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The importance of sleep

Sleep problems are very common these days. They are especially common among people living with mental health issues. There are three main issues; not being able to get to sleep, sleeping too much, and waking up during the night. There are some things you can do which may address one or all of these issues.

Firstly, have a bedtime routine. If you agree that regular sleep is good for your health, then you will find it easy to prioritise this over other things.

Here’s how NOT to do it:

It is bed time, 10PM. You have just started to watch the 19th November 1977 episode of police drama Starsky and Hutch. In this gripping two-parter ‘The Plague,’ Hutch catches a deadly novel virus and is quarantined while his buddy Starsky discovers that the man who holds the only key to the cure is a hit man who doesn’t want to be caught…

At around midnight, the show reaches its dramatic climax. Then you go to bed and find yourself in a hot room with your mind full of flashing afterimages of the show. At 4AM you finally drift into a troubled sleep full of nightmares about plagues, hitmen and quarantine.

OK, so that didn’t work. Try this: Watch Starsky and Hutch at 7PM, then start your pre-bedtime routine at 9PM.

Now, try a digital sunset. Turn off the TV and all electronic screens. Technology will just keep you awake and you know it. Dim your lighting if you can as this signals your brain that it is time for beddy-bye. Keeping your bedroom cool will also help you to fall asleep.

Waking up is a whole other thing. Master the ‘going to bed’ side of things first, before tackling that. Chances are you will be in a better position to wake up once you’ve made it easier on yourself to fall asleep. Here is a simple checklist of techniques you can try tonight:

  1. Relax in the evening
  2. Go to bed at the same time every night
  3. Keep your bedroom cool
  4. Keep your bedroom dark
  5. Avoid stimulants like caffeine at night
  6. Avoid large amounts of food close to bed time.
  7. Avoid large amounts of fluids close to bed time.
  8. Avoid Starsky and Hutch double episodes after 7PM.

By Warren Heggarty from Panorama Magazine

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