1. Make time for sleep
The average amount of sleep needed is 7-8 hours, although the range is 4-12 hours. If you wake up feeling refreshed and able to cope with your day, you know you have had enough. Avoid unhelpfully staying up late by setting an alarm to remind you to go to bed on time.
2. Know your sleep
Sleep is made up of three stages – light, deep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Each stage has a different job including growth and repair, mood regulation and memory processing. Human evolution has meant you cycle between all three sleep stages every 1.5-2 hours and then briefly wake up to check for danger. Hence, why you might find yourself even more awake than normal during stress and worry.
3. Stay awake for 16 hours
Aim to be awake for at least 16 hours a day. With every passing hour of wakefulness, your sleepiness levels increase. The average person needs 16 hours of wakefulness to drive 8 hours of sleep. Avoid sleeping in or taking long naps during the day as this can weaken your natural sleep drive.
4. Keep your sleep on time
Go to bed and get up at ‘roughly’ the same time each night – this will help keep your body clock on time and promote a strong link between bedtime and good quality sleep. Keeping an irregular sleeping pattern creates a jet lag effect whereby the brain starts to sleep and wake up at the wrong time.
5. Prepare for sleep
Aim to wind down and darken down at least 30-40 minutes before bed. Switch off all electronic devices (TV, computer and phone), dim the light and then get ready for the next day before gently heading to bed and reading a calming book.
6. Live a sleepy lifestyle
Live a healthy lifestyle that promotes sleep. For example, drink a moderate amount of caffeine and stop by 2pm. Limit alcohol consumption, especially close to bedtime. Exercise regularly, ideally during the afternoon or early evening.
7. Have a comfortable bedroom
Aim to sleep in a cool, comfortable, quiet and dark bedroom. Turn off the central heating, get a mattress that fits your comfort needs, block out noise (use earplugs if needed) and install blackout blinds to help create your perfect sleeping environment.
8. Stay in bed at night
If you are awake at night choose to stay in bed and conserve your energy by lying still and being calm and relaxed. Be mindful and welcome your thoughts and emotions – try not to struggle with them or get out of bed to avoid them.
9. Let go of struggling to sleep
Choose to let go of struggling with your sleeplessness. Sleep is a natural biological process that can’t be controlled and battling against it could be likened to an endless game of tug of war, which only wakes you up more!
10. Calm your mind
Worrying about the past or catastrophizing about the future promotes night time wakefulness. Be mindful by noticing things objectively and without judgement in the present moment, like the touch of your duvet on your toes of the gentle movement of air in and out of your nose. If your mind wanders onto worry, gently return back to the present moment.
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