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How to Get More Sleep so You Have Less Overwhelm

Do you constantly feel exhausted?
Do you constantly feel like you haven't got enough energy to get on with the day?
Or if you sit down in the afternoon you fall asleep?
Then all night your mind is racing?
Maybe you prop yourself up with caffeine and sugar to get you through each day only to be awake all night?

If you answered yes to some or all of these questions then this blog is for you!

You know when people used to talk about sleep it was just one big yawn for me.

I mean, who wants to talk about sleep right, it’s kind of like talking about the weather. It just happens! Doesn’t it?

Well it turns out that it doesn’t always just happen and I’ve come to realise that getting good sleep is sooooo important to our wellbeing. Sometimes we need to get really conscious about why we’re not getting enough subconscious time. It turns out that there are many things that can influence our ability to sleep, or not sleep, as the case may be.

If you think about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, sleep is in the base layer. So we’re talking about physiological needs here. The thing with Maslow’s theory is that we cannot attend to our needs that are further up the hierarchy when we do not have these physiological needs met. When we don't get enough sleep it can impact so many other aspects of our life. So today is about coming back to the basics.

When we do get enough sleep our ability to cope with the ups and downs of life improves, we feel less overwhelmed and have more capacity to behave in ways that are aligned with what truly matters to us.

When I’m supporting people who are overwhelmed they often tell me that they’re not sleeping, or not getting good quality sleep. The sleep deficit impacts their ability to cope with their emotions and their ability to make good decisions. When we are overtired it becomes more difficult to be mindful, set boundaries and respond to challenging interactions effectively.

Our ability to take care of other aspects of our wellbeing is also affected, such as making healthy food choices or getting sufficient exercise.

When I started reading and preparing for this episode I found that there is a wide range of what is considered to be the optimum amount of sleep. Somewhere between 7 - 9 hours seems to be the recommended amount of sleep per night. It is tricky to know exactly how much sleep you are getting, unless you have a device that measures. I must admit, I don’t know much about the latest gadgets that do this.

We're often not really sure exactly what time we fall asleep and then if there's periods of wakefulness during the night it can be tricky to know exactly how many hours sleep we've had.

It can be difficult also, if we become really focussed on the hours of sleep that we are getting. Or get too caught up in the use of gadgets and devices to measure our sleep.

The worry about not falling asleep, can indeed, result in us….not falling asleep.

When we are feeling worried, stressed, anxious or overwhelmed our fight and flight response. Our fight/flight response is about mobilising the body to take action. This is the sympathetic nervous system doing its job. Any wonder when we are in this state we have trouble sleeping! We need to come back into a feeling of relative safety in order to sleep. Rest and digest takes place in the parasympathetic nervous system.

The top ten tips I’m going to share with you today are all about creating a greater sense of safety.

There’s a funny name that is used to describe creating good habits that encourage our bodies to rest. It’s called Sleep Hygiene.

Basically it just means creating good habits to help you get to sleep. You might not be able to do all of these at once but if you can start implementing even some of these suggestions you will most likely begin to notice some changes in the quality and hours of your sleep.

  • Try not to take naps during the day. It's really important that during the day you're awake so that your body is getting tired enough to fall asleep in the evening.

  • If you really do need to take a nap during the day try to make it no longer than 20 minutes, after lunch but before 3 p.m.

  • Avoid caffeinated beverages after 4pm in the afternoon for obvious reasons. Try some of the herbal teas that are available if you need to have a cup of something warm later in the evening.

  • It's important that your bedroom is kept really dark. Try to use heavy drapes and cover up any gaps in the curtains if there is light shining through.

  • Try to keep the room really quiet. If you struggle with noise, consider investing in some ear plugs. They take a little getting used to but might help.

  • Try to avoid using your bedroom for other activities such as watching TV, using your phone, gaming, work related activities and phone calls. The idea here is to train your body to associate the bedroom with sleeping. If you listen to music or read in the bedroom try to make it soothing rather than mentally stimulating music or reading.

  • Some recommendations are to try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day. If you need to sleep in on the weekend, try to limit it to only one additional hour on the weekend.

  • Sometimes I recommend for people to have a notepad and pen beside them at night. When our minds are racing there can be a reluctance to fall asleep because we fear that we will forget all the things that we need to do. Writing them down signals to our brain that we won’t forget. It can be a helpful strategy to put the thoughts out of your mind and onto the page.

  • The absolutely most helpful thing that I’ve found that sends me off to sleep almost immediately are Bedtime Stories for Grown Ups Where Nothing Much Happens by Kathryn Nicolai. I recommend this to anyone who is having trouble drifting off to give these stories a try.

  • My final tip is Progressive Muscle Relaxation

I’d really encourage you to give some of these ideas a try and would love to hear if you find any of them helpful.

Getting a good night’s sleep is so important for our overall well being and our mental health. When we get sufficient sleep we are in a much better position to cope with the challenges of life, make good decisions and relate to our loved ones more effectively.

Sometimes when we are feeling overwhelmed our sleep suffers.

I’m looking forward to connecting with you online and sharing some skills and strategies to help you to overcome the overwhelm that many of us are facing right now.

If you’d like to join my waitlist to receive more information about my upcoming workshop you can follow the link here.

Until next time, sleep well!


The ACT Counsellor


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