How to Get a Better Sleep
What can you do to give yourself the best chance of falling asleep easily?
Sleep deprivation can be so distressing that sufferers often refer to it as torture. An inability to sleep is now one of the most common complaints heard in GP surgeries. In a survey of more than 5,000 adults by the UK Sleep Council, 70 per cent of respondents said they slept for fewer than seven hours a night, and a third for only five or six hours. This is less than the minimum of seven to nine hours recommended for adults.
Why do we need to sleep? Apart from helping to maintain physical health, it’s still not entirely clear. We know the brain consolidates new experiences and clears out unimportant material during sleep. We also know that when we don’t sleep, we become irritable and forgetful, and our ability to make decisions slows. If sleep deprivation becomes severe, we may even experience hallucinations.
So if sleep is so necessary, why doesn’t everyone fall asleep easily? The most common reason is because the mind is too active, still churning over unresolved worries. When something troubles us, it acts like a film or message that gets stuck, replaying without any accompanying solution. Adrenalin and cortisol spike and we become hyper-vigilant, distractible and restless.
Another reason we have trouble falling asleep is because we’re expecting to do so instantly. This may be the norm for the very young, but the adult mind needs a transition from wakefulness to drowsiness - it doesn’t just switch off abruptly. Bright lights, particularly from our screens, add to the problem by keeping cortisol levels high and preventing melatonin from rising, making it difficult to relax.
What can you do, then, to give yourself the best chance of falling asleep easily? The first step is to take time to wind down properly. About half an hour before you go to bed, sit down somewhere other than your bedroom and make a list of all your concerns. If you think of anything you can do to start sorting out those issues tomorrow, write your suggestions down, as well as a to-do list. Then put the list somewhere safe, away from the bedroom. Your worries are now out of your head and you have some possible solutions to try tomorrow.
Next, turn off all screens and dim the lights. You might want to put on some relaxing music. Then, carry out a soothing and familiar bedtime routine. When you get into bed, avoid checking the time. Just close your eyes and breathe mindfully - in through your nose and out through your mouth slowly, counting each breath.
— The Daily Telegraph
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