How can a psychologist help me with my sleep problems?
Do you have trouble getting to sleep?
Do you have trouble staying asleep?
Do you consistently wake too early and then are unable to get back to sleep?
Do you wake in the middle of the night with racing thoughts?
Perhaps you have regular nightmares?
Most people have sleep issues at some point in their life that are short-lived and usually work themselves out without intervention. However, excessive sleep or sleep deprivation can have serious consequences. A lack of sleep can make you grumpy, affects concentration, causes accidents and injuries, affects your sex drive, and can lead to serious physical health problems such as high blood pressure, and mental health issues such as depression. Ongoing sleep problems may be the result of an underlying medical condition and should always be assessed by your medical practitioner.
Once a medical reason has been explored, a psychologist may be able to assist by examining your attitudes towards sleep as well as your sleeping patterns with a view to encouraging better sleep hygiene.
Stress and Sleep
Sleep is an essential part of being a healthy human being. When we sleep our bodies can relax, rest, repair muscles, and process the day’s activities into long term memory.
Lack of sleep can be detrimental in a number of ways. It can affect our mood, appetite, motivation, energy levels, memory, concentration, and decision making ability. Sleep deprivation can lead to a vicious cycle of feeling overwhelmed and stressed, not sleeping because you are so stressed, then feeling tired, lethargic and unmotivated, resulting in feeling stressed because you are not functioning properly.
It is well known that sleep deprivation was used as a form of psychological torture as part of warfare.
Whether you have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep because of racing thoughts or stress tension, developing a healthy sleep hygiene routine will start you off in the right direction. You should of course consult a medical professional if you are experiencing long-term sleep difficulties so that other causes can be explored.
Tips for Establishing a New Sleep Routine
- No electronic screen time at least one hour before going to bed. Power all your devices down, or turn the sound off, and store them somewhere other than your bedroom.
- Darken the room to ensure you get the maximum amount of darkness as the sun comes up.
- Start a pre-bed ritual or routine so that your mind and body start to relax and anticipate sleep. Read a book, do a 10-minute mindfulness meditation, do some relaxation yoga poses – anything that helps you to wind down.
- Only use your bed for sleep and intimacy.
- Start a morning ritual. Before you get out of bed, have a long stretch and then take 5 to 10 deep breaths.
- Try to set a regular bedtime – go to bed with the intention of sleeping. Set your alarm to get up at a regular time – and get up, regardless of how tired you feel. If you haven’t had enough sleep that night, you will be able to naturally catch up in the following days with this routine.
- Do not nap during the day, no matter how tired you feel, as this will interrupt establishment of a regular sleep routine.
- If you find yourself lying in bed and not sleeping, intentionally try to relax your body and calm your mind so that you are setting yourself up to sleep when it eventually occurs. Let go of the expectation that you “need to be sleeping” and see if you can accept that just lying there and relaxing is getting your body ready for sleep. At some point you will naturally drift off instead of keeping your mind actively thinking about why you should be sleeping and how dreadful it is that you aren’t. While your mind is racing, you have little chance of being able to drop off to sleep.
- Do some physical exercise every day. This will help you sleep.
- Limit the amount of caffeine (coffee, tea, energy drinks) and other stimulants you have each day.
- Try not to drink large amounts of fluid close to bedtime to minimise the amount of times you need to visit the toilet during the night.
A Simple Tip to Slow Your Mind Down
Get into bed and lie in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and focus all your attention on your breath. Don’t force your breath to do anything except breath in its normal rhythm. After a few breaths, focus all your attention on your left nostril as you breath in….and your right nostril as you breath out…left nostril in….right nostril out….continue to do this, noticing if your mind wanders off, and just gently guiding yourself back to refocus on your breath. At the very least, you should be able to slow your mind down, and the best, you will drift off to sleep.
If you are seeking the services of a psychologist or counsellor in Perth, please contact me on 0406 033 644 or firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ve got lots more great tips and techniques to help with sleep.
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