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Health and Wellbeing

07 Nov 2018

Sleep

Why are we having so much trouble with it and what are the solutions?

Australians are desperate for more, good quality shut-eye.

Changes in our lifestyles as well as daily choices that we make are, however, making the most important part of our days very hard to achieve.

Although we are all different, most people don’t function well with less than seven hours of sleep and regularly getting less than that amount can, over time, contribute to depression, heart disease, lowered immunity, obesity, type 2 diabetes and anxiety, to name a few.

Why do so many of us have trouble with our sleep?

A good night’s sleep can require everything from the practical (a cool, comfortable pillow) to the ethereal (a deep sense of calm and peace-of-mind before bed). The difficulty is, however, that our busy, fast-paced and jam-packed lifestyles are not conducive to a sense of ease, relaxation and stillness – all required to have a good night’s sleep.

Working longer hours and having longer commutes, leaves less time for domestic chores – paying bills, doing repairs, dealing with paperwork for taxes or child-related activities – which get stuffed into twilight hours.

We are also engaging in more “active relaxation”, because we need to wind down after our long days. This means engaging in watching YouTube clips, playing video games, watching TV, exercising vigorously late at night or having regular after-work drinks, all of which (although great in small doses) keep our brains and bodies “on”, and do not promote genuine relaxation and being present.

The problems and the solutions

Below is a list of a few common pre-sleep complaints I receive from clients. There are many more, as well as a multitude of during-sleep complaints, which will be the subject of a later article:

Problem: Your days after work are longer than ever, busy and your schedule changes, and so does your bed time.

Solution: One word: boundaries! Work has to be done, deadlines need to be met- but sleep is vital to your health. No health = no deadlines. So stick to a regular sleep schedule. Same sleep time every day, same wake time, every day. When sleep has a regular rhythm, your biological clock will be in sync and all of your other bodily functions will go smoother, including your sleep.

Problem: You drink alcohol before bed to “wind down”.

Solution: Drinking alcohol before bed reduces your REM sleep (REM sleep helps you organise and store your memories and process the difficult stuff you experience during the day). Instead of alcohol, try working out straight after work (and get all of your frustrations/tensions out), and then sip “sleep tea” to wind down at home.

Problem: You look at your computer or phone until the moment you go to sleep

Solution: No screen time for one hour before bed. Instead: read a book/article/magazine, meditate, plan the next day, spend time with your partner, take a bath/shower, write a gratitude list, draw, write, breathe, be present!

Problem: You feel “wired/on” until the moment you go to sleep/at night.

Solution: If you have done all of the above and still feel wired: write down your worries and thoughts in a journal before bed, shut the book and place it in a drawer, massaging hands and feet can help to soothe the body (try magnesium cream, it may aid with more restful and deep sleep) and if all else fails, have a chat to your GP about the state of your adrenal glands and whether you might be experiencing adrenal fatigue.

Do you have a question for Rajna or wish to connect?

Email her on bogdanovicrajna@gmail.com 

Rajna Bogdanovic - Clinical Psychologist

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