I remember when I was a kid I would have to get ready for bed by unwinding first and perhaps having a hot drink, five minute sit down or if I was really lucky I would be given the time to read a book for myself.
I don’t remember when things changed, when I began to not have a sleep routine. Do I have one now? Yes I do, but that’s because I’m a counsellor and I include it as part of my self-care routine to balance my life and build resilience. That might sound as though I’m really good at it but I am human just like you and I’m not by any means perfect at this sleep stuff but I do try.
When I speak to people I notice that they rarely talk about having a good nights sleep . It’s usually something like “I was awake at 5am this morning” or “I didn’t get to bed until midnight last night”.
The impact of a bad sleep pattern is that it has a detrimental effect on your daily life, causing irritability, drowsiness and slow reactions. It can also enhance depression and anxiety and those two can be bad enough without the addition of sleep deprivation!
I hear people saying “I can’t afford extra sleep” or “I don’t have time to include more sleep” or “I’d rather have a power nap when I can get it.”
I’m not talking about those of you that have insomnia, and if you do have insomnia then seek advice from your doctor, I’m talking about those of you who regularly have five or six hours sleep a night.
It’s a well-known fact that getting 8 hours sleep is really good for us however a regular quantity of sleep such as 7 - 9 hours is good. Any less than seven then I think you’re classified as sleep deprived! If we can get ourselves into a good routine then when there are times that we can’t have the full 8 hours then it’s not such a huge impact on our physical and emotional well-being.
So why not change your mindset? Rather than squeezing as much into your day as possible and only getting 6 hours sleep along with a poor quality of life, put 7/8 hours aside for sleep so that you can benefit from a better quality of life. Once you have made this mindset decision and try it out it gets easier the more you put it into practice. Gradually it becomes part of you and your way of being.
You can begin to notice that it can enhance your productivity so that you can get more done, it can enhance your energy and give you an overall feeling of well-being, both emotional and physical.
I know it’s easier said than done and it can be difficult and challenging but sometimes we have to put the effort in to reap the rewards. Getting into that routine and changing your mindset isn’t going to happen overnight and it is going to take perseverance and patience.
So where do you start with all this?
First of all it might be an idea to figure out whether you are a night owl or an early bird and then you can decide on your time for bed each night. It’s a good idea to have a regular time so that your body clock knows what’s coming and it can begin to prepare to do it’s overnight work. Yes, even though you are sleeping your mind and body are still going to be doing a lot in order to look after you, which is a really good reason why you need good quality sleep.
Another thing you can do is to challenge any negative thoughts that you have around sleep by asking yourself, what is the evidence? Am I being realistic? Why do I think this is true? Often our thoughts are based on society and our own predictions. If you are really struggling with intrusive thoughts then perhaps create yourself a negative thought diary. Yes, another type of diary or journalling but that’s because they regularly work, or at least they have done for me! You can include your triggers and thoughts which can help to highlight any unrealistic thoughts and behaviour patterns.
Next you can prepare a routine for unwinding and getting ready for bed, just like children do. If you are feeling anxious then give yourself some 'worry time' and reach a conclusion. That way your worries won't be bothering you whilst you are trying to sleep. You can try switching off the TV and dimming the lights or stop doing your work half an hour before bed and perhaps having a soothing hot drink . You might even spend 10 minutes reading a couple of paragraphs from that book you’ve been meaning to read. This is an opportunity to do something calming for you and to create balance in your life!
“What happens if I wake in the middle of the night?” I hear you ask. Well, you can put some strategies in place to deal with that. If your mind is constantly in monkey mind mode then let it know that now is not the time for thinking and that you will set some time aside tomorrow to deal with any arising problems. Use the A-Z strategy or get into the mindset that bed is for sleeping and not for thinking, watching TV or playing video games. You can also do a mindful meditation, mindful body scan or a grounding technique.
So having read this your mind might be in overdrive about the changes you can make or reasons why you can’t get that sleep and if its being negative perhaps it’s time to really test those negative thoughts that you have and begin changing your mindset.
Why not try putting your positive head on and have a go at changing your mindset. You never know... you might even gain something.
If you are struggling with any difficulties or challenges in your life, such as dealing with loss & grief, relationship issues, anxiety, depression or difficult emotions (to name but a few) which may be causing your sleep disruption counselling can help.
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