Getting sufficient sleep is important to our overall health. It is equally important to get a good quality as well as quantity of sleep. Here are some ideas and steps to follow to improve your sleep.
1. Take time to relax
It is important that you take the time to relax prior to going to sleep whether it’s taking a warm bath, reading a book or listening to some soothing music. Sometimes it can help if you have things on your mind to write a to-do list to free your mind from worrying.
2. Having a routine
Having a routine helps babies to prepare for bedtime and this applies to adults too, because it allows your body to programme itself to naturally fall asleep and wake up at certain times. Try to be consistent about going to bed at the same time each day and get up at the same time each morning, this can help form a regular sleep routine.
3. Create a restful place
Make sure that your bed is comfortable and that it supports you correctly. Ensure that your room is kept at the right temperature (between 16-18 oC is optimal for sleep). Keep clutter to a minimum and decorate with pale colours to aid relaxation. Smells which include lavender and geranium can create a relaxing environment for sleep (be aware of safety if you are using candles).
4. Peace and quiet
If your bedroom is noisy this may disturb your sleep, for example, try moving a ticking clock. Some people find that white noise from a fan, as well as the air flow can help them sleep better, others find that natural sounds or soft music can help them relax. Set a timer so that the music turns off after a set period of time.
5. Limit screen time
Avoid looking at smart phones at least an hour before going to bed as these devices emit a blue light which suppresses the sleep hormone melatonin. Don’t have your smartphone, TV or computer operating in your bedroom as these can disturb sleep.
6. Clock watching
Resting in bed thinking about our thoughts can be as beneficial as sleep, so don’t worry if you're having trouble getting to sleep. If you're having trouble getting to sleep and keep checking the clock, try moving it so that you can’t see it and try to relax instead. If you don’t fall asleep within about 20 minutes, get up, go to another room and when you start to feel sleepy, then go back to bed.
7. Methods to help
If you can’t fall asleep in 15 minutes, try counting your breaths as you breathe deeply and slowly. If you are still awake after counting to two hundred, go to another room and do something relaxing such as reading until you feel sleepier. For some people, breath awareness can cause anxiety, so if you become anxious whilst counting your breaths, stop.
8. Avoid certain foods
Spicy foods, large meals and alcohol can disturb our sleep and therefore shouldn’t be consumed before going to bed. The same is true with caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee and some fizzy drinks. Sugary foods can be bad too as these cause sharp rises in sugar with rapid declines which can contribute to poor sleep due to cravings, such as feeling hungry, sweating, feeling shaky, becoming easily irritated or moody. These can all exacerbate the cycle of poor sleep.
9. Good foods
Eating healthily can help sleep. Some foods such as milk, chicken, turkey and pumpkin seeds contain a chemical called tryptophan which is vital for the production of serotonin and melatonin, the hormones which help to promote sleep.
10. Keep fit and stay active
Physical activity is important to help aid sleep as well as your general health. Even small amounts of physical activity each day can make a difference and improve your sleep.
A darkened room naturally helps to promote sleep. Turning the lights down prior to bed can help prepare our bodies for sleep. Try a light with a dimmer switch or a lamp which has a dimmer function. Consider whether light from outside might be affecting your sleep and try blackout curtains or blinds to reduce the impact of light from outside interfering with your sleep.
12. Sleep quality
This can be as important as the amount of sleep we have. Whilst we're asleep we go through five stages of sleep. Therefore, if we get up during the night, for example to go to the bathroom, these stages are interrupted which can affect our quality of sleep. Try reducing your fluid intake prior to going to bed.
Other things to consider
Some medications such as beta blockers can affect sleep. If you think that your medications might be affecting your sleep either getting to sleep or staying asleep, speak to your pharmacist or GP. Don’t stop taking any medications without speaking to your GP, specialist nurse or cardiologist first.
Heart failure and sleep
Complications of heart failure can affect your sleep:
- Chest pain and discomfort make it hard to relax and fall asleep or stay asleep.
- Lying in bed can make you feel more short of breath.
- You may need to get up in the night to pass urine.
During the day you are standing and sitting which may mean that fluid settles in your legs or feet, when you lie down sometimes that fluid can move to your lungs and make it harder to breathe. To help alleviate and reduce this you might be prescribed diuretics to reduce any fluid build-up during the day.
A referral to a sleep specialist may be required and they may be able to help you understand what might be going on medically, whether it is difficultly getting to sleep or staying asleep and how to treat it.
If you are having some difficulties with either your quality or quantity of sleep, or both, there may be a solution. Sleep is important to our overall health and our heart health and some of the suggestions above may help you achieve a better night’s sleep.
Sleep problems can for some people be linked to anxiety. If you are worried about your mental health, speak to your GP. More information from MIND can be found here Sleeping with anxiety - Mind
Cardiomyopathy UK have dedicated support nurses who you can contact on our helpline on 0800 018 1024, we are available Monday- Friday 08.30am-16.30pm and can provide guidance and support to you.