Tired of Insomnia? 5 CBT Sleep Tips From Dr Philippa Wheeler, Cognitive Behavioural Therapist

Insomnia - man sleeping

If you are tired of insomnia, read our simple tips for sleeping better put together by Dr Philippa Wheeler our Lead Cognitive Behavioural Therapist in Christchurch.

Sleep is an important part of both physical and emotional wellbeing. Research has shown the roles that sleep plays in helping the body repair and fight disease, as well as its involvement with memory, concentration and mood. Given the importance of getting a good night’s sleep it is surprising that many of us do not pay more attention to our sleep until things aren’t working the way we would hope.

Sometimes sleep problems can be a symptom of a wider problem that needs addressing, such as depression or a variety of anxiety problems. Most of the time, however, there are some simple changes that you can make in order to get a better night’s sleep.

Take a look at our tips below which are based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy principles:

1) Reduce Levels Of Caffeine.

Whilst it sounds obvious, many people do not realise that caffeine can have a half-life of nearly 6 hours. This means that it takes your body nearly 6 hours to burn off half of the amount that you have in your body. So for a can of coke (which has 29mg of caffeine) that you drink at lunchtime, at evening time you will still have a significant amount of 15mg caffeine in your body. This will be even greater if you have had other drinks such as tea or coffee during the day too.

2) Get Into A Sleep Routine.
Routine, and building your mind and body’s expectation for sleep is a key aspect to sleeping better. By sticking to set times of going to bed and getting up your body will learn to adapt the natural rhythms of hormones associated with sleep around these times. Whilst it can be tough to stick to these patterns – even over a weekend, you are likely to find this a useful tactic after a few consistent weeks.
It is also a good idea to keep you routine immediately before bed as similar as possible. For example, having 1-2 hours where you do similar, relaxing activities can be very helpful. Taking a long bath, listening to quiet music, pampering your body are all good ideas to get you started. On the other hand, tasks such as housework, catching up on work from the office or planning for tomorrow’s activities are all things best avoided straight before going to bed.

3) Get Your Room Right
Take a bit of time to ensure that your room is right for sleep. For example, getting a constant temperature (around 18.5ºC is often suggested), ensuring that as many distractions are removed as possible (for example noisy or restless pets) and making sure your light levels are lowered. It can sometimes be a good idea to give your bedroom a tidy up so that you feel calm and relaxed when you are there, rather than stressed by seeing jobs that need to be done.

4) Avoid Doing Other Activities In The Bedroom.
One key to sleeping is building an association in your mind between being in the bedroom and your body producing certain hormones that help you sleep. This means keeping the bedroom only for sleeping and sex. The reason for this is that by doing other activities such as watching TV in bed or working on a laptop, your brain is likely to associate being in the bedroom with needing to concentrate. This makes it more difficult to not automatically be in state of alertness at other times you are in the same room with the intention of sleeping.

5) Think About What You Do During The Day.
Keep an eye on your daily activities, for example the amount of physical exercise you do. Getting the right amount of physical activities will help you sleep better and reduce insomnia in the evening. Take care though to avoid strenuous exercises for a couple of hours directly before bed, as these are likely to increase your body’s wakefulness, rather than decrease it.

Also keep an eye on avoiding catnapping during the day. Whilst some people find a ‘power nap’ very useful, it is recommended to limit this to a maximum of around 20 minutes.

If All Else Fails…..

Therapy for sleep - clockIf you have tried all of the suggestions above and still can’t sleep, don’t worry. It takes time for your body to adapt to the changes you have made and for you to benefit from them. We often advise that changes to sleep rhythms can take a few weeks to achieve.

In the mean time, if you can’t sleep, don’t stay in bed. A good rule of thumb is to leave the bedroom for a break after around 20-30 minutes of not nodding off. This helps to reduce the chances of your brain associating being in the bedroom with laying wide awake. Instead, move to a different room and rest. If you have particular concerns or worries on your mind, try writing them down and planning a specific time the next day which you will attend to them.

Above all keep in mind, many people that experience sleep problems actually get much more sleep than they realise. So with this in mind, try refocusing your intentions away from the pressure of ‘getting to sleep’, and instead focus on ways to have restful time, rather than ‘sleep time.’ This can help reduce the pressure you’re under to sleep which in turn often can make it more likely that you will nod off.

If you have tried the tips above and are still having problems then it might be a good idea to seek professional advice. Whether you are looking for a Christchurch Cognitive Behavioural Therapist or Therapy in another area, we are happy to discuss how private CBT could help you. Contact us today and find out more about our Private CBT Clinics.