Sleep can be as frustrating as it is necessary. We go to bed early and then lay awake for hours. We roll from one side to another. We put on some headphones and listen to a podcast. We try falling asleep to a tv show…nothing seems to help.
We can’t always think away the worries that keep us awake, or the nagging sensation that we’ll never get to sleep. But there are some tools we can use to rediscover better sleep.
It might seem counterintuitive, but spending less time in our bed can mean more sleep. For many of us, 2020 meant more time at home, and blurrier boundaries between the various contexts of our lives.
If you’re anything like me, I wonder how often you’ve watched Netflix or studied from your bed? How often you answered work emails whilst staring at the ceiling?
These sorts of activities condition our brain to pair the bed with being awake and alert. When this happens, it can be near impossible to get to sleep quickly, even when we’re tired.
So how do we repair the bed-sleep association?
Keep the bed just for sleep. When we do this, we strengthen the bed as a cue for sleep rather than a cue for worry; a cue for recuperation rather than for rumination; a cue for restfulness rather than wakefulness. You might decide to move netflix to the loungeroom, reading to the armchair, assignments to the study and podcasts to the drive home. You might even revisit the 90’s and buy an alarm clock!
Let’s make 2021 a year of getting back to the basics, and getting back to sleep.
Wesley Macintyre (M Prof Psych, Adv Grad Dip Psych, BA Psych) is in the final year of his internship as a provisional psychologist. During his Masters, Wesley completed a placement in a private practice, providing psychotherapy to adults and young people experiencing wide ranging challenges and hurdles in seeking to live a fulfilled life. Wesley is passionate about providing evidence-based practises to help clients overcome these obstacles and restore their hope of living a healthier and happier life. Wesley has experience working with individuals experiencing depression, anxiety, social issues, and autism.