Reduce, Reset and Remove - How to Get a Good Night's Sleep

Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

We all know that a good night’s sleep is important but many of us struggle to get that average 7 – 9 hours sleep required for overall health and well-being.

43 percent of adults surveyed reported that stress caused them to lie awake at night while 49 percent couldn’t sleep because of a racing mind. That too wired to be tired feeling is the result of an overactive nervous system . Throughout the day our nervous system kicks into action to help us cope with the high speed, high pressure, high stress world we live in. At night, when we are ready for sleep, our nervous system is still up and running. This prevents the trigger of the relaxation response, the release of sleep hormones and so keeps as awake and alert.

Health Risks of Lack of Sleep.

Lack of or poor quality sleep affects us physically, mentally and emotionally. 

  • Tiredness can cause lack of concentration, irritability and slower response rates.

  • Lack of sleep hinders the critical repair process and can generate inflammation – a major driver of chronic illness.

  • Insomnia can increase the risk of many health problems such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

  • Sleep deprivation may be a risk factor for obesity. Dr Gerda Pot from the Diabetes & Nutritional Sciences Division at King’s College London and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, states: ‘The main cause of obesity is an imbalance between calorie intake and expenditure and this study adds to accumulating evidence that sleep deprivation could contribute to this imbalance.

  • Sleep loss is linked to depression and new clues about this were reported in a  study in the Journal of Behaviour Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. The study explored a phenomenon called repetitive negative thinking (RNT) and suggests a link between sleep loss and the inability to suppress negative stimuli, a key element of mood and anxiety disorders. Lack of sleep may deteriorate the neural processes that normally suppress or shed negative thoughts and negative incoming information.

How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep?

Reduced sleep is one of the most common and potentially modifiable health risks in today’s society. A good night’s sleep, as researchers have discovered, is a single treatment that can improve memory, increase the ability to concentrate, strengthen the immune system and decrease the risk of having accidents. Getting that 7 – 9 hours a night, should be up there on top of everyone’s wellbeing priority list.

It’s almost impossible to escape the stressors that trigger that too wired to be tired feeling. However, establishing a pre-bed routine, to dial down an overactive nervous system and trigger the relaxation response, is one way to help catch that much needed good night’s sleep. 

1. Reduce the things that make go BOOM!

The display screens of our phones, noises and sounds of notifications can feed that overactive mode. The blue screen light activates the nervous system AND decreases melatonin, the powerhouse hormone that regulates our sleep wake cycles. Use the Display Settings on your phone to change the brightness of the screen to the warmer end of the colour spectrum. Night Shift mode allows you to choose the times you would like that change to happen say 6pm – 6am. 

The “Do Not Disturb” setting allows you to schedule times when calls and notifications will be silenced. There’s a favourites option to use for those who need access to you at all times.

These small changes will help reduce the triggers that stimulate the nervous system.

2. Reset the Relaxation Response

Each evening do something for 5 – 10 minutes to boost the relaxation response. There are many practices to try such as Yoga to help release physical tension and calm the mind, Meditation, Body Scan Meditation and Mindfulness practices also calm the mind, Deep breathing triggers parasympathetic dominance, self massage is useful to release tension especially in the neck and shoulders or have a long lavender scented bath.

Find a technique or several that work for you to reset your relaxation response and use one each evening to help you wind down.

3. Remove Distractions

We use routines to prepare children for bed – create an unwind and relax pre- bed routine for yourself. A routine which removes the distractions that lead to that high wired feeling and stimulate the brain.

Unplug at least 1 hour before bed – switch the TV off, stop using any technology. This hour break will give your brain a chance to unwind and prepare for sleep. Read or use the hour to reset the relaxation response above. 

Don’t use your phone as an alarm. Your brain will register there’s a phone nearby and will be on guard waiting for that perceived phone call. Your sleep will become lighter, increasing the likelihood that your sleep pattern will be disturbed. Its called hyper vigilance the experience of being constantly tense and on guard.

Reduce, Reset and Remove is a simple way to reinforce the message to your mind and body that it’s the end of the day. It’s time to unwind, relax and have a good night’s sleep.

Article originally published in Thrive Global

Gail Smith