11pm - 7am
Audrey Tang | Wednesday 18th May 2022 11:37am
This article was originally published in Red magazine, and because in The Wellbeing Lounge this week we had Richard Lilleyman of Aquarius, and Dr Carrie Ruxton of the Tea Advisory Panel to talk about mental wellness, I thought it would be helpful to offer some tips for sleep - which often underpins wellbeing - here.
When it comes to sleeping, it makes sense to engage in a little relaxation, but mindfulness asks us also to pay heed to our behaviours (and habits) leading up to going to bed. If we are always on our phone, or thinking about the day gone – or the one about to come – we might not be able to simply “relax”…and in fact trying to make yourself do so can have the opposite effect.
So if you begin to see “mindfulness” as engaging in conscious action, and paying heed to what your body needs, to give you help you sleep try the following
Have a bedtime routine eg:
Simple centred breathing (breathing in for 4, holding for 2, and out through the mouth for 6) whilst listening to nature sounds, gentle music, or even a relaxation podcast can be the final step for restful night.
Sometimes people find exercising at night helps (others don't – heed your body's response to whatever you try), and after exercising, a bath tends to be more soothing than a shower (unless it feels “too long” for you).
On average, a person's circadian rhythm – colloquially the “internal body clock” – naturally rises and falls in energy within a 24 hour period. However this responds very well to light – especially natural light. If it is dark then our brain signals to release melatonin which makes us sleepy – hence why when a flight crosses time zones the aeroplane lights are dimmed or brightened to try and get your body as adjusted as possible to your arrival time. When there is light – especially natural light – the melatonin stops. This means that if you wake with natural daylight outside, it can be difficult to return to sleep because your internal processes are already signalling that it is time to rise.
Alternatively, if you find yourself waking and struggling to return to sleep, try these:
Get up and do something (ideally not on the phone or computer) such as read a book. It's best not to associate the bedroom with the feelings of stress that you cannot get to sleep.
Research shows that a 20 minute nap in the afternoon seems to provide more rest that 20 minutes more sleep in the morning – BUT this could also be because we may feel tired after a lunch as we digest – and if that's the case – our bodies digest better when upright, and that same research would also suggest that if you nap after 3pm, it may affect your sleep pattern later on.
If you are noticing that a nap seems to result in waking more often at night, instead try meditation rather than a nap which can be just as refreshing.
Unfortunately, sometimes waking is a symptom of stress and if this is the case it may continue until the stressor is removed. As difficult as it can be, it may be that you need to consider what actions you can take to address and manage your situation. Once that has happened, restful sleep may return.
Dr Audrey Tang presents The Wellbeing Lounge on Tuesdays 9pm, your hour of mental health and wellness.
More News Headlines