Overcoming Insomnia: How to Increase the Length AND Quality of Your Sleep
By Dr Becky Spelman
Getting a good night’s sleep is advice that’s offered so readily that it’s become somewhat generalised. It’s something we hear so often and from so many sources that it can be a little fatiguing – pardon the pun – to hear it time and time and time again. But the reason it’s pushed so much as a vital component to our health is that it is that important. And whether you may think so or not, sleep issues like insomnia are one of the prevalent causes of mental and cognitive challenges that many people are facing on a daily basis. It’s the root cause of a lot of problems that could easily be resolved simply by getting in a consistent routine.
It’s so easy nowadays to get sucked into the cycle of one more episode, or five more minutes on the endless scroll of Facebook – or whatever your social media platform of choice may be. There’s so much distraction and potential for stimulation with the on-demand entertainment culture that it can hard to resist the urge of seeking out that next dopamine filled rushed. But ultimately, all those hours spend blazing the blue light way in the early hours of the early morning will eventually take their toll. If not now, then they will eventually, due to the cumulative effect that poor-quality sleep has on your health.
Why is Sleep So Important for Good Mental Health?
We’re often encouraged to sleep more and sleep better. But without any good or justifiable reason for doing so, it can be hard to break the cycle of our old – and in some case addictive – habits. There has to be a compelling reason that is driving our decision to make these choices stick in the long-term. Here’s what you stand to gain:
Better Productivity and Concentration: Proper sleep is vital for various functions of the brain. It has been demonstrated that poor sleep had adversely affected certain cognitive abilities, while good sleep has been shown to improve problem-solving skills.
Poor Sleep is Linked to Higher Body Weight: People who have insomnia or those who only have short sleep cycles are more at risk of not being able to manage their weight properly with children and adult 89% and 55% more susceptible to weight gain respectively.
It Can Aid & Maximise Athletic Performance: This one should be fairly obvious, as a well-rested body will surely out-perform someone who’s stayed up all night. But this has been back by various studies, including one focusing on basketball players that shown improved sleep improved accuracy, reactions times and overall wellbeing.
Poor Sleep Can Increase the Likelihood of a Stroke: Perhaps most surprisingly, sleeping less than 7-8 hours per night has been linked with a greater risk of falling victim to a stroke or heart disease.
Poor Sleep is Strongly Linked to Depression: It’s been estimated that around 90% of people who suffer from depression all express complaints about sleep quality. Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea are also more prevalent in those who suffer from depression.
Good Sleep Improves Immune Function: It’s been demonstrated that even a small loss of sleep can impair the functioning of your immune system. One study showed that people who slept less than 7 hours a day were almost three times as likely to develop a common cold as those with normal sleep patterns.
Strategies for Improving the Quality of Your Sleep
Cutting Out Night time Exercise (Exercise During the Day Instead)
Night time exercise is a popular pursuit for some people. It’s a much quieter time of the day, there’s no traffic around, and your schedule might even mean that it’s the most convenient time of day. But physically exerting yourself so some before sleep gets your entire nervous system running. It increases the blood flow to your brain and gives you a significant cognitive boost.
Make Sure You Have Proper Wind Down Time
Just as you don’t want to be physically exerting yourself late in the evening, you do also need to think about you are going to do instead. Having a proper period of wind-down time where you’re relaxing and getting into that mode of pre-sleep is an important part of any routine. But instead of the usual Netflix show, you may be better-served reading or doing something that doesn’t involve technology if you’re having difficulty sleeping.
Limiting Your Screen Time Before Sleep (And Exposure to Light)
The screen time pandemic is one that’s been raging for a number of years now. But it’s still just a prevalent an issue as ever. The blue light that’s emitted from our devices is the same that’s found in the sun’s rays which tells our body it’s time for wakefulness and activity. One way around this is to limit your time. But alternatively, there are no many apps that allow you to remove the blue light entirely.
What you eat can have a huge impact on how you sleep. And while you don’t want to eat too heavy and too late, you also don’t want to eat to light either. Eating a good satiating meal that’s rich in healthy fats and proteins will help ground you much than one loaded purely with carbs. Eating sugary snacks also falls into the bracket. It’s ok to partake. But not too much…
Be Consistent with Your Bedtime (Keep In-Sync with Your Body)
Sleeping is a habit and more consistent you can be with your bedtime, the more success you’ll have in being able to get to sleep more quickly as well as enjoying a better quality of sleep. It takes around 21 days to properly embed a habit within your psyche. So challenge yourself to be as consistent as you can for this period.
About the author:
Dr Becky Spelman is a leading UK Psychologist who’s had great success helping her clients manage and overcome a multitude of mental illnesses.
***If you’re struggling with insomnia and think you might benefit from speaking to someone, we offer a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with one of our specialists to help you find the best way to move forward. You can book yours here
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