How to sleep: The simple activity to do 15 minutes before bed to reduce stress and anxiety

Lorraine: Daisy Maskell discusses living with insomnia

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It is thought that a third of Britons will experience a form of insomnia in their lifetime. For some people it can be traced back to their mental health rather than a physical ailment. Sleep psychologist from Somnus Therapy, Katherine Hall – who has been working with Happy Beds, suggested ways to prevent these issues impacting your sleep.

Speaking with, she recommended journaling or “writing down your feelings” 15 minutes before going to bed every night.

She explained: “By writing down your feelings, it helps put your feelings of anxiety into perspective and give you a form of structure.

“It allows you to write and recognise any unresolved thoughts or moments from the day to reduce your worries and drift off more quickly.

“It can help with reduction in stress, anxiety and depression and therefore help our sleep performance.

“Try journaling 15 minutes a day for a few consecutive days and express what you feel without any worry of spelling or grammar.

“You can either throw this away or keep for future reference.

“What you do with your expressive writing is completely up to you.”

She also believed it could fend off any unwanted nightmares.

“Expressive writing has been shown to enable the writer to better regulate their emotions, as well as helping the writer break free from the endless mental cycling of brooding or rumination,” she said.

“Acknowledging your emotions and writing them down reduces the need for your mind to constantly fight and be in battle with any negative and stressful thoughts.”

Katherine shared some other tips for combatting bad dreams at night.

Consistency is key – You should keep your bedtime and wake time as consistent as possible.

Consistency is likely to result in more restful and stable sleep, preventing the likelihood of a nightmare-inducing REM rebound from sleep deprivation.

Daily relaxation practice – Relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) can be incredibly useful in helping you to get to sleep and reducing the stress around not being able to sleep.

PMR is a form of mindfulness that guides you through tensing each muscle group then relaxing them, to promote a sense of complete body and mind relaxation.

Avoid alcohol – Alcohol is an REM sleep blocker and causes an overall reduction in REM sleep – also known as dream sleep.

When the alcohol starts to wear off it’s not uncommon to experience really vivid dreams or nightmares.

The NHS lists the most common causes of insomnia as:

  • Stress, anxiety or depression
  • Noise
  • A room that’s too hot or cold
  • Uncomfortable beds
  • Alcohol, caffeine or nicotine
  • Recreational drugs like cocaine or ecstasy
  • Jet lag
  • Shift work.

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