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Sleep difficulties: effective strategies

Updated: Jan 2, 2021

There are many reasons for not sleeping well which may include distress, physical discomfort or physical illness. Sleep needs vary. A baby starts life needing 16 hours or so of sleep each day, and the time we need for sleep decreases as we get older, so that adults, and particularly older adults may only need 4-6 hours a night.

People's needs vary, but most people feel they need 7-8 hours, whilst others feel they need 9-10 hours a night. We might have difficulty getting off to sleep, wake up frequently during the night, or wake early in the morning and not be able to get back to sleep. These all result in our feeling that we haven't slept enough - we feel tired, tense and are likely to worry about not sleeping. This worry can then make it even harder for us to sleep well. If you have trouble sleeping, there are some things you can do to help yourself get a good night’s rest. These include making changes in:

• Our environment

Are there any helpful changes you can make?

-Bedroom too light or too dark

-Bedroom too hot or too cold

-Bedroom too noisy

-Bedroom too uncomfortable

-Partner keeping you awake (snoring, restless etc?)

• Our behaviour

Reset your body clock. If your a night owl and you fall asleep in the early hours of the morning then wake up later in the morning you can take these steps for three weeks to reset your body clock.

-Wake up 2-3 hours earlier than usual and get plenty of outdoor light in the morning

-Eat breakfast as soon as possible

-Have lunch at the same time everyday and eat nothing after 7pm

-Ban caffeine after 3pm

-No naps after 4pm

-Go to bed 2-3 hours earlier than usual and limit light in the evening

-Maintain the same sleep and wake times everyday

• Our thinking

-Worry about sleeping will keep you awake! Rather than putting your focus of attention on your worrying thoughts, notice that they are just thoughts, then put your attention somewhere restful. Use imagery, mindful breathing, or your relaxation technique.

-Distract yourself by thinking about a random sequence of objects for a few seconds each. E.g. a flower, a cloud, a saucepan, a table, a tree. Or you could think about a few items beginning with the letter "B" and then move on through the alphabet.

-Tell yourself that worrying will not help, and that you probably are getting enough, just less than you think you need. Our needs change as we get older.

-If you are worrying about a particular problem, and tell yourself you can sort it in the morning.

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