Psychologist reveals how to train your brain to sleep better

Sleep can feel like an elusive beast at times, when you are struggling to get a good night’s rest.

One poor night of sleep is bad enough, but when that starts becoming a pattern it can be very frustrating.

It can start to seem like you’ll never break free from the habit of not sleeping well.

But there are solutions, an expert promises – you can train your brain to sleep better.

The problem is partly because we no longer follow the pattern of the sun rising and going down as we once did.

We can stay up watching TV for hours, scrolling on our phones and be kept up simply by the fact we can keep lights on.

This leads to worked-up brains and unsettled sleep if you do get off to the land of nod.

But clinical psychologist and sleep expert Michael Grandner believes it really is as simple as re-programming ourselves back to the natural rhythms.

He told CNN: “Sleep is highly programmable and adaptable to the situation.”

“So create the situation you want it to adapt to, do it often, and before long your brain is going to say ‘Look, this helps me sleep.’ “

The experts say just three fairly simple tricks can be the solution to any sleep woes.

1. Create a schedule to stick to

The majority of adults need around seven or eight hours sleep to be fully rested.ShutterstockThe reason you get sleepy is due to something called Melatonin.

It’s a hormone produced by the body to regulate sleeping and waking.

When night is getting nearer levels rise, signaling to the body it’s nearly time to go to bed.

Then, as daylight starts to pour in through the windows melatonin stops being produced.

This results in the body becoming more awake, and is the signal to start the day.

But in order to work like the well-oiled machine, we need to have a good sleep, the pattern needs to be constant.

If you wake up and go to sleep at different times, the body ends up quite confused.

Dr Grandner said: “You want to build a reliable rhythm, much like the drummer counting the beat for the band.”

“By controlling when you wake up and go to bed, you’re setting the beat.”

“We can’t always control when we’re sleepy but we can control when we wake up, which activates a little timer in the brain that sets our rhythms for sleep.”

He said waking up at the same time and moving as soon as you open your eyes will set a good pattern and increase energy.

2. Don’t lie in bed awake

While it might seem counterproductive and the very last thing you want to do – if you can’t sleep, get up.

Even if you’ve only been asleep for half an hour or it’s the middle of the night, do not lie there waiting to fall back to sleep if you don’t automatically drop off again.

It’s best to get out of bed, get sleepy and then return.

This is because lying in bed but not sleeping – and very much wanting to sleep – means you end up associating your bed with being a stressful place.

For a good snooze, it’s far better to think of it as a restful spot.

It also means if you do need to hit the hay earlier, you will be able to drift off even if your mind is full.

3. Change your attitude

One poor night of sleep is bad enough, but when that starts becoming a pattern it can be very frustrating.ShutterstockSleep is often simply viewed as the thing you do to bookmark each day.

It’s put off in order to catch an episode of TV, or seen as something else to tick off in the routine.

But Dr. Grandner says this casual attitude towards sleep needs to be changed.

He said we should instead see sleep as the first step for a productive and happy following day.

The majority of adults need around seven or eight hours sleep to be fully rested.

That means if you need to get up at 7 am, going to bed at 11 pm is ideal.

The expert added: “Now you know when you have to stop and get ready to go to bed whether you’re done or not.

“The problem is we don’t stop, and we don’t disconnect. And that’s to our detriment and it makes the next day more stressful.”

This story originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced here with permission.

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