Do you find yourself tossing and turning at night and feeling that you don’t get enough quality sleep?
Sleeping well has a direct effect on our mental and physical wellbeing. New research shows that adults require 7-9 hours of sleep at night. When we don’t get enough sleep it affects our energy levels, productivity, mood and even weight. Yet many of us struggle to fall asleep or stay asleep at night.
Things you can do to make going to bed – and staying asleep – a lot easier:
Clear your mind
We live in a day and age where we are required to be productive and on-the-go all day long. Our minds are constantly busy, and this keeps us from settling down to sleep at night. The most important task before settling down and getting into bed, is to try and clear your mind and allow your mind to let stuff out. Allow some time to meditate when getting into bed. You can even try to keep a journal and jot down important themes from the day. No matter what you choose to do, allow your mind some time to dump the thoughts of the day.
Once you get into bed, do a body scan mindfulness activity that can help you ease into sleep. There are numerous body scan exercises online and various apps to choose from. You may even find that you will drift into sleep while practicing one of these exercises.
Listen to your body
While trying to fall asleep or returning to sleep after waking, you might feel a strong urge to get out of bed. Often, we try to push through these urges and spend a lot of energy trying to fight these urges and we start to associate our bed with a space where we are “fighting” to fall asleep. Listen to your body. When you feel like getting up, do so and return to bed at a later time.
Say goodnight to your devices
Falling asleep requires us to eliminate distractions. Smartphones or tablets are likely to be the main culprit of our nightly distractions. Not only does the light from your smartphone or tablet disturb your sleeping patterns, but it also emits blue light which has an activating effect on the brain. This increases alertness and reduces our ability to successfully fall asleep. It is best to give your devices a break before bedtime.
Activate your Parasympathetic Nervous System with deep breathing. The Parasympathetic Nervous System is the part of the nervous system that helps to calm the brain and the body. By practicing deep breathing the Vagus Nerve is stimulated which stretches through most of your body and supplies the lungs and vital organs from the base of the skull. When practicing deep breathing, make sure your exhale is longer than your inhale. You may even take a deep breath in, hold the breath for 3-5 seconds and slowly exhale for double the time it took to inhale. Choose a breathing count that feels comfortable to you. Fof tips on breathing exercises, click here.
Goodnight and sleep well!
Juanita Donkin, Occupational Therapist, Akeso Milnerton