I really struggle with sleep. I follow all the conventional guidelines and yet I still have difficulties. Can you help?
Difficulty sleeping tends to fall into two categories: struggling to get to sleep in the first place, and waking up during the night and not being able to drop off again.
Several years ago I went through a spell of finding going to sleep really difficult. At that time as soon as my head hit the pillow, I immediately had the thought ‘what if I can’t sleep? What if I have to lie here all night failing to sleep?’
Needless to say, the result of this was that I fulfilled both of those dismal expectations, rather well! I was developing the Sound Therapy used in my app Ed can Help… at the time, so this was one of the first areas in my life which I experimented with. I’m setting out my suggested method for you below.
What do I recommend?
People find that despite their preparations, rumination, that is to say anxiety and worry running on a loop, remains the chief problem they face.
This being the case, it makes sense to use Ed can Help… to smooth out and get beyond this level of useless worry, which no amount of dim lighting or milky drinks will achieve.
The way to do this, I suggest, is to first note down the worries and anxieties which have a habit of cropping up. They may have to do with the future, or they may be a difficulty in the past which stubbornly refuses to stop nagging at you. Pressing present-time worries may be looming large too.
Making a physical list helps because you can then look at it factually, rather than allow these thoughts to free float as a general toxic cloud.
How can our app work?
The next step is to use the app. The time of day you do this, particularly in relation to sleep is important. In my experience of working with dozens of people all of whom have had difficulties in this area, people either like to listen to the Sound well before bedtime or when they’re actually tucked up and ready for sleep. You will be able figure out which time of day is best for you. People who like to do their Sound Therapy earlier in the day find that bringing any difficult thoughts to mind right before bedtime is too activating, and they start problem solving, whereas people who like to use the sound just before bedtime find extremely soothing, there’re not fixed rules.
The general instruction for using the sound therapy is always the same:
- You aim to vividly bring up the memories, thoughts, or anxious feelings while you listen.
- As the sound whirs away at a low comfortable volume, it’s as though the neural networks driving these worries are dismantled. I always go back to the metaphor of getting laundry in the washing machine, maybe because to my ears that’s exactly what it sounds like.
You will find helpful thoughts and perspectives do start to bubble up as you are engaged in this process, which is why some people find it a bit stimulating just before bed.
If you wish you can give your brain a bit of a head start in this process by also writing down what we call a powerful coping statement. This is a helpful, truthful, doable short sentence containing the perspective that you would like to adopt in relation to the issues at hand. If nothing springs to mind immediately, don’t worry, after a few sessions they will begin to take shape.
You’ll come to know your powerful coping statement back to front, but during the process continue to refer to it, and at other times of the day, because every time your eyes fall across the words, it’s a fresh software input.
Many people like to use the Sound Therapy just before bed and keep it handy should they wake up in the early hours, and some people find it so relaxing that they even struggle to stay awake during the day when they’re listening to it.
It isn’t always necessary to bring a specific set of problems or issues to the process, lots of people just find the sound itself soothing and basically don’t do a lot more than switch it on. Recently somebody compared the sound to a weighted blanket, secure and calming, flattening out unwanted brain activity!
At the moment the sound runs for 20 minutes, but we’re working on an option to increase that, and possibly make it continuous, which could be find very handy. Please let me know about your experiences and suggestions.
I’m including a list of the standard hints and tips to improve your sleep, in case you haven’t come across them. If you combine them with the app in your own way, you can turbo-charge your route to success.
What about some general tips?
Improving sleep quality is crucial for overall health and well-being. Here are some tips to help you improve your sleep:
- Stick to a consistent sleep schedule: Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This helps regulate your body’s internal clock and promotes better sleep.
- Create a bedtime routine: Establish a relaxing routine before bed to signal to your body that it’s time to sleep. This could include activities like reading a book, taking a warm bath, practicing relaxation techniques, or listening to calming music.
- Create a sleep-friendly environment: Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. Use curtains or blinds to block out any unwanted light, earplugs or white noise machines to drown out noise, and a comfortable mattress and pillows to enhance comfort.
- Limit exposure to screens before bed: The blue light emitted by electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, and computers can interfere with sleep. Try to avoid using these devices for at least an hour before bed, or use blue light filters or special glasses to minimize their impact.
- Avoid stimulants and heavy meals close to bedtime: Limit your consumption of caffeine and nicotine, as they can disrupt sleep. Additionally, avoid large meals, spicy foods, and excessive liquids close to bedtime to prevent discomfort and nighttime awakenings.
- Engage in regular physical activity: Regular exercise can promote better sleep, but try to complete your workout at least a few hours before bedtime. Exercise increases alertness and body temperature, so allowing time for wind-down before sleep is essential.
- Manage stress: High levels of stress can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Explore stress-management techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, journaling, or engaging in relaxing activities to help calm your mind before bed.
- Avoid napping or limit it to short durations: If you struggle with nighttime sleep, try to avoid daytime napping, or limit it to short power naps of around 20 minutes. Longer or late-day naps can interfere with your ability to fall asleep at night.
- Evaluate your sleep environment: Ensure your mattress, pillows, and bedding are comfortable and supportive. If necessary, consider investing in a new mattress or pillows that suit your needs and preferences.
- 10.Consult a healthcare professional: If you consistently struggle with sleep despite implementing these strategies, it may be beneficial to consult a healthcare professional, such as a doctor or sleep specialist, who can provide further guidance and assistance.
Remember, improving sleep habits often takes time and consistency. Experiment with these suggestions to find what works best for you, and be patient as you develop healthier sleep patterns.