How to get a good night's sleep
Sleep. Churchill and Thatcher famously only needed a few hours. For the rest of us, the recommended amount of sleep is around seven to eight hours a night, but everybody is different and some people can get by with less than that. For some of us though, that thing that seems to come so naturally to everyone else somehow eludes us.
March is National Bed Month, dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of a good night's sleep. This is something that anyone who suffers from insomnia is only too aware of already: aside from feeling tired and less able to function, a prolonged lack of sleep can lead to long-term health issues. Whilst it is frequently reported that the required amount of sleep reduces with age, what matters most is that the individual concerned feels they are getting enough sleep to function properly.
There are many things that can affect our sleep. It is quite normal to wake occasionally during the night, but anything other than that could be a sign that something else is going on. A visit to the GP is an essential first point of call to rule out any health issues. Following that, hypnotherapy and BWRT could help an individual to get the sleep they require.
Insomnia is one of the most frequent conditions I treat, though it is rarely a primary issue. By this, I mean that insomnia is usually a result of something else going on, quite often anxiety, stress or simply habit. Lifestyle habits and poor sleep routines can have a big impact on the quality of sleep. It's recommended that these are addressed first. Anxiety, stress and worry can also cause disturbances. The Sleep Council report that scientists have found a direct link between anxiety and rhythm of sleep: "When a person has anxious thoughts, their heart rate goes up and in turn the mind starts to ‘race’. This causes the brain to become alert and stimulated... this happens to someone who worries about something when they’re trying to get to sleep – instead of being calm and subdued; their brains are too aroused to sleep."
A typical approach dealing with insomnia using BWRT and hypnotherapy would be:
- Resolve specific anxieties relating to the process of sleeping itself - such as worry about getting off to sleep or getting back to sleep after waking. It can also be very effective in addressing any sleep-related habits.
- Seek to address any anxieties that are feeding into the insomnia and causing sleep disturbances. Those might be stresses in life in general related to work, family or other issues.
- Help to develop new sleep patterns. Sometimes, for example, when a person has been working nights for many years, cared for a partner or child, or simply retired, it can be difficult to slip into a different sleep pattern. Hypnotherapy especially could assist in creating these new patterns.
- Assist in establishing good sleep hygiene and behaviours.
Quite often, insomnia can be resolved in just a few sessions, but this can largely depend on the individual and what is causing the sleep issues in the first place. Here are five simple tips to help towards a good night's sleep:
1) Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual: avoid excessive stimulation before bed. This includes activities that could cause stress or anxiety, exciting the brain and keeping it awake, including eating and drinking.
2) Evaluate your sleeping environment. Need a new pillow or mattress? Is it too hot or cold? Too much noise? Do whatever possible to make the room comfortable.
3) Offload any stress and anxiety as much as possible. Get it out of your head and onto paper - keeping a journal can be a good idea, take half an hour to write down anything that has arisen from the day or things to do so they are not immediately on your mind.
4) Avoid display screens and TV for two hours before bed, if possible. The light emitted by electronic devices can disrupt the body's rhythms and sleep patterns. If you have to use these, aim for a smaller screen to minimise this effect.
5) Use a relaxation technique such as visualisation or progressive muscle relaxation. Picture yourself tensing and releasing every muscle in your body from head to toe, or imagine yourself doing something or being in a place that you find incredibly relaxing.
More information on National Bed Month and sleep in general is available from The Sleep Council at www.sleepcouncil.org.uk
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About John Taylor
John is an established hypnotherapist and BWRT practitioner with clinics in Northallerton and Skipton, North Yorkshire, specialising in stress and anxiety, confidence building, sleep issues, and smoking cessation.