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Top tips to improve your sleep

Sleep issues are one of my favourite things to work with. Who doesn’t appreciate better quality sleep? Statistics from The Sleep Charity show that 40% of adults and children experience problems with sleep, at a cost of £40.2 billion to the UK economy because of issues arising from sleep deprivation. That’s a pretty staggering figure!

There is a lot that can be done to improve sleep quality. It requires you to make a few changes to your lifestyle and put in consistent and sustained effort, but the benefits to your mental and physical health will be huge.

Here are some of my top tips:

1. Sleep when you are tired, not when you think you should. It’s important that we build up ‘sleep pressure’ - an increase of the chemical adenosine, which tells your brain how long you have been awake and when you should sleep.

2. Cut out caffeine, or keep it to the mornings only. This is because caffeine mutes the sleep signal transmitted by adenosine, and has a half-life of around 5-7 hours. What this means is that only 50% of the caffeine you consume will be removed from your body in this time, so it’s best kept to the early part of the day or removed entirely if you want better quality sleep.

3. Although naps have many benefits, including improved task performance, memory and reduced blood pressure, they are best kept to less than 20 minutes a day and only before 3pm. Cut them out completely if you have problems getting to sleep or staying asleep - this helps build up sleep pressure.

4. Keep to a regular sleep schedule and you will train your body to fall asleep and wake at the same time each day. This includes keeping the same get-up time at weekends and days off - lie-ins are actually quite ineffective!

5. Remove all clocks and mobile phones from your bedroom. If you wake in the night and look at the time you will focus you on the fact you still have x amount of hours to go until the morning. Guess what? You will stay awake!

6. If you wake and cannot get back to sleep, get up. Go to another room and do a calming activity such as reading until you feel tired. Your bedroom should be the place your mind associates with being asleep - not with being awake!

7. Get outside into natural daylight first thing in the morning, for at least 20 minutes. This helps reset your circadian rhythm (your internal body clock), providing better sleep and improved mental and physical health.

In my practice I use hypnotherapy to help my clients learn how to switch off anxious feelings and access a place of comfort at bedtime. So may sleep issues arise from an anxious mind, and when combined with a programme incorporating the above tips hypnotherapy can help restore a quality sleep cycle and all the associated health benefits.


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