How to get a better quality night’s sleep

How to get a better quality night’s sleep

Sun 21 June

We’ve been having lots of conversations with supporters and patients who are struggling to sleep at the moment. 

This is being echoed across the country as the coronavirus pandemic has increased anxiety, impacted job security and forced us to socially distance from our friends and family.


We’ve talked before about how to cope with fatigue when you have a brain tumour, but we also want to help those of you who are struggling to get to sleep. So, today we’re sharing this guide to getting better quality sleep.

Why are we struggling to sleep?


There can be many reasons for poor sleep including:

  • Room temperature – the muggy heat in summer and bitter chill in winter can both impact on sleep quality
  • Stress and worry – the most common cause of bad sleep, especially for people affected by a brain tumour, is stress and worry when your mind is free to roam
  • Late-night alcohol and caffeine – caffeine lasts for three to five hours in your system and alcohol disrupts REM sleep leaving your restless
  • Too much technology – too much mental stimulation and artificial light before bed makes sleep very difficult
  • Negative news – reading negative news, watching crime shows on TV and reading disturbing thrillers just before bed are all a sure way to have a restless night of sleep.

Add the extra finance and health worries of coronavirus on top of this, and it’s easy to see why we’re experiencing a high volume of people asking for support on getting better sleep.

Tips to improve our sleep


So what can you do to improve your sleep? Here are eight top tips…


Get complete darkness


When the time comes to sleep, make sure your room is completely dark. If you’ve struggled to sleep for some time, it might be worth investing in back-out blinds or wearing an eye mask. Reduce your exposure to the blue light emitted from electronic devices by making sure you don’t look at your phone or computer at least an hour before you go to bed.


Have a tidy bedroom


Make sure your bedroom is free of clutter and the space feels clean and neat. If you go to sleep surrounded by mess it can make you feel more stressed. It’s important right now, as more people are working from home, to keep your work and home life separate. Don’t use your bedroom for working in unless you can absolutely not avoid it.


Spruce up your decor


There are some subtle changes you can bring to your bedroom to turn it into a sleep sanctuary. In general, lighter colours make us feel more awake, while darker shades induce a more restful sleep. Also, introducing natural materials such as wood and rattan, as well as plants and flowers, creates the perfect spot for a good night’s sleep. Likewise, burning sleepy candles and spraying lavender scented sleep spray before you rest your eyes can help to create the perfect bedtime environment.


Avoid these drinks


Try and avoid drinking coffee and alcohol before bed, as well as eating late into the evening. Both of these things can negatively affect sleep quality and cause hormone disruption.


Follow an evening routine

Establishing an evening routine that works for you can help you relax, unwind and get ready for bed. We share an easy four-step routine below to get you started; play about with the format and add and remove things that do and don’t work for you.


Write it down


If negative thoughts and worries keep you up at night, try journalling to get the thoughts down on paper and off your mind.


Get up


This advice may seem counter-productive but if you’re struggling to sleep, especially with worry, don’t keep lying there. Try walking to the kitchen for a glass of water or reading a chapter of your book to distract your mind and tire out your eyes.


Keep a sleep diary


If poor sleep has been impacting you for a long time, start a sleep diary. Write down what is keeping you up at night and be specific. If it’s the temperature, is it too hot or too cold? If it’s worry, what exactly was that worry? If you had a better night’s sleep than normal, what did you do differently? If you do this for a few weeks, you’ll start to notice trends and be able to fix the specific problems keeping you up.

An easy four-step evening routine


One of the best things you can do to improve your quality of sleep is create a nighttime routine. If you follow these four steps every night, you’ll have a much better chance of less broken, and better quality, sleep.


Step One – Screen-free time


The first step is to turn off all technology. It’s difficult to sleep if you read a negative news story on your phone five-minutes before you turn the light out.


We suggest choosing a time to switch off and sticking to it. 9pm is good, as it gives you an hour or so to get the negative news or that anger-inducing Facebook post off your mind.


Step two – Wind down


With all technology off, you now have time to wind down. Use this time however it suits you best. Some might find a relaxing bath with some essential oils helps, others might like to listen to music while doing some adult colouring or reading a book by candlelight.


Whatever chills you out, use this hour to do it. Not only will it help ward off those negative thoughts from earlier but it helps the body relax and get ready for sleep.


Step three – Get ready for sleep


Once your mind has had chance to unwind, it’s time to get your body relaxed. You can do lots of things in the step and they might differ day to day depending on your activities.


Light yoga and stretching work for people who have been active or stuck at a desk all day. Lathering yourself in a sleepy-scented lotion can be good if your skin is feeling a bit dry and you’re over tired. Meditation is a good idea if you’re still struggling to switch off mentally.


Step four – Journal


We’re often kept up at night by negative thoughts and worry. Writing a journal helps to take some of that burden off your mind. Simply jotting down your thoughts and worries before sleep can help you to make sense of them and clear your mind for rest.


Another good practice is to end the day on a high by writing down three things you’re grateful for. Gratitude helps people feel more positive, deal with adversity and improve their health and is a great way to end a day.

If your mental health is negatively impacting your sleep and you’ve been affected by a brain tumour in Yorkshire you can access our brain tumour support services which might be able to help.


If you have any more tips on how to get a good night’s sleep, please do share them on our Facebook page.

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