6th September 2017Category: Working Carers
Everyone is different with how they sleep, how many hours they need or what their sleeping pattern is. But we all know what a good night’s sleep can do.
Working and caring can often result in lack of sleep from anxiety and stress, thinking you can manage on less hours, broken sleep, or your current routine means there are just simply less hours in your day to rest. One bad night of sleep can knock you the next day but over time it can make things harder. You may find that you are constantly tired, go to sleep during the day (including accidental nodding off at your desk), have trouble concentrating and making decisions, and start feeling depressed. Long-term lack of sleep may also increase your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
I am a night owl that wishes she was an early raiser. I’ve had periods of time when I struggled to get a good night’s sleep as well as periods when I was exhausted (mentally) and slept over 12+ hours. At the moment, I have the issue of using gadgets late at night when I should be preparing for bedtime. Our sleep patterns range over our lifetime as we go through the different stages of our life.
1. Routine- Keep a regular pattern.
Going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time, all the time, will programme your body to sleep better, even on the weekends. This helps to regulate your body's clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
2. Ritual- Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual.
A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime helps the body and mind prepare for bed. Switching the television off then turn on quiet music or read a book, just having the bedside light on rather than the room’s main bright lights. Over time once the ritual is created, you will fall to sleep quicker and be in a better deeper sleep.
3. Look at your bedroom environment.
Is there too light coming into the room? You could use an eye-mask or use black out curtains.
Is there a way to reduce any noise that could disturb your sleep? Unfortunately snoring partners can be an issue for noise but going to bed before them (so you are in a deep sleep when they go to bed), ear plugs, and "white noise" machines could be useful. If I am struggling to sleep, I play a rain track, basically hours of the noise of it raining outside your window (I don’t know why, but it works).
Is your bedroom at the right temperature? Experts reckon it should be cool as a room that is too warm disrupts our sleep patterns. There are lots of options to lower or increase the temperature; humidifiers, fans and electric blankets.
4. The bed.
Sleep on a comfortable and supportive mattress and pillows. The one you have been using for years may have exceeded its life expectancy – about 9 or 10 years for most good quality mattresses. Make the bed attractive and inviting for sleep but also free of allergens that might affect you and objects that might cause you to slip or fall if you have to get up
Cut down on stimulants such as caffeine in tea or coffee – especially in the evening. They interfere with falling asleep and prevent deep sleep. Don’t forget a lot of soft drinks have caffeine too. Have a hot milky drink or herbal tea instead.
Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep. Regular, moderate exercise such as swimming or walking can help relieve the day’s stresses and strains. I would just suggest that it isn’t too late into the evening because exercise too close to your bedtime can actually keep you awake (This is my issue with Monday night netball training).
7. Excess lifestyle- Don’t over-indulge.
Your body has to try and digest after a big meal or big boozy night. It is working hard to get rid of the toxins as a result of drinking alcohol. As a result of too much food or alcohol, especially late at night, just before bedtime, can play havoc with sleep patterns. Alcohol may help you fall asleep initially, but will interrupt your sleep later on in the night. Try to eat your evening meal earlier, if possible.
8. Notepad and pen.
This is my personal favourite. Keep a notepad by your bed so that if you are worried about something, you can write it down and be ready to deal with it the next day. ‘Brain dump’ everything in your mind onto the paper. You can also plan out your next day so that you feel prepared in the morning rather than a mad dash.
9. Don’t smoke.
Yes, it’s bad for sleep, too: smokers take longer to fall asleep, wake more often and often experience more sleep disruption.
10. Lay out your clothes and items ready to go.
I think for me, this is a result of years wearing a uniform for school. At night, pick out what you are going to wear the next day and have it laid out. Have everything you will need, ready to grab and go, if it is possible. It takes away the decision in the morning as its one less thing to think about. It is part of my night time ritual. As a night owl it works for me because I am on auto pilot in the morning so if it isn’t in front of me, it will get forgotten.
11. Positive thoughts.
A technique to stop the worrying thoughts that cause your heart to race is to speak positive thoughts instead. Speaking overrides thinking and will stop the negative thoughts in their tracks. You may think that this isn’t very useful but if you were to write down all the things you said to yourself (in your head) on a daily basis, you would be surprised by how negative we can be to ourselves.
12. Goodbye shiny bright gadgets.
Try not to work or have your computer or TV in your bedroom. With smart phones, it is even harder to avoid bright gadgets. The light created by the gadgets is too bright for our eyes and it means it keeps us awake rather than allowing us to sleep. If your alarm is on your phone, buy a separate alarm clock and see if you notice a difference.
13. If you can’t sleep, don’t lie there worrying about it.
Get up and do something you find relaxing until you feel sleepy again – then go back to bed.
14. Heart rate technique.
Scientists have found a direct link between anxiety and rhythm of sleep. Anxious thoughts result in increased heart rate then it leads to the mind ‘racing’. This causes the brain to become alert and stimulated, basically the opposite of what should be happening when you are trying to fall asleep. It then becomes a domino effect as you then start to worry that you can’t sleep which results in sleep being an anxiety in itself.
One technique: Place your hand on your heart and then try to listen to your heart beating. Then breathe in deeply and slowly for four seconds, then breathe out for four seconds. Repeat this until you feel your heart rate slowing down. This will then slow the busy brain activity.
Long-term lack of sleep is a serious matter, if this is a concern to you please speak to your GP.
If you want more information, The Sleep Council website has really useful information. Please click this LINK and it will take you there.