How to Improve Your Quality of Sleep in a Stressful World
Stress is becoming an increasing concern in everyday life. Many of us feel pressurised to do more, be better, prove ourselves constantly in an ever demanding personal or business life. The pressure to fill our lives with constant quality events whilst maintaining successful home lives, families, careers and businesses allows for little time to sit and read a book or listen quietly to music. Symptoms of stress are becoming a major factor in absenteeism from work.
Learning to understand ourselves better is a key to improved health and well being. I often talk about traffic lights with my clients. If the green light is on then the traffic can proceed ahead and go about its business. When the red light is on all the traffic comes to a standstill and has to wait to be told to move again. The amber light is the warning light, that things will be coming to a standstill soon. We need to become aware of our own personal traffic light signals. They tell us when things are good, bad or in need of attention.
When we start to experience our own combination of warnings then it is time to take stock of what is happening and look after ourselves better. There are hundreds of symptoms of stress and pressure, from headaches, blurred vision, poor concentration , to loss of libido, poor quality of sleep, irritability. Becoming aware of our own personal alarm signals gives us important information before things get too seriously wrong.
Quality of sleep is a major part of our support system. How often will someone say ‘do not make a hasty decision now, sleep on it and see how you feel tomorrow’ ? Often by the next day things will seem different. We may well feel calmer, less affected by something or someone, we may look at it in a completely different way. Sleep is time for the conscious mind to take time out from its rational and logical approach and enable the unconscious mind to explore alternative options and perspectives in a free, unrestricted way.
This often happens through dreams. Many people say that they do not dream, but research has found that we all dream several times each night and are programmed to forget them upon waking up. Fitful and restless sleep or broken sleep patterns can occur when a person is very stressed or anxious and finding it difficult to resolve a situation. Sometimes writing down all the issues or concerns can help to cope better. This enables the mind to be freed from going over the thoughts, everything is on the list and can be referred to when required. Then the thoughts can be told to stop and the mind can be clearer.
This is why it is so important to support ourselves in all areas of our lives. We know how important it is to maintain our car, we need it, rely on it for everyday life, business, picking up the children, shopping, errands, maintaining a social life, so we have it serviced regularly, keep it filled with fuel and oil. We do not expect it to run on empty. Think of treating ourselves with the same commitment.
Quality of sleep is an important part of the support process. Treating it as a positive ending to each day is a big step. Here are some positive tips for a better quality and balance in life, all so obvious and yet so often ignored:
– eat a healthy diet, rather than eating quick unhealthy snacks full of sugar and fat.
– take exercise, even a short power walk for twenty minutes two/ three times a week
Commit to proper sleep
– think of winding down a couple of hours before bed
– eat earlier rather than later in the evening and not too spicy foods.
– cut back on alcohol intake in the week. Spirits especially can cause erratic dreams that can result in an unsettled feeling the next day.
– regular exercise, particularly for someone with a stressful life, provides a good diversion
– people often find that they are either mentally or physically tired at the end of a day. Do activities that make you tired in the other area of your life to bring a balance.
– keep the bedroom clutter free. If there is an office area in the bedroom try to screen it off. Keep electrical equipment to a minimum. Aim to keep it a calm relaxing place where you go to unwind.
– avoid intense conversations late at night. Save them for when both parties are more able to discuss things properly.
– ensure that the bedroom smells pleasant, is well ventillated, with a comfortable mattress. Clean sheets with a hint of lavender are lovely.
– take a relaxing bath or shower pre-bed. Maybe use essential oils or candles. Enjoy washing away the days stresses.
– play relaxing music, or read a favourite book
– get the headphones for sleeping
And then just relax in your comfortable bed. Take the pressure off trying to get to sleep. Just allow yourself to focus on relaxing the body and enjoy the quiet time. Sleep often follows quite naturally.
Susan Leigh, Counsellor and Hypnotherapist