Good night, sweet dreams

Dr Michelle King wishes you sweet dreams while ensuring you get quality sleep by sharing valuable sleep hygiene tips.

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Sleep is one of those things in life that you never really pay much attention to, it just happens. But when you can’t sleep, you realise how important it is.

You have most likely been told that part of living a balanced life and taking good care of yourself means getting a good night’s rest, but you are not always told how to do this.

If you don’t have insomnia, it is easy, you climb into bed at night and within 10 to 15 minutes you are asleep, waking up in the morning feeling refreshed, ready to start the new day. But what do you do when this doesn’t happen?

Setting the sleeping scene

Firstly, you need to set the scene to fall asleep. This means no screen time two hours before bedtime. If you must use your phone, make sure that you are using a blue light filter. The blue light that the screen emits interferes with your body’s melatonin production and this keeps you awake.

If you had to choose, rather watch something on TV than spending your time on social media. The dopamine rush that you get every time you move on to the next thing, whether it be on TikTok, YouTube, or Instagram keeps you stimulated and, sometimes, before you know it hours have passed.

Do something relaxing before bedtime. Take a long bath, read a book, listen to relaxing music, or spend time talking to your loved ones. The idea is to avoid doing things that will be too stimulating.

While we are on the topic of stimulants, stay away from any drinks that contain caffeine and will keep you awake. For some people this means no coffee after 4pm, and no energy drinks.

Next you need to make sure that your bedroom is set up in a way that won’t distract you from getting good quality sleep. If the temperature in the room is too hot or too cold this could keep you awake. Bright lights from outside can be blocked out with blackout curtains and irritating noises with the use of a white noise you can play on Spotify or download with an app.

Sleep debit card

I really like the concept that we all have a sleep debit card. This debit card has eight hours of sleep on it. So, if you nap in the daytime, say for two hours, you are only going to have six hours of sleep left for the nighttime. This means you need to avoid napping in the daytime even though you may feel tired.

Try and do some type of exercise during the daytime. Even if it’s chair cardio or exercises that you are doing in bed. Not only will this help manage fatigue, but it also keeps your muscles from deconditioning and promotes better sleep.

What is keeping you awake?

Lastly, you need to look at what physical and emotional things are keeping you awake. If your pain is not well-managed, it will either keep you awake or wake you up in the middle of the night. Speak to your doctor or palliative care team if your pain is interfering with your sleep. You deserve proper pain management, especially when diagnosed with cancer.

When it comes to the emotional side of things, it’s usually worrying or thinking too much that can either keep you awake, wake you up in the middle of the night or early in the morning. Open up to someone close to you to talk about what is bothering you. Having a palliative care team is especially helpful as they will be able to help you find answers to a lot of the problems and worries that you might have.

If you are having suicidal thoughts or think you might be depressed and this is impacting your sleep, please speak to your doctor so that you can be started on treatment or referred to a therapist if needed.

Dr Michelle King

MEET THE EXPERT – Dr Michelle King

Dr Michelle King is part of an inter-disciplinary pain clinic and palliative care team in Limpopo. She has completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Chronic Pain Management and a Postgraduate Diploma in Palliative Medicine, and is the president of PainSA.

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