Improving Sleep Quality - is it possible?

When it comes to being 'good at sleeping', quality and quantity need equal attention!

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Where you can’t force yourself to sleep on demand, there are lots of things you can do throughout the day and before bedtime that can increase your likelihood of good quality sleep. Sleep hygiene is a term used to describe the healthy habits and practices that contribute to good quality and restful sleep. 

Below are some practical tips for developing good sleep hygiene:

Get to know your sleeping pattern - Keep a sleep diary:

Keep a sleep diary to record the time that you go to bed and when you wake up. Make a note of any sleep strategies that you use and what is working for you.

Develop a healthy sleep routine

  • Establish a regular sleep pattern/routine: We set an alarm to get up most mornings... but it might be helpful to set an alarm to go to bed too!! Fix a set bedtime and wake up time that works for you and stick with it, even on the weekends! When your sleep cycle has a regular rhythm, it helps to regulate your body clock and you will find it easier to sleep.
  • Avoid Napping during the day:  Napping during the day may interfere with your sleep at night. If you find you need to nap during the day and doing so does not stop you sleeping at night, try to limit the nap to 30-45 minutes.
  • Commit to a ‘wind down’ hour before you go asleep. Identify activities that help you relax, e.g. deep breathing exercises, a warm bath, yoga, listening to calm music. Make sure your environment is calm and quiet and free from distractions!

What to do before going to bed:

  • Don't take your worries to bed. Leave your worries about work, school, daily life, etc. behind when you go to bed. Some people find it useful to write their worries down - you can plan to address them the next day.
  • Go to bed only when you're sleepy
  • Avoid caffeine and nicotine (smoking) 4-6 hours before bedtimee.g. coffee, tea, chocolate, fizzy drinks, etc. Some herbal teas contain a lot of caffeine, like green tea! Both caffeine and nicotine are stimulants that can interfere with your ability to fall and stay asleep.
  • Avoid alcohol 4-6 hours before bedtimeAlthough you may feel alcohol helps you to fall asleep, it can cause sleep disturbance later in the night.
  • Avoid heavy, spicy, or sugary foods 4-6 hours before bedtimeyour body will have to work hard to digest all that food while you are trying to sleep!
  • Don’t go to bed hungry or full
  • Avoid Strenuous exercise late in the evening or within the 2 hours before bedtime – this can over-stimulate you and the release of endorphins can decrease your ability to fall asleep. Yoga can be a nice form of exercise that will have a more calming effect.
  • Create a screen free zone!! – e.g. watching tv or going on your phone.  The bright lights and stimulation will wake your mind up and you may end up spending hours doing this instead of sleeping.
 Kimberley Clarke, Occupational Therapist at Strive Clinic Galway

Kimberley Clarke, Occupational Therapist at Strive Clinic Galway

Optimising your Sleeping Environment:

  • Make sure your bedding is comfortable - Make sure your mattress, pillows and quilting are comfortable and in good condition.
  • Maintain a comfortable temperature in your room - If your bedroom is too cold or too hot, it can keep you awake.
  • Keep the room well ventilated. 
  • Create a relaxing, comfortable atmosphere - Make sure your room is dark and quiet, and the right temperature. If noise is an issue, you could wear earplugs. Equally, If the room is too bright, blackout curtains or wearing an eye mask can help.
  • Try not to use your bedroom for other stimulating activities – With the exception of sexual activity, avoid non-sleep based activities such as watching TV, eating, studying etc. in your bed/bedroom. Let your body "know" that your bedroom is associated with sleep.

Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep?

Do not stay in bed awake - If you can't fall asleep within 30 minutes, get out of bed and do something that helps you to relax, like deep breathing exercises, relaxation strategies, listening to calming music, etc. When you feel sleepy, return to bed.

A series of workshops called 'Improve Sleep. Improve Health.' will be delivered by Kimberley Clarke, Occupational Therapist at Strive Clinic, beginning on Wednesday January 10th at 7pm and continuing for 3 weeks. This series of workshops will provide you with the knowledge and tools to help improve both your sleep quality and quantity. More information here

To schedule an individual consultation with Kimberley Clarke at Strive Clinic Galway to assess your sleeping patterns and develop individualised, practical strategies to improve your sleep quality, you can call 091 393 180 to schedule an appointment.