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5 Ways to Improve your Sleep

Struggling to sleep? Meaningful Minds Psychologist, Melissa Cilliers, discusses ways to improve your sleep.

Nowadays many people are complaining of lack of sleep, either to do with being stressed or overworked and not having the ability to recharge at night. Adequate sleep is very important to our health and wellbeing, not to mention an important part of self care.

Some people either skip their much needed rest or can’t seem to get it, no matter how hard they try. Stress, work and family obligations can leave us all feeling exhausted and essentially missing out on much needed rest. Lack of sleep can have negative effects on your ability to concentrate, leave us feeling distracted and ultimately making it very difficult to do any activity mindfully.

According to guidelines from a physician group, insomnia is difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, even when a person has the chance to do so. People with insomnia can feel dissatisfied with their sleep and usually experience one or more of the following symptoms: fatigue, low energy, difficulty concentrating, mood disturbances, and decreased performance in work or at school.

There are simple and effective ways that you can improve your sleep cycles and make sure that both mind and body are revitalised every morning. Here are 5 ways in which you can experiment with treating your difficulty sleeping.

1.Have a turn down routine

One of the most important activities you need to incorporate into your daily routine is a turn down routine. Simply performing the same routine each night before bed will condition your body to associate that routine with sleep. When coming home from work your turn down routine should start. Have your candlelit dinner, followed by a nice long bath, dip into a book and then drift off to a perfect sleep with the help of guided meditation. Making sure you stick to this routine everyday will help to give you a good night’s sleep and leave you fresh and revitalized every morning. Make sure the room you sleep in is completely dark as this is vital to a restful sleep. Our eyes are very sensitive to changes in light and so those stray rays in the morning can easily wake us. Light inhibits production of the sleep hormone, melatonin. Try covering any blinking lights, turning around the alarm clock or try investing in a thicker curtain or curtain lining. If you have trouble making your room completely dark, try an eye mask to block out any excess light while you sleep.

2. Exercise after work or in the evening

Exercise is great way to get rid of excess energy built up through the stress and adrenaline built up throughout your busy day. Especially if you are at a desk job, exercise to get good endorphins released will not only make you feel good but it will also tire you out. Even a 20 minute light workout can help to tire your body and will promote your body’s’ production of oxygen, allowing you to sleep easy through the night.

3. Be mindful around what you put into your body

Nutrition plays an important role in helping your body to function effectively. Caffeinated drinks and food are a big problem in the evening as they will keep our bodies stimulated far longer than most of us realise. Many believe alcohol can aid sleep, but this is simply not the case. Though it may make you feel drowsy at first, it’s sedating effect most certainly won’t last all night and as your blood alcohol level drops your sleep becomes disturbed. Try opting for a herbal tea or lemon water before bed time. Alternatively you can stop the ingestion of these caffeinated drinks at least by 4pm.

4. Your bed is only for sleeping

Your bedroom and your bed should be your place of safety and a relaxation sanctuary. Your bed should only be used for sleeping when you need to sleep. It is often tempting to take our meals or work in bed, however this leads us to associate the bed with things other than sleep. If your mind and body both identify the bed as just where you sleep you will find it much easier to get your rest.

5. Learn to relax

Many people complain that they just aren’t able to “switch off” from their day. After all the stressors that the day brings, you are left with racing thoughts and worries about tomorrow. Learn to relax by incorporating some relaxation techniques into your turn down routine.

Guided mediation or imagery are great techniques that will help relax and calm your mind. This does take practice, so be sure to try it a few times before giving up on the idea. There are hundreds of CD’s that are for this purpose, ranging from the sounds of nature, to melodious music and vocals that send you to a sound sleep. Perhaps keeping a note book next to your bed will help you to switch off as you make notes of things not to forget. Relaxing our bodies relaxes our minds and so leads to deep, sound sleep. Reading is another great technique to escape your own thoughts just before bed.

Important to note, all these strategies should be tried before opting for medicinal methods to assist in sleeping. Pharmacological remedies should only be taken after consulting a doctor or in conjunction with the abovementioned remedies. It is not ideal for the brain and body to become reliant on a sedative to fall asleep. Sleep deprivation can also be a symptom of an overarching illness. It is important to consult a doctor or psychologist to decipher whether your lack of sleep is physiological in nature or whether it has become a poor habit as a result of your busy lifestyle.

The causes of your sleep problems can be assessed at Meaningful Minds by a trained psychologist who can assist you in incorporating the above techniques or referring you to a practitioner who can assist you.

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