According to the NHS, one in three people will suffer from insomnia at some point in their lives, but the good news is that with a little help, you can train your brain to sleep well.
BBC News reports that disturbances to our sleep patterns are common during natural disasters, whether that’s an earthquake or a pandemic, and many people reported increased occurrences of insomnia at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
We have a look at what insomnia is, and some tips for achieving a better night’s sleep. Like most things, the secret to better sleep is not something that happens overnight but takes practice.
The average adult needs about seven and nine hours of sleep a day. You may be suffering from insomnia if you experience any of the following:
• You find it hard to go to sleep
• You wake up several times during the night
• You lie awake at night
• You wake up early and cannot go back to sleep
• You still feel tired after waking up
• You find it hard to nap during the day even though you're tired
• You feel tired and irritable during the day
• You find it difficult to concentrate during the day because you're tired
There are many causes of insomnia and sleeplessness, that may include:
• Stress, anxiety or depression
• Blue light from phones and computers
• A room that's too hot or cold
• Uncomfortable beds
• Alcohol, caffeine or nicotine
• Recreational drugs like cocaine or ecstasy
• Exercising just before going to bed
• Jet lag
• Shift work
So how do we get rid of insomnia and enjoy better quality sleep?
Train your brain
When it comes to falling asleep, we are unable to instruct our brain to simply nod off but are dependent on our brain switching from 'awake mode' to 'sleep mode' automatically. With practice and persistence, we can train our brain to sleep well. This is called 'sleep hygiene'.
Make your bedroom fit for a good night's sleep
Your bedroom should only really be used for two things - sleep and sex. But the lockdown has seen many people forced to covert a corner of their bedrooms into WFH workstations, which then means their brains come to associate their sleeping space with work and stress.
You might not have the room to move your home office to another area of the house, so try the following to help transform your bedroom into a dedicated sleeping space after working all day:
• Cover your workspace by throwing a sheet over it
• Make sure your laptop is out of sight
• Ensure that your room is cool, dark and quiet
Have a bedtime routine
Good ‘sleep hygiene’ relies on developing a good bedtime routine, which should start between 30 minutes and an hour before you try to sleep. A calming bedtime routine will help your nervous system switch from ‘sympathetic’ - alert, fight, and flight - to parasympathetic - rest, sleep, and digest. Try the following to help train your nervous system:
• Having a bath
• Reading a book
• Lighting a calming candle or use a pillow spray
• Drink a soothing drink such as chamomile tea or warm milk
• Massage your face
Medication for insomnia should only really be sought as a last resort, and then only for a few days, as they may have addictive properties if used for long periods, and will also become less effective.
In some cases, a special type of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) designed for people with insomnia (CBT-I) may be recommended.
If you’re looking for mindfulness therapy based in London, get in touch today