The problem with sleep is often that we just don’t get enough of it. One of the most important parts of a healthy lifestyle, it can evade us for many reasons, whether it’s the ordinary stresses of a work day or more significant worries. There’s a lot going on in the world right now, and it can weigh heavily on our minds – and not just in daylight hours.
The team at Sleep School – as the name would suggest – are experts in how to sleep better naturally, and have pioneered an approach to drifting off that has been scientifically-proven to have a significant effect on both insomnia and overall sleep quality. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (or ACT) already had 38 years worth of evidence pointing to its efficacy in treating anxiety, depression, stress, PTSD and chronic pain, but the team at Sleep School – led by Dr Guy Meadows – deployed it in to address the widespread sleep issues affecting people in the UK. They have since begun training the UK’s GPs and healthcare professionals in how to offer sleep therapy.
“Our method is to teach people to be open to being awake, thus letting go of the need to try and force it,” explains Dr Meadows, who adds that supplements, pills and potions can actually set you back in your quest for good sleep. “The problem is that people can quickly become both physically and psychologically reliant on them to sleep.” The trick is to master how we respond to difficulty in dropping off, instead.
Want to try it yourself? Here, Dr Meadows shares the three key steps of ACT to help you fall asleep faster, below.
1. Stop struggling against sleep
“Sleep is a natural biological process that can’t be controlled. Battling against it can be likened to an endless game of tug of war, which only wakes you up more. As per ACT, the first step towards achieving better sleep is to accept that you’re awake. Once you can change the way you think and feel about not sleeping, you begin to remove the obstacles in the way of your sleep.”
2. Be present
“Worrying about the past or catastrophizing about the future promotes nighttime wakefulness. Focussing your attention on something in the moment, such as the movement of your breath, can therefore be helpful. Aim to notice the rise and fall of each breath, moment by moment. Each time your mind wanders onto worry, practice gently returning back to focussing on the breath and present moment. Remember, the intention is not to have an empty mind, but rather to train your skills at noticing and letting go of difficult thoughts.”
3. Keep a regular sleep-wake cycle
“An irregular sleeping pattern creates a jet lag effect, known as ‘social jet lag’, whereby the brain starts to sleep and wake up at the wrong times. Always going to bed and getting up at roughly the same time, even at weekends, helps to regulate your body clock, and promote a strong link between bedtime and good quality sleep.”
Originally published in Vogue.co.uk