The secret to a great night's sleep

Feeling anxious? Getting more sleep really can calm the mind

Do you lie awake worrying about a big presentation you have coming up in work or about starting a new job?  Psychologists at Binghamton University in America have discovered a simple and cheap solution: going to bed earlier. 

 Sleep Anxiety

According to the Binghamton researchers, the time a person goes to bed and how much sleep they get affects how much they worry. The recent study of 100 young adults found that people who sleep for less time and go to bed late often have more negative thoughts than those who keep more regular sleeping hours.

The 100 participants at Binghamton University were asked to complete questionnaires and two computerised tasks. These measured how much the students worried or obsessed about something as gauges of repetitive negative thinking. They were also asked if they were more of a 'morning' or an 'evening' person. 

The researchers found that people who sleep for shorter periods of time, and go to bed later, often experience more repetitive negative thoughts than others.  This was also true for those students who described themselves as evening types. The findings suggest that regular lack of sleep might actually be linked to the development of anxiety, the researchers concluded.

Jacob Nota of Binghamton University, who carried out the research, said: "Making sure that sleep is obtained during the right time of day may be an inexpensive and a simple intervention for individuals who are bothered by intrusive thoughts."

Our sleep expert Dr Nerina has some helpful advice for those who are struggling to get to sleep due to worries and anxiety, starting with introducing a regular wind down routine. "Winding down properly before getting in to bed is crucial to helping you sleep better. You are more likely to access efficient deep sleep if you allow your body and mind to relax than if you rush to bed feeling anxious. If you can, try and switch off from work as soon as you leave the office and avoid checking your emails or social media accounts 90 minutes before going to bed - put your phone, laptop and tablets away!"

Managing home and work boundaries can be difficult with work events and deadlines but it is important to try and differentiate the two to allow your mind time to rest and relax. To help Dr Nerina suggests, "Write your to-do list before leaving work instead of at the beginning of the day. This stops you worrying about work in the evening and you are less likely to wake up during the night thinking about tasks that have to be done the next day. If you are planning to take work home, make a commitment about whether you are really going to do it or whether you're going to put it off all evening creating guilt and anxiety."

Are you losing sleep over worrying about work or a big life event coming up? For more information on how to get a good nights sleep from our sleep expert Dr Nerina, visit our Sleep Toolkit, which is filled with helpful tips and advice.



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