The importance of sleep for our health and wellbeing is something that’s been gaining greater weight on my thinking. Philosophically, the basics of life can so easily be overlooked like a balance diet and nurturing relationships with friends and family. The significance of sleep on all aspects of our health is very much underrated. Our body clock including sleep impacts:
- Brain functioning
- Nervous system
- Hormonal systems
- Mind and emotions
In my counselling work I’ve become more aware of how clients experiencing difficulties seem to have sleeping issues which relates to the impact of stress. This often serves to create a problematic cycle by acerbating the presenting emotional/psychological problems. Where sleep issues are being caused by emotional/psychological stress as result of trauma or other life experiences the therapeutic process can contribute to positive changes. However we can’t ignore the effect of lifestyle factors like poor eating habits and lack of exercise which also contribute to people experiencing poor quality sleep. Therefore wherever possible I feel that client’s awareness of these issues should be raised to help facilitate their healing and growth.
Making changes to address sleep problems like most other things takes time for the benefits to be felt but will be worth it in the long run.
The basic advice given by specialists like the NHS includes:
- establishing fixed times for going to bed and waking up (try to avoid sleeping in after a poor night's sleep)
- trying to relax before going to bed
- maintaining a comfortable sleeping environment (not too hot, cold, noisy or bright)
- avoiding napping during the day
- avoiding caffeine, nicotine and alcohol late at night
- avoiding exercise within four hours of bedtime (although exercise in the middle of the day is beneficial)
- avoiding eating a heavy meal late at night
- avoiding watching or checking the clock throughout the night
- only using the bedroom for sleeping and sex
- Body Clock: What makes you tick?
- A comprehensive sleep hygiene guide from Centre for Clinical Interventions - http://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/docs/Info-sleep%20hygiene.pdf