Do you get enough sleep?

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Most people believe that 8 hours of sleep is the goal.

We’re so busy racing through our day to day lives and when statistics show that most people nowadays get around 5 hours a night, it’s no wonder that more and more people are suffering from physical and psychological health problems.

A lack of sleep can cause impulsiveness, reduced creativity, fatigue, moodiness, poor concentration and reduced memory in the short term, but can also increase the risk of psychological problems including depression, anxiety, cancer, diabetes and heart attacks!

Our sleep needs

There are many variations on how much sleep we need between people and over different age groups. Young children often require 12-14 hours and as we grow older, this goes down to 8 hours. Some adults report needing only 4 or 5 hours a night while others need 10 hours.

Actually, how much sleep we need depends on things like how much sleep we had the night before and the amount of exercise we get. Feeling refreshed depends more on the quality of sleep rather than how many hours.

You know you have had enough sleep when you don’t need an alarm to get out of bed and you feel refreshed.

How to sleep better

The best thing to do to promote quality sleep is to keep good sleeping habits:

Establish a routine.
Go to bed at the same time, wake up at the same time, even if you are tired. This will help regulate your body clock. You may feel very different sleeping later from 4am-12pm, as compared to sleeping earlier at 10pm-6pm despite having 8 hours of sleep. So think about what time you would like to go to bed.

As humans, we are day creatures, we like to be up when the sun is shining and asleep when it is dark. The exception however are adolescents, their body clocks are more delayed and it would be unsurprising to find an adolescent sleeping in the wee hours of the morning and waking up late in the afternoon no matter where you are in the world!

Reduce caffeine.
Coffee, tea, chocolate and coke all contain caffeine.
Have no more than four cups of coffee or tea a day and none after 4 pm. Some people will choose to cut caffeine out of their diet altogether.

Do not clock watch.
The last thing you would want to do is check the time to see how long it has taken you to fall asleep and many hours before you need to get up. Remove your clock from your room but remember to put the alarm on.

Get up after 30 minutes if you cannot sleep
Rather than tossing and turning, and clock watching, its better to just get up and do something boring such as reading the newspaper or watching info-commercials rather than ruminating on not being able to sleep. Go to bed when you feel sleepy again. Keeping in mind not to watch a good movie or read a good book, otherwise, you wouldn’t want to sleep!

Avoid exercising near bedtime.
Exercise promotes adrenaline and affects our body’s ability to turn off and sleep. Rather, do something relaxing for half an hour or so before bed to wind down. Listen to some music or do some guided muscle relaxation exercises.

Get some sunshine (and Vitamin D) during the day.
Get 20 minutes of sunshine a day. This will help you regulate your body clock.

Be physically and mental stimulated during the day
Don’t forget to exercise your body and your brain in the day and you will sleep better at night!

With practice and perseverance these strategies will become easier and easier and you will sleep better and better. It is like losing weight, you cannot do it overnight but it takes time and continued effort.

Need some more help?

Poor sleep can also be a common symptom of anxiety, stress, depression and other psychological problems. If you are experiencing mental health issues, you will benefit from the strategies above to improve sleep but may also require more specialised treatment.

Contact us for further assistance and we can perform a proper psychological assessment and tailor a treatment plan to suit your needs.