The term “sleep disorder” refers to any of a series of conditions that can impact on the quality, timing and durability of someone’s sleep. Common examples include – but are not limited to – insomnia, sleep apnoea, sleepwalking, hallucinations, and sleep paralysis. Such conditions, in turn, can impact on the sufferer’s ability to function when awake, and even potentially other medical issues.
With about one in five of us said to suffer from insomnia and/or other sleep disorders, it is clearly crucial to know how to react to problems sleeping, whether you are the sufferer yourself, or you are assisting the recovery of someone affected by such a disorder.
Here, then, are three widely recognised tips for helping to make sounder sleep possible.
Practise healthier habits away from the bedroom
As the NHS explains, there are important steps you can take to improve your sleep, long before you take to your bed each night. These include eating and drinking healthily, being careful not to consume too much food and alcohol. Refraining from caffeine and smoking can further help ensure you drift off to sleep when you need to do so.
Regular exercise can also aid your efforts to sleep better, although it is believed that vigorous exercise close to bedtime can actually have the opposite effect of keeping you awake. If, then, you are set to go to bed soon, moderate exercise – such as swimming or walking – could be better for gently relieving some of the tension that may have gathered in your body over the course of the day.
Expose yourself to the right light levels at the right times
If you have struggled with your sleep for a while, you have probably already heard of the body’s natural timekeeping clock, known as the circadian rhythm. It is effectively this that tells your body when it’s time to be awake, and when it’s time to go to sleep.
Unfortunately, though, certain environmental factors can disrupt the functioning of your circadian rhythm, and the light to which you are exposed over the course of each 24 hours can certainly be one such factor.
In a nutshell, you should look to increase your exposure to natural light or bright light during the day, and minimise your night-time light exposure. Particularly notorious as far as the latter is concerned is blue light, which is emitted by electronic devices like computers and smartphones.
So, if you’re in the habit of taking your smartphone or tablet to bed with you, this may be a habit to drop. It’s also probably a good idea to turn off all other bright lights two hours prior to heading to bed.
Adopt a sensible sleep schedule
In today’s world in which many of us are self-confessed ‘workaholics’, it can be easy to end up telling ourselves that we can’t “afford” a healthy sleep schedule. But you don’t necessarily need to get every aspect of your sleep schedule ‘perfect’ straight away; this can be an ongoing process of refinement.
Simply setting a fixed wake-up time to aspire to, for example, can help get you into a healthy routine, taking you away from the temptation to try to get up super-early on working days, and ‘sleep in’ on your days off. This, in turn, will allow your body to get accustomed to a steady sleep schedule over time.
If you are a current or aspiring mental health professional who wishes to assist those suffering from sleep disorders, you may be interested in the wide range of options for UK therapist training that we make available at nscience. Feel free to browse our in-depth selection of workshops, seminars and courses that could aid you in getting better results from your work with sleep disorder sufferers.