SLEEP DIFFICULTIES When you are under a lot of stress and have resulting problems of anxiety, this can lead to difficulties with sleeping. This may be primarily with getting off to sleep, waking in the night and being unable to get off again or waking still feeling tired and unrefreshed. There are 3 different areas to be considered: a) preparation for bed b) in bed – before you sleep c) if you wake up in the night a) Preparation • Make sure you are tired – both in body and mind. If you do not feel tired enough regularly, maybe you need to take up something new to help tire you out – e.g. a hobby. • Wind down – in the later part of the evening, make sure you are doing activities that are calming – not stimulating – e.g. reading, having a bath, watching television (not horror films), crosswords, listening to music. Avoid caffeine as this is a stimulant - a milky drink or soft drink is better than tea or coffee. • Do not worry – put your worries aside before you go to bed – bed is for sleeping, not for worrying. Writing your worries down in a “worry book” can help with this, and leave it downstairs. Then be strict with yourself – do not allow yourself to worry – you have written it all down, you will remember tomorrow. b) In bed Remember you have to target: • Muscles • Breathing • Thoughts as they are the 3 symptoms of anxiety which you can control. • Muscles – check your posture, do not hold yourself tight, pull your shoulders down, unclench your hands and your jaw, do not squeeze your legs together. • Breathing – take 2 deep breaths; count your breathing – in for three out for three, then increase up to four or five. You can also choose a word to repeat on each breath out e.g. “relax”, “calm”, “peace”. • Thoughts – distraction techniques – you must think about things which do not cause you to worry – you must not worry, as worry increases anxiety levels which prevents relaxation and restful sleep. Instead, read, listen to the radio, count sheep, count seconds of the clock, recall past restful events or use visualisation relaxation techniques. c) If you wake up Try all the suggestions under “b” above. If they have not worked within 20 minutes, get up for 20 minutes and do something distracting and calming – DO NOT WORRY – e.g. make a drink, read, watch television, listen to music. Go back to bed – if not asleep again in 20 minutes – get up again and repeat. This will break the pattern of lying awake in bed, which, in the end, prevents sleep. Within a few nights it should be less of a problem. The most important thing is to remember: • Muscles • Breathing • Thoughts and to wind yourself down in all three areas. You will then have some control of your sleep and should wake up feeling more refreshed, ready to fight another day!
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