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Nine Science-Backed Tips for Overcoming Sleep Problems

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Nine Science-Backed Tips for Overcoming Sleep Problems

#1 Set yourself an electronic curfew one hour before bedtime. Phones and computers produce blue light which disrupts your circadian rhythm (your body’s biological clock). Actually light of any kind interrupts sleep, but in a Harvard University study blue light in particular was found to be twice as disruptive to the sleep-wake cycle. Not to mention that all of that texting and scrolling through Instagram keeps your brain fired up right at the time you are trying to wind down.

#2 Create a bedtime ritual for yourself. Just like parents do for their children! A ritual will help you to ease your way into sleepy mode. Consider doing things like turning off ceiling lights and popping on candles or lamps instead, playing relaxing music, drinking herbal tea, having a bath (boosting your body temperature will help you to feel sleepy sooner), using some essential oils (such as lavender) or doing some mindfulness or relaxation by clicking on our free downloads here.

After you’ve repeated your ritual a few times your brain will start to associate the pattern you’ve created with feeling sleepy and before you know it you’ll be nodding off mid way through your herbal tea!

#3 Wait until you feel sleepy. Don’t jump into bed until you actually notice signs that you’re feeling tired. This might mean you head to bed a little later than planned some nights, but this is preferable to laying in bed trying to force yourself to sleep (which never seems to work!).

#4 If sleep isn’t happening, don’t persist for too long. Researchers have found that the best strategy here is to get out of bed and set yourself up somewhere else, like the lounge room. Do something calming or boring with minimal lighting and noise. Definitely don’t do anything that’s interesting or exciting because you’ll get your brain fired up. Head on back to bed only when you feel calm and sleepy.

This tip can be a particularly annoying one to have to follow through on in the middle of a dark and chilly night, especially if you have to do it more than once! Keep in mind though that by getting out of bed your untangling the association your brain has with bed being a place of stress and pressure. You’re actually retraining your brain to see your bed as a place of calm and rest.

#5 Create a sleepy sanctuary. Set your sleeping space up to ensure it’s noise free, has low lighting and is a temperature that feels comfy for you. Only use your bed for sleep and sex. Don’t work on your laptop, scroll on your phone, watch Netflix or even read in bed. This particular tip can be a bummer because who doesn’t love to curl up in bed with a good book or their favourite show? You don’t necessarily need to follow this tip forever though. It will likely just be something you need to do until you get your sleep back on track.

#6 Stay away from caffeine and nicotine for 4-6 hours before bed. Caffeine and nicotine are both stimulants so they rev up your mind and body.

#7 Limit your alcohol intake. Although alcohol might help some people to fall asleep, it can have a negative impact on the quality of your sleep and can also cause you to wake part way through the night. Alcohol also inhibits Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep which is the deep restorative sleep our minds and bodies need to function best.

#8 Say no to nanna naps! When you have a rough night of sleep the urge to nap can be intense! When you nap though you’re more likely to experience disturbed sleep the next night and before you know it your sleep-wake cycle will be completely out of whack. Holding out takes self-discipline, but you’ll increase your chances of feeling tired that evening and getting your sleep-wake cycle back on track. If you really can’t resist the urge to nap, experts claim that 10-minute naps pack the most punch.

#9 Develop a regular sleeping routine. Go to bed and get up at roughly the same time regardless of how well you slept the night before. If you get up at the same time each day you’re more likely to feel tired at the same time each evening. The tough part about this particularly tip is that studies suggest that we should even get up around the same time on weekends or days off (give or take an hour)!

If you’re struggling with ongoing sleep problems and want some extra ideas and support we can help. Get started with one of our experienced psychologists here.

 

About the Author:

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Dr Jacqueline Baulch is a clinical psychologist and the director of Inner Melbourne Clinical Psychology. She is passionate about shifting the "hush-hush" atmosphere surrounding mental illness, emotions and vulnerability. Jacqueline believes that open and real conversations can spark hope and healing, and help us to feel less alone in this messy business of being a human.