Sleep disturbance has been one of the most common problems I’ve encountered in my decades of work as a clinical psychologist at the Smart Therapy Centre.
By now, most people know most of the ‘sleep hygiene’ factors. Things like having a dark, cool room with cool bedcovers since getting too warm keeps us awake. Or, getting off the computer or TV screen at least an hour before bed as the blue light reduces melatonin production. Also, ensuring we don’t engage in other activities in bed like emails, TV, eating or reading because doing these things teaches our brain to stay awake when in bed rather than to go to sleep when in bed.
In my experience though, the most important advice that nearly everyone overlooks is DON’T GET OVERTIRED. Like babies, when we are overtired, we get restless, agitated and so ‘wired’ that we feel almost tortured – and then sleep becomes incredibly difficult to achieve.
It is most important to remember that we usually DON’T REALISE when we are overtired (and in fact, almost as soon as we become overtired our bodies produce more cortisol to keep us awake) so we frequently feel wide awake. This will especially be the case if you are used to staying up late and have habitual insomnia.
Therefore, it is crucial to get to bed well before this happens. Perhaps set an early bedtime (initially like 8 or 9pm) and stick to it – even if it feels ridiculously early!