TIPS HOW TO TRY AND CREATE A POSITIVE SLEEP ENVIRONMENT
* Use your circadian rhythms and go to sleep at the same time in the evenings when it is dark, getting up when it is light in the mornings, roughly at the same time each day. Rhythms and light influence our mood. This can be difficult for people with trauma who sleep and eat at irregular hours. Try to set up a routine you can stick to.
* Our circadian rhythms mean that we do not experience the same mood and energy levels throughout the day. We have evolved to feel more energetic in the morning and quieter and heavier in the evenings. Light and dark are powerful mood regulators. In our modern world, we often spend all day in bright, artificial light, right up until bed time. Try and catch as much daylight as you can and dim the room in the evenings.
* Allow enough time for sleep. Most REM sleep takes place in the last quarter of the night. People don’t thrive on just 5 hours of sleep because they might miss out on REM sleep when they are most likely to dream which promotes trauma recovery. In REM sleep, we file memories and strip them of their emotional sting.
* No electronic gadgets in the bedroom.
* Stop using screens at least one hour before bedtime and avoid bright and blue light.
* Try to only use the bedroom for sleeping in if you can.
* Relax your body and mind, maybe with a bit of Mindfulness; soft light, calming music, have a warm bath, light a candle, hum a nursery rhyme that could lull you to sleep, or make yourself a nice, comforting hot drink before bed (no coffee and preferably no breakfast tea, either). Try to speak and interact with others softly and calmly.
* Reduce your coffee and alcohol intake. Caffeine and alcohol are powerful drugs; they just happen to be legal. Caffeine blocks Adenosine which signals tiredness. It takes 5-7 hours for 50% of a dose of caffeine to leave our system. While alcohol can initially help us to feel relaxed and drowsy, it can also disrupt sleep and our REM phase.
My personal coffee story:
I thought I was a moderate coffee drinker with “only” one (large) mug at breakfast and one after lunch. However, I liked those (large) mugs of coffee to be really strong. I think that, every time I got up and felt tired, I used to slightly increase the amount of coffee granules I felt I “needed” to wake up.
For medical reasons as well as to improve my sleep, I decided to stop drinking coffee all together. I was experiencing pounding headaches for a few days and felt generally under the weather — withdrawal symptoms. After a few months of “being sober," I now allow myself some very few granules in a small cup at breakfast and one after lunch. The temptation is to increase the strength, but so far I have stood firm!
I definitely feel the benefits of this — my sleep has improved and I am experiencing a calmer mood throughout the day.
Oh, yes, and very boringly, I am also virtually teetotal…. I do allow myself a glass of wine when meeting with friends — but I am struggling to finish it these days…..