Almost all of us have trouble sleeping at some points in our lives, often in connection with stressful life changes or situations where we need to perform well, for example exams. When we are the most stressed and need sleep the most, sleep can easily become a problem. We tell ourselves that we HAVE TO fall asleep, which only makes it harder.
When we are stressed, we often find it difficult to give structure to our days. We fall asleep late, sleep in, and/or take naps late in the afternoon. As a result, we run short on time, feel increasingly stressed, and find it harder and harder to sleep. It turns into a vicious circle.
It is often easier for us to change other aspects of our lives than our sleep. We may start exercising or eating healthier, but when it comes to sleep, we find it harder to break with old habits. We cannot force ourselves to sleep and telling ourselves that we HAVE TO sleep only makes us stressed and less likely to drop off.
We can, however, make changes to our daily routines to improve our sleep. Tips to sleep better:
Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day helps you sleep better.
The longer you are awake, the more likely you are to sleep. You need to stay awake for a period of 16 hours to build up enough sleep pressure. Trying to catch up on sleep after a bad night will only disrupt your sleep routine.
Daytime stress and activity levels
Daytime stress and activity levels affect your sleep. What does your day look like? What happens during the day affects your nightly sleep. If you bustle about all day, you may find it difficult to wind down when you go to bed. Even if you feel tired, your mind races.
Exercise has a positive effect on your sleep. Remember not to work out too late in the evening. If you do not have enough time to wind down after your workout, you may find it more difficult to fall asleep.
Daylight can help us sleep better at night, so we have a lot to gain from spending time outdoors during the day. Even when it is cloudy, exposure to daylight improves our sleep.
Alcohol, coffee, and energy drinks
Alcohol, coffee, and energy drinks can have a negative impact on your sleep, as can having a large meal late in the evening.
Try to establish a pre-sleep routine where you wind down for an hour before bed. During this time, you should avoid using mobiles, tablets, and computers, as the light emitted by their screens inhibits the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Instead, find a calm place where you can collect your thoughts, going over what happened today and what will happen tomorrow. If something keeps you from sleeping, ask yourself if you can do anything about it right now or if it will have to wait until the next day. You may find it helpful to write down your thoughts.
Your bedroom should be quiet and cool, and don't lie awake in bed trying to force yourself to sleep
If you cannot sleep, get up and do something else for a bit. Try listening to some calming music while focusing on your breathing. Go back to bed when you feel relaxed and sleepy. If you stay in bed even though you are unable to sleep, you are likely to begin associating bed with anxiety, which will only add to the problem.
Even if you are tired, do not change your plans because of a bad night’s sleep. The remedy for lack of sleep is activity, not rest. Try to stay active and to spend time outdoors to increase your chances of sleeping well the next night.
Identify your thoughts. Misconceptions about sleep can easily lead to catastrophic thinking.
- Give structure to your days.
- Wind down before going to bed.
- Exercise and daylight improve sleep.
- Remember to do things that you enjoy.
If you need help to overcome sleep problems, you are most welcome to book an appointment with the Student Health Care to talk about your sleep.
If you have experienced severe sleep problems for a long time, we advise you to contact your local healthcare centre.