Tips to help you to improve your sleep patterns

Ever found it difficult to sleep?  These are just some suggestions that people have tried and found helpful so take for yourself what works and ignore what doesn’t.  If your sleeping patterns have recently changed and you have concerns about this, then speak to your medical professional.  

Daytime and Early evening routines

  1. Stick to the same sleep schedule if possible. Go to bed at a similar time and get up at a similar time. Even at weekends!
  2. Practice a resting bedtime ritual – what helps you feel calm? Have a wind down from the day and avoid screens (phones, computers, TV) for an hour before bed as scientists suggest that the blue light reduces your melatonin, which impacts on your sleep / wake cycle.
  3. Try to keep a sleep diary with trends, including any afternoon sleeps or times when you nod off in the chair. You may find that you are getting lots more sleep over 24 hours than you realise.
  4. Leave your curtains open in the daytime and see the sunlight when you first wake up as exposing yourself to natural light  helps your mind and body regulate between day and night.
  5. Afternoon naps are OK to have! Do not leave yourself exhausted, particularly if you are recovering from a bout of ill health but do not nap too close to bedtime.
  6. Manage stress so that you are able to switch off and sleep, rather than worry. Use stress reduction techniques like mindfulness, meditation, and yoga.
  7. Use your bedroom for only sleep and intimacy and where possible, avoid using it for business, watching tv or other activities.
  8. Create a comfortable environment – comfortable mattress, pillows, right temperature, the right level of darkness for you. Make it a room that you want to spend time in.

Food, Drink and Exercise

  1. Milk has sleep rich ingredients – it contains Tryptophan. This is an amino acid which helps the body produce serotonin. Serotonin helps induce deeper and more restful sleep by creating melatonin. Melatonin is responsible for the sleep / wake cycle.
  2. Caffeine… keeps you awake! Chocolate also has caffeine in it!  Avoid stimulants from the afternoon onwards.
  3. Alcohol is a sedative and may help you get to sleep – but you will sleep less restfully and wake up more frequently.  If you have stopped smoking or cut alcohol, you may experience some changes to your sleep patterns. This is normal and will rebalance itself!!
  4. Go easy on the liquids and avoid heavy meals before you go to bed – have light, easily digestible foods. Sleep will be harder to achieve if you are hungry, cold or thirsty.
  5. Exercise and fresh air really helps!  However don’t vigorously exercise before you try to sleep as you will be all charged up and be unable to switch off.  Follow advice from your GP or cardiac team.

Get to bed and can’t sleep?

  1. Before you go to bed, write down a list of everything you are worrying about or trying to remember! It stops your brain from staying in overdrive, meaning you can switch off more easily.
  2. Have a notebook next to the bed – then if a thought comes to mind that you don’t want to lose, you can jot it down and get back to the important business of sleeping.
  3. If you are in the habit of lying awake for hours “trying to sleep” then get up for 20 minutes and do something. Then go back to bed. Don’t build up frustration for staying awake.
  4. Take two fingers and gently trace a figure of 8 sideways on your forehead. This releases oxytocin which is a feel-good chemical and combats stress.
  5. If you rely on your phone as an alarm clock, consider getting a proper clock and then switching your phone off. It will cut your temptation to scroll if you can’t sleep
  6. Play white noise or calming sounds to block out disruptive noise in the background.

Using your imagination to drift off to sleep!

  1. Visualise a calm place. The beach and the waves – the mountains and the stillness – the forest and the breeze through the trees. Bring it to life in your imagination and enjoy feeling the calmness.
  2. Tell yourself that you must try to stay awake. You must not sleep. You can’t not sleep.
  3. Yawn deliberately. Think about yawning. Notice how thinking about yawning makes you tired.
  4. Breathing exercise. As you breathe in gently, say the word in your mind Deep…. As you breathe out, think the word Sleep. Follow the cycle. 
  5. Count down from 300 in 3’s on every second breath. If you lose count, start from where you remember. You won’t get to zero!!!
  6. Think of a famous persons’ surname beginning with A. Then B, C…..
  7. Follow a breathing pattern like breathe in for 6, breathe out for 6.
  8. Progressive muscle relaxation – start from the head, relax all the muscles around your head, then your forehead, eyes, cheeks, back of head, jaw, neck, shoulders….Do a new part every couple of out breaths and slowly work down through the muscle groups.
  9. Have you noticed that you are thinking of a problem or playing out a story in your mind? STOP….. go back to what you were supposed to be thinking. Don’t entertain your mind with the soap opera!

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