The importance of sleep

A good night’s sleep has benefits for both the body and mind. Sleep promotes physical recovery and creates memory pathways in the brain, helping to enhance our learning and problem-solving skills. In this article, Psychologist Dr Stefania Grbcic outlines some simple tips to help you sleep better.

How to avoid disrupted sleep

What we do during the day and evening affects our sleep. Napping during the day will interfere with your sleep during the night. To get around the temptation to nap, use stimulating activities to increase your adrenaline levels. Or, if you’re really tired, nap for a maximum of 20 minutes in the earlier part of the afternoon. 

If you eat food late in the evening, the brain receives the signal, ‘I’m eating, therefore it can’t be bedtime, so I’ll keep awake’. If you tend to wake up because you’re hungry, have a light snack in the evening rather than a big meal. Similarly, if you exercise late in the evening, your brain will think, ‘if I’m exercising, it can’t be bedtime soon’.  

Many people who have difficulties with sleeping also use their bed for reading, watching TV, using their phone, arguing and worrying. As a result, the brain associates being in bed with mental stimulation instead of relaxation. If you have your phone or computer within sight in your bedroom, your brain will be active on a subconscious level and processing will start, such as, ‘I wonder if they’ve replied to my email’. Ban technology from your bedroom and read in a different room.

Try to have some ‘wind down’ time before you go to bed. During this time, it’s a good idea to write down your thoughts to help your brain process the information that is going around your head. A journal or notebook is great at absorbing worries and frustrations, and the simple process of writing helps the brain with processing.  

Avoid clock watching or checking your phone while you are trying to fall asleep. Often, worrying thoughts about lack of sleep can interfere with the process of sleeping. It can help to accept that you might be having problems falling asleep or that you might wake up in the early hours, rather than fighting it.

Quick tips for a good night’s sleep

  • Develop regular sleep times, where you go to bed at night and get up in the morning around the same time each day. 
  • Avoid drinking caffeine after midday. 
  • Avoid drinking too much alcohol, as it interrupts sleep.
  • Ensure your curtains or blinds are keeping light out of your bedroom. 
  • Keep your bedroom between 18°C - 21°C. 
  • Have a hot shower or bath just before bed. Adding some lavender oil might help you to relax.

Meet our specialist

Dr Stefania Grbcic is a chartered consulting psychologist, who specialises in stress and anxiety management, sleep difficulties and post-traumatic stress disorder. She uses a clinically based solution-focused approach in dealing with specific problems. She works with both adults and children and her preferred therapeutic approaches are cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and cognitive behaviour coaching (CBC).

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