Insomnia is difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep for long enough to feel refreshed the next morning. It’s a common problem thought to regularly affect around one in every three people in the UK, and is particularly common in elderly people.
If you have insomnia, you may:
- Find it difficult to fall asleep,
- Lie awake for long periods at night,
- Wake up several times during the night,
- Wake up early in the morning and not be able to get back to sleep,
- Not feel refreshed when you get up,
- Find it hard to nap during the day, despite feeling tired,
- Feel tired and irritable during the day and have difficulty concentrating,
Occasional episodes of insomnia may come and go without causing any serious problems, but for some people it can last for months or even years at a time.
Persistent insomnia can have a significant impact on your quality of life. It can limit what you’re able to do during the day, affect your mood, and lead to relationship problems with friends, family and colleagues. (NHS)
Author: Emma Thornton. Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
5 Tips For Overcoming Sleep Issues.
If you’ve been suffering from insomnia recently, you’re not alone, as it seems insomnia and trouble sleeping are currently at an all-time high. Throughout this blog, I reveal some tips to help limit sleep disturbance, such as:
- Prioritise better sleep routines
- Don’t watch the clock
- Watch out for other bad habits
- Try meditation
- Seek help when you need it
I explain how these tactics can be implemented and why super simple changes could potentially make all the difference.
2. Don’t watch the clock
Stress and sleep issues can easily turn into a vicious cycle. The more stressed we feel, the more likely we are to struggle getting to sleep, plus people then start worrying about the fact that they aren’t sleeping enough – another common phenomenon.
My advice on this one is simple – we should try not to get too obsessed with the time in the bedroom. Setting alarms is fine but otherwise try not to have access to the time. As an added bonus, this may also help to limit your exposure to blue-light emitting screens!
Watch my self-care video below for more on this vicious cycle that we can work on breaking.
3. Watch out for other bad habits
With it, lockdown has brought a worrying host of new-found bad habits. As people are confined more to their houses, and much more limited in spending their time as they please, some bad habits can easily creep in, which could be impacting your sleep.
Some of my tips for identifying and rectifying some of these habits, are as follows:
Consider if your diet has changed.
An interesting piece of research says that for some, Lockdown has given them more time to reflect on how they are eating and make some positive changes in this respect. However, for others, food availability, for a number of reasons, may have become scarcer.3 This means that some people have been stocking up on more low-nutrient, shelf-stable foods. When this is our primary source of nutrition for some time, it can easily make nutrient deficiencies more likely.
So, it might be useful to consider if your diet has changed and, if so, consider if this could be subject to some change once more, if need be. Again, for some, there is some scope to turn the new situation into a positive. If you fancy some inspiration, our Recipe Hub may be worth a visit.
Don’t turn to alcohol.
Whilst alcohol in moderation is fine, for example, one nice glass of red wine alongside a homecooked dinner at the weekend. For some, being confined to the house and/or with sleep problems already lurking at the back of their minds, you might assume alcohol is the answer.
However, unfortunately, alcohol will only further hinder your quality of sleep and make you feel even groggier in the long-run. Alcohol should be treated as a treat and shouldn’t be consumed in excess if you are keen to help protect your sleep.
Much like sleep itself, it seems that at the very start of Lockdown exercise was on the rise, however, at this stage, with the gyms still being shut and the novelty starting to wear off for many, many of us are struggling to find the motivation to keep active.
Contrary to popular belief, regular, gentle exercise can actually help support sounder sleep so, finding an activity you like can be a real positive. Online Pilates or fitness classes are booming and these give the user some flexibility in terms of time, as well as being able to take part from the comfort of their own homes. Moving more in the morning is more likely to be beneficial rather than getting too hot and bothered just before bed, if we’re doing everything we can to support better sleep.
With even our social lives having gone virtual over the last year, it can seem impossible to limit your screen time right now. Social interactions are definitely priority, but my advice is just to be a little more aware of your screen time and at least limit this in the hour or two before bed, to help train your mind to wind down.
4. Try meditation
Meditation is a prime example of the unity of mind and body. Mental stress can speed the heart and raise the blood pressure; meditation can actually reverse the physiological signs of stress.
Really forcing ourselves to get into a more relaxed headspace may be a last resort for some. For those that have tried relaxation techniques in the past, it may take slightly more effort than usual right now, but we will get there! For those considering this new venture, relaxing in any way we know how can be really effective for protecting our mental health and encouraging better sleep.
Meditation is particularly popular as it is so simple. Through breathing and zoning out it can help to relax your body and mind which can have a whole host of benefits, including on our sleep, especially if practice it shortly before heading to bed.
Another tip of mine to help complement some meditation is to avoid the news, especially the evening news. Most people reporting anxiety consume news on a daily basis that exacerbates their symptoms, especially if it is relating to something they cannot control.
I’ve never quite understood the 10pm news anyway – never mind that we should be in bed by then, but the stimulation at this time, plus the particular doom and gloom vibe that the news is offering right now, just isn’t good for anyone. If you really feel you need to tune into the news, do this earlier in the day, and certainly as the day draws to close, limit those screens and focus on more relaxing activities instead.
5. Seek help when you need it
Please note that these tips are only intended for mild issues that are appropriate to be treated from home. For many, this pandemic has brought such a barrage of worry and stress that some self-care tips simply won’t cut it.
If you are concerned that you are struggling to keep on top of things, a chat with your doctor or another appropriate healthcare professional would be advised.
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