Door 43 wellbeing blog: Problems sleeping? You’re not alone.

Door 43 wellbeing blog: Problems sleeping? You’re not alone.

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In these blogs our Door 43 team provide wise words and support to help young people manage emotional health and wellbeing during this difficult time. Be sure to look out for these blogs on the Sheffield Futures website and our TwitterFacebook and Instagram channels. 

This week Annis talks about problems with sleep and along with our wellbeing worker Ash, provides information, advice and guidance about how to improve sleep and where to go for further help if needed. 

Hiya – I’m Annis, a Wellbeing Practitioner at Door 43 and this week I’ve decided to do a blog about poor sleep and how to tackle it. This is something I have experienced from time to time in my life and due to recent world events, I thought it’s likely something that others are currently struggling with.

So…..

Are you having difficulty sleeping?  If so we want you to know – you are not alone!

A quote from someone struggling with sleep:

“I have spent so many nights, anxiously wondering what on earth is wrong with me and why I could not just fall asleep like everyone else.  My thoughts would be racing, worst case scenarios would replay through my mind and I would  imagine images of what could go wrong the next day, week, month or year, and my body and mind seemed unable to switch off.  Then, just a few hours before I was due to get up, I would fall asleep and be woken by my alarm and then feel exhausted.”  (Anonymous)

Does any of the above sound familiar? You may have never had an issue with sleeping but due to recent events have found yourself experiencing a range of disturbed sleep patterns.  Or, you might regularly experience problems with falling asleep or perhaps managing to fall asleep but then wake up a few hours later unable to fall back to sleep?

So why is sleep so important? Quality sleep has several benefits to both our physical and mental health. Quality sleep strengthens our immune system, improves brain functioning including learning, memory and decision-making, helps regulate mood and improves our mental health. By getting a good nights sleep we’re giving ourselves the best chance to have a good day!

It’s usually an adjustment to sleeping habits that can help improve my sleep. I find a regular routine helps, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day and with this – waiting until I’m tired before I finally close my eyes. Relaxing for about an hour before bed, for example taking a bath, reading a book or listening to calming music helps.  A sleep diary can be a good idea too where you note down the conditions when you had a good night’s sleep so you can make sure you’re doing those things that have a positive impact.

There are lots of things we can do to help us get the best sleep possible. Ashleigh, also a wellbeing worker in the Door 43 team has worked with me to pull together the following tips:

A wind down and relaxation routine

Utilising relaxation strategies can help create a regular soothing bedtime routine and helps your mind and body slow down and prepare for sleep. Here are some ideas:

  • Drink herbal tea or other warm non-caffeinated drinks
  • Breathing exercises – help activate your body’s relaxation response and counter-act your stress response. Examples include – mindfulness of the breath, counting the breath, diaphragmatic (belly) breathing, take 5 hand breathing, lengthening our breath out (exhalation) longer than our breath in (inhalation). Check out our videos on this here 
  • Reading for fun
  • A relaxing warm bath or shower
  • Yoga – try Yoga with Adriene ‘Yoga for Bedtime 20-minute Practice’
  • Meditation – apps to get you started are headspace, Calm and Smiling Mind
  • Calming music

Try to create a peaceful and pleasant sleeping environment

Typically, dark, quiet and slightly cooler environments are most ideal to promote good sleep, but this may vary for from person to person. Try to make your bedroom as relaxing and comfortable as possible. Consider how your bedroom set up, lighting, mattress, pillows, bedding and pyjamas are helping to create a calm environment. Bright lights, phones, clocks and TV screens can make it difficult to fall asleep. Turn these off or adjust when possible and black out curtains, eye shades, ear plugs, “white noise” machines, fans and other devices can also make the bedroom more relaxing.

Expose yourself to natural light

Exposure to sunlight in the day and darkness at night helps maintain a balanced sleep-wake cycle. Our circadian system is our body’s internal clock and helps regulate when you feel alert and when you’re ready to sleep. External cues such as natural light can also help keep our circadian system in rhythm.

Limit technology time 

The blue light produced by electronic devices has been found to interfere with the body’s natural sleep-promoting processes. Try to give yourself some technology free time around 1 hour before bed as well as adjust device settings or apps that reduce or filter blue light. If you do use meditation or relaxation apps to assist in falling asleep try turning your phone onto airplane mode so that you don’t get distracted by notifications when you are trying to relax.

Food, drink and exercise

Caffeine and alcohol can all disturb sleep patterns including making it harder to fall and remain asleep during the night. If you are having difficulty sleeping, try limiting caffeine and alcohol and see if it makes a difference for you.

Moving your body throughout the day can assist in helping you sleep at night.  Research has found that just 10 minutes of aerobic exercise (e.g. running, cycling, swimming, HIIT workout etc) during the day can help significantly improve sleep quality. However, try to avoid strenuous workouts close to bedtime and replace with slower paced and more relaxing exercises such as yoga and stretching. (Note: the effect of intense night time exercise on sleep varies between individuals so it’s important to find out what suits you best).

Don’t force it

Lying awake for a long time tossing and turning? Mind racing worrying about the future or replaying the past? Trying to force yourself to sleep? Try pressing the reset button instead. Get up out of bed and try engaging in a relaxation practice (e.g. reading, breathing exercises, meditation). Once you start to feel a bit sleepier go back to bed and try again.

Useful links 

You can find out more about sleep problems and get further information, advice and guidance from the NHS and Mind.

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