep can have an impact on almost every function in the body. Poor sleep can lead to adverse effects in mood, concentration, lowered immune system and energy levels. What’s more, poor sleep can reduce your ability to feel positive emotions and increase the likelihood of developing depression.
In Matthew Walker’s book, Why We Sleep, he also explains that there is a vast range of health problems associated with poor sleep, including; cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s.
For a long time, thanks to the hustle culture, insufficient sleep has actually been celebrated as people focus on productivity rather than rest. However, this is a misconception as sleep is essential for productivity. In fact, nations lose 2% of their GDP because of exhaustion and fatigue. Prioritising and celebrating sleep can actually increase personal productivity, which has a knock-on effect on the country’s GDP, increasing the budget for other societal issues.
Medication, Habits And Therapy For Better Sleep
If you’re looking to improve your sleep, there are lots of options out there, so which are right for you?
Medication For Sleep
Currently, there are no sleeping pills that can help create a natural, healthy sleep. Standard sleeping pills work as a sedative and essentially knock out your brain, much like alcohol. However, they don’t help you to have a natural, healthy sleep. What’s more, when you stop taking sleeping tablets, it can cause rebound insomnia.
Interestingly, CBT has been proven to be just as effective as sleeping pills, without the adverse effects that medication can cause.
Melatonin is often a supplement that is recommended for sleep. It can help reset your body clock, which can be helpful if you’re struggling to sleep because of jetlag. However, there is no research to suggest it can help maintain a sleep schedule in an average, healthy person.
Habits For Sleep
Maintaining healthy habits around sleep hygiene can be incredibly effective. Dr Matthew Walker recommends creating a non-negotiable eight-hour sleep window every night. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time every night. He recommends trying this non-negotiable set up for at least a week and see if it makes a difference. If it doesn’t, then it is time to explore other options.
Other tips for sleep hygiene include:
- Keep your bedroom cool (around 18.5°C)
- Ensure it is dark with blackout blinds – also dim lights in the evening and avoid screens an hour before bed
- Avoid alcohol and only consume caffeine before midday
- If you’ve been awake for longer than 20 minutes, move to another room, try reading or meditation until you feel sleepy and return to bed.
Therapy For Sleep
For those who have anxious or racing thoughts which are preventing sleep, then therapy can help. Hypnotherapy has been found to improve sleep for those with insomnia. The process of hypnotherapy works to reprogram the subconscious minds with different beliefs. This can then reframe your thoughts around sleep and help the mind and body to relax and let go of any sleep anxiety.
In one study, hypnotherapy helped 67% of participants sleep more and increased their deep sleep by 80%.
Unlike medication or habits, hypnotherapy goes deeper than the initial hypnagogic stage of sleep. While hypnotherapy promotes relaxation, which can induce the hypnagogic stage of sleep, hypnotherapy can then enable deeper sleep by inhibiting fear pathways and eliminating negative thoughts by rewiring the brain for a deeper, restful and peaceful sleep.
One of the major benefits of hypnotherapy for sleep is that it sets the scene and releases the blocks that are in the way of natural sleep, something which sleep medication cannot do. Furthermore, it works to retrain the subconscious so you can maintain this healthy, relaxing sleep pattern for the future. This means that falling asleep can feel easy and natural going forward.
Improve Your Sleep
If you want to find out more about how hypnotherapy can improve your sleep, I offer complimentary consultations. To book your free initial call, email firstname.lastname@example.org