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Healthy Sleep Tips

by May Lim
Registered Psychologist
Alpha Psychology and The Resilience Centre

“I can’t sleep!” is something I hear very often in my role as a psychologist.

Good sleep is so important in our lives as it helps us to function well daily. When people have difficulty sleeping, they often have problems with falling or staying asleep, waking up too early, feeling worried or depressed, racing thoughts before sleeping or in the middle of the night and often experience fatigue in the daytime.

Ongoing sleeplessness can be frustrating and can impair a person’s daily functioning at home, work or school. Sleeplessness can often occur during stressful periods of a person’s life leading to them to be awake and preoccupied with thoughts ranging from personal issues, finances, relationships, conflict, family, health, work stress, studies, important decisions and many other life concerns. If the sleeplessness continues for a period of time, it can progress to insomnia and it is common for a person to then have the added concern about having trouble with sleeping.

To promote better sleep it is useful to first apply some healthy sleep hygiene practices during the day, evening and at bedtime.

Healthy sleep tips during the day:

  • During the day, aim to establish regular times for achieving tasks, meal times, taking medication and other activities.
  • Engage in regular exercise during the day or early evening as it promotes good quality sleep at night as well as assists in being awake and alert during the day.
  • Allocate a portion of time to engage in brainstorming to solve current problems and make decisions. This can then ease pressure and decrease rumination of problems and decisions before and during bedtime.
  • Resist the temptation to take a nap during the day as long naps can make it difficult to fall asleep at night.

Healthy sleep tips during the evening:

  • In the event there are outstanding issues you are thinking about, write them down so you can deal with them the following day.
  • Stay away from beverages with caffeine after 4pm. This is because caffeine increases adrenaline production and obstructs sleep-inducing brain chemicals.
  • Engaging in light exercise in the early rather than late evening may assist with sleeping well at night.
  • Do not consume a large amount of food or smoke right before going to sleep.
  • Avoid having alcohol to assist with sleeping as it can actually contribute to fatigue the following day.
  • Before moving to your bed, relaxing activities like listening to peaceful music or reading can assist with preparation for sleeping.
  • Ensure the temperature of your bedroom is neither too cold or hot as well as not too noisy. Keep your bedroom dark. In the event you have difficulty with oversleeping, make sure there is an opportunity for the morning light to be present in your room.

Healthy sleep tips when going to sleep:

  • Develop soothing bedtime habits before going to sleep so your body and mind can prepare for rest. This can include doing relaxation exercises such as meditation and breathing exercises, listening to peaceful music or having a warm bath or shower. Refrain from watching television when in bed as this will keep your mind alert making it difficult to be relaxed and fall asleep.
  • It is helpful to only go to bed when you feel sleepy.
  • If you wake up too early in the night and are awake for more than 30 minutes, rise out of bed and engage in a relaxing activity until you feel sleepy. Avoid sleeping in to compensate for time awake during the night.
  • Aim to wake up at the same time every morning.

I’d like to invite you to practise these healthy sleep habits regularly as it can make a difference to your quality of sleep. Like any healthy outcomes, it takes determination, patience and consistency to experience the benefits of these healthy sleep habits.

If there are negative thoughts which keep popping up in your mind that seem to keep you from sleeping well, it is often useful to share these thoughts with people in your life whether it be family, friends, a GP, counsellor or a psychologist.

All the best in your goals to try and sleep well!

 Ashfield, J.(2010).Taking Care of Yourself and Your Family. 
South Australia: Peacock Publications.

May Lim is a Registered Psychologist at Alpha Psychology and The Resilience Centre.
Visit her site @maylim

If you would like to make an appointment with May, please call (02) 9869 0377.

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