The Blue Tree Clinic’s resident intern, Alannah Fallon investigates the importance of good sleep…..
Importance of sleep
Sleep is vital for the development and adequate functioning of the mind and body, and therefore a good sleep routine equates to good health. Whilst in a sleep state, your body repairs and regenerates itself, vital for a sound immune system. Additionally, sleep helps regulate hormone levels and improves cognitive function, leaving you feeling refreshed when you wake up in the morning.
It is estimated that we spend almost a third of our life sleeping, with professionals recommending we get at least 7-9 hours of sleep per night. For a lot of us, the thought of getting into a warm and cosy bed after a long day sounds enticing! but what does it mean if the thought of falling asleep induces anxiety in you?
Sleep anxiety, sometimes referred to as ‘sleep dread’ is the fear around the idea of falling and/or being asleep. This worry can be linked to many things, such as the fear of what could happen whilst asleep, the thought that you may not wake up, or the worry that you will have trouble getting to sleep at all. Other reasons could be due to people experiencing things such as nightmares and sleep paralysis, making them fear to go to sleep in case these things reoccur, causing them to refrain from falling asleep, resulting in sleepless nights. Other sleep disorders include things such as insomnia, which is the difficulty someone may experience getting to and staying asleep, which can go hand in hand with sleep anxiety.
It’s clear to see how sleep anxiety can very quickly become a large problem and has the ability to affect daily life substantially. With sleep disorders affecting 7.5 million people in the UK today, it is crucial that we tackle this rising pandemic and focus on the core problems surrounding our sleepless nights.
What causes sleep anxiety?
Sleep problems have been consistently associated with chronic stress and anxiety. It is believed that individuals experiencing these symptoms are more likely to have problems with their sleeping, and due to sleeping being an essential part in helping promote a healthy mind and good mental wellbeing, a lack of sleep will have a detrimental effect on this, creating a vicious circle.
Anxiety is a normal feeling that we all experience from time to time, with it being natural to have worry about certain situations. However, being in an anxious state for continuous, long periods of time is something which is a cause for concern and should be treated properly. When we are in a state of stress, our bodies release a hormone, cortisol, which prepares the body to respond to danger (fight or flight). A build-up of this hormone in our body, caused by chronic stress and anxiety, makes it more difficult for us to relax and therefore can contribute to difficulty sleeping, as our bodies struggles to un-wind.
This continuum of bedtime stress and poor mental health can quickly become debilitating and feel impossible to break free from. However, there are habits you can put into practice to help break the cycle.
Before bed habits
Some things in which you can implement before you go to bed to help improve your sleep
- Sleep schedule
Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. this will create a routine for your body and will help reset your circadian rhythm (sleep/wake cycle).
- Bedroom environment
It’s no surprise you have poor sleep if the place you sleep in is not of comfort! Your bedroom should be your own little sanctuary, a place where you enjoy retiring to at the end of a long day. Adding candles can help create a nice, peaceful ambience, whilst adding nice smells. Keeping the room dark and quiet is also essential for a restful sleep. Anything which you believe will make you feel more comfortable can be added to your own little space.
- Daily exercise
Exercise has been shown to promote sleep and therefore, participating in 20-30 minutes of exercise each day can help you get a more restful sleep at night. This also helps your body feel tired and prepare it for sleep.
- Don’t eat / drink right before bedtime
Eating heavy meals right before bedtime and drinking drinks containing caffeine can really hinder your ability to sleep, therefore trying to avoid consume such things close to bedtime is a good idea. You could try having your last meal a couple of hours before and just drinking water before your planned bedtime.
- Relaxation techniques
Practice relaxation techniques before bed to help aid in calming your mind from any anxiety. Such techniques could include yoga, meditation and mindfulness. You could also try things such as journaling, writing down any stresses or anxieties you may be holding onto, with this acting as a release.
If sleep anxiety and trouble getting to bed is having a profound, debilitating effect on you it is essential you do seek advice from a healthcare professional. Professionals can help figure out the right treatment plan tailored to your personal situation, with there being plenty of options such as different therapies and medications. They can also help find and rule out any underlying conditions which may be contributing to your issues.
The team at Blue Tree Clinic are here to help relieve any problems you may be suffering with. Please do not hesitate to get into contact with any queries you may have and book a consultation today, as the team are here to help enhance your mental wellbeing and allow you to be your best self always.