If you have been having trouble falling or staying asleep, there are ways to help you sleep better without medication.
Getting enough sleep is not always easy to achieve. And yet, it is as important for your mental and physical health and wellbeing as diet and exercise.
When people are suffering from anxiety, depression and other mental health issues, getting better sleep can be the first step in improving their mental and physical wellbeing. Research has shown that better sleep can produce improvement in psychological conditions – often more than people expect.
How to Sleep Better Without Medication
Here are some tips and strategies to help you improve your sleeping patterns.
Know your own biological clock:
- Get ready for bed before you feel sleepy.
- Quite often people feel sleepy every few hours. If you should miss this timing, it is often difficult to fall asleep during the next several hours.
It is important to know what time you feel sleepy and be ready for sleep before that time, because the activities involved in getting ready for bed can mean you no longer feel sleepy by the time you turn out the light!
Try some calming exercises:
- Focus on diaphragmatic breathing when lying in bed trying to sleep (there are lots of exercises available on YouTube);
- Count to yourself (a boring activity that can reduce the activity of the brain);
- Practice meditation and mindfulness exercises before going to bed (again, there are plenty available on YouTube);
These activities can be useful as people cannot focus on worrying or negative thoughts when doing something else, and these activities are helpful for calming down both body and mind.
Things to avoid:
- Exposure to blue light from television, computer screen, smart phones and other devices can awaken the mind, making it harder to fall asleep. Avoid blue light before sleeping – for example, no checking your mobile phone in the dark while lying in bed!
- Caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes and other substances. Caffeine from coffee or energy drinks, for example, keep the brain alert and prevent sleep. Also, while alcohol and sleeping tablets can calm down mind and body and help people to fall asleep, they prevent good REM sleep and reduce the quality of deep sleep during the night. As a result, people can suffer from increased anxiety and stress.
- Worrying. Try to keep worrying thoughts outside your mind by talking and sharing concerns with others who can be trusted, or writing in a journal. Also, try to recall any positive things that have happened in your day, even the small ones. There are always some good things in your life even in the worst situations.
Exercise and Diet:
- Increasing the frequency and amount of exercise can burn excessive stress hormone, which reduces stress and anxiety, which in turn improves the quality of sleep. The influence of exercise on sleep and mental health in general is often underestimated.
- Improving the quality of diet, and avoiding excessive intake of sugar and fat, can also help with getting better sleep
If you have tried the above tips, and are still having difficulties, seeing a psychologist can be helpful. You will likely learn how to better manage your stress and anxiety levels, allowing you to be more relaxed in both your body and mind; as well as strategies to deal with things like worrying and negative thoughts, which are detrimental to a good sleep habit.
Author: Yu Takizawa, B Sc (Hons), M Couns, M App Psych.
Yu Takizawa is a Brisbane psychologist, fluent in both English and Japanese. He is particularly interested in offering counselling and psychotherapy services to people who are facing cultural challenges, or problems with anxiety.
Yu Takizawa is not currently taking bookings, however to make an appointment with a qualified clinician go to Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call Vision Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3088 5422.