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How to tackle a bad night's sleep?

Daily life | Time to read: 4 minutes

A good night's sleep is important for our health. Almost half (44 percent) of Dutch adults do not get 7 or 8 hours of sleep per night. Poor sleep can seriously disrupt your body and can, among other things, influence your concentration or mood, says OpenUp psychologist Shannon.

Sleep is important for our recovery, it ensures that we can recharge and wake up energized. If you don't recharge well, you’ll start your day with less energy. Shannon explains: "If you start your day with 100 percent energy and your work demands 50 percent, you have enough room to do other things in the evening. But if you get up with 50 percent, then your stock is gone after your workday and you have nothing left for other activities".

Causes of bad sleep:

A bad night of sleep can be caused by all sorts of things. Drinking coffee later in the day, too much screen time in the evening, too many stimuli or being too active before bedtime. If you exercise late at night, you create hormones that can give you an energy boost. This disrupts the production of the hormone melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that gives your body the signal that it's time to go to sleep.

Our biological clock determines the different rhythms of hormones in our body, such as our hormones produced to go to sleep or be awake. This means that the production of melatonin is also part of this rhythm. "The whole body has rhythms that determine when you get hungry, when you get tired". Other reasons for bad sleep are stress, tension or worrying.

Why you can't fall asleep

If you worry while lying in bed, it's often difficult to 'turn it off'. Your body is in a resting position and so is your brain. "The part of your brain where your emotions and thoughts are regulated, suddenly becomes less active. The brake comes off and that gives your thoughts all the space they need," Shannon explains.

There is also less distraction once you're in bed. Sometimes you only have time in the evening to reflect on your day. "If you've been busy at work all day and you're going out in the evening, the only time you can think about everything that has happened that day is at night, in bed. This can make it difficult to stop your thoughts".

How to signal bad sleep

You can often tell you have trouble sleeping by the amount of energy you have. "You may notice that you have less energy or get tired faster. But it can also be expressed in other ways, for example by having a short fuse or by not being able to concentrate". In this case, it is advisable to take a look at your sleeping pattern.

People who can process things well may also experience less trouble when sleeping. If you find it easy to talk about emotions and stress, if you're actively looking for solutions to a problem, or if you know what helps to clear your head, there's a good chance that you'll be able to deal with these worries throughout the day.

If you don't apply that strategy as much and prefer to focus your attention on other things during the day, those thoughts will come back to you in the evening.

What to do about bad sleep

Gaining insight into your own sleeping pattern can be useful. What time do you go to bed, what time do you wake up, how often are you waking up at night. "Poor sleepers often go to bed when they are tired, but this can be early in the evening. Or they take a nap in the afternoon. But this can also cause you to lose your rhythm".

In our program 'Better Sleep' some tips are given that can help with sleeping problems. One of those tools is keeping a sleep diary, in which you keep track of what time you went to sleep, when you woke up, how often you woke up at night. This gives you more insight into what your nights look like. If you have a few good nights, this information will also help you to see what you did that day. You may be able to apply that to your sleep routine.

It's good to realize that sleep problems are not only caused in the evening. Our sleep is part of our biological rhythm, so you actually have to work on it 24 hours a day if you want to improve it. Plan your day well and stick to fixed rhythms that can contribute to a good night's sleep.

Practical tips and tricks to sleep better:

  • Don't exercise late in the evening: it will give you energy.

  • Don't drink caffeine after 18:00: this will wake you up.

  • Get tired: If you've been sitting still all day, it's a good idea to be active right after work. Otherwise your body will also produce less melatonin, so you won't get really tired";

  • Go to bed at a fixed time and get up again at a fixed time, this helps your biological clock;

  • Do something relaxing before bedtime: No phone or television, but a book, magazine or podcast, to get you in the resting position;

  • Take a look at your sleeping conditions: Is the temperature in your bedroom pleasant, is it dark enough, is your bed comfortable? All of this is important.

If you want to learn more about this topic, the program Better Sleep might suit you. You can go through this program yourself, or together with an Openup psychologist:

Link: https://programmas.openup.care/nl/program/beter-slapen

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