Sleep is one of our most precious resources. It is vital to our health and well-being. Just as we need food for energy, we need sleep to relax and recharge. During sleep the body renews its energy, releases growth hormones, and heals itself. In times of extreme stress sleep is one of the first things to become disrupted.
Divorce and separation is undoubtedly one of the most stressful life events you can experience, and that stress impacts upon sleep. Lack of sleep, over a period of time affects our daily lives, and you may experience muscle pain or aches, disorientation, difficulty remembering things, irritable moods, hallucinations, increased blood pressure and stress, abnormal weight fluctuations, weakened immune system, decreased alertness, slower or slurred speech, loss of speed and creative ability to make quick logical decisions, reducing normal speed and efficiency of actions and thoughts – the ability to continue functioning during an exceptionally stressful time becomes ever more difficult.
There are two types of disruption: excessive sleeping and lack of sleep. It is not uncommon to experience both of them in the same period of time and even alternate between not being able to sleep and sleeping what seems like all the time.
· Set a schedule: Go to bed at a set time each night and get up at the same time each morning. Disrupting this schedule may lead to insomnia. "Sleeping in" on weekends also makes it harder to wake up early on Monday morning because it re-sets your sleep cycles for a later awakening.
· Exercise: Try to exercise 20 to 30 minutes a day. Daily exercise often helps people sleep, although a workout soon before bedtime may interfere with sleep. For maximum benefit, try to get your exercise about 5 to 6 hours before going to bed.
· Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol: Avoid drinks that contain caffeine, which acts as a stimulant and keeps people awake. Sources of caffeine include coffee, chocolate, soft drinks, non-herbal teas, diet drugs, and some pain relievers. Smokers tend to sleep very lightly and often wake up in the early morning due to nicotine withdrawal. Alcohol robs people of deep sleep and REM sleep and keeps them in the lighter stages of sleep.
· Relax before bed: A warm bath, reading, or another relaxing routine can make it easier to fall sleep. You can train yourself to associate certain restful activities with sleep and make them part of your bedtime ritual.
· Sleep until sunlight: If possible, wake up with the sun, or use very bright lights in the morning. Sunlight helps the body’s internal biological clock reset itself each day. Sleep experts recommend exposure to an hour of morning sunlight for people having problems falling asleep.
· Don’t lie in bed awake: If you can’t get to sleep, don’t just lie in bed. Do something else, like reading, watching television, or listening to music, until you feel tired. The anxiety of being unable to fall asleep can actually contribute to insomnia.
· Control your room temperature: Maintain a comfortable temperature in the bedroom. Extreme temperatures may disrupt sleep or prevent you from falling asleep.
· See a doctor if your sleeping problem continues.
· Keep a "worry book": where you can write down anything that’s worrying you, especially at night when you are finding it difficult to get to sleep.
· Keep some time back each day for yourself, to just relax a little and to try to clear your mind.
· Make your bedroom more sleep friendly: – clear any clutter, or reminders of the marriage, buy new bed linen and re-arrange the room if possible.
· Keep noise down: If you can’t avoid or eliminate noise from barking dogs, loud neighbours, traffic, or other people in your household, try masking it with a fan, recordings of soothing sounds, or white noise. You can buy a special sound machine or generate your own white noise by setting your radio between stations. Earplugs may also help.
· Keep your room cool: The temperature of your bedroom also affects sleep. Most people sleep best in a slightly cool room (around 65° F or 18° C) with adequate ventilation. A bedroom that is too hot or too cold can interfere with quality sleep.
· Make sure your bed is comfortable: You should have enough room to stretch and turn comfortably. If you often wake up with a sore back or an aching neck, you may need to invest in a new mattress or a try a different pillow. Experiment with different levels of mattress firmness, foam or egg crate toppers, and pillows that provide more support.
Relaxation techniques for better sleep
· Relaxation is beneficial for everyone, but especially for those struggling with sleep. Practicing relaxation techniques before bed is a great way to wind down, calm the mind, and prepare for sleep. Some simple relaxation techniques include:
· Listen to relaxation music and try some breathing exercises to relax you – having some lavender oil on your pillow or in an oil burner will help create a relaxing environment.
· Deep breathing. Close your eyes—and try taking deep, slow breaths—making each breath even deeper than the last.
· Progressive muscle relaxation - Starting at your toes, tense all the muscles as tightly as you can, then completely relax. Work your way up from your feet to the top of your head.
· Visualising a peaceful, restful place - Close your eyes and imagine a place or activity that is calming and peaceful for you. Concentrate on how relaxed this place or activity makes you feel.