September 9, 2020

Sleep for survivors. Frances Taylor of Sleepwell on how sleep techniques can help you have a better night.

I call sleep “The Cinderella of Good Health”. That’s because we all know the principles of healthy eating and exercise. Yet when it comes to sleep, people struggle. They search the net and try a few things – reduce caffeine, no screens before bed, join a yoga class. When these measures don’t work they become disheartened. They start to believe that they just have to put up with their sleep problem.

Sleep is a foundation stone for physical, emotional and psychological health yet one in ten of the population worldwide now suffer with insomnia. These days it’s more important than ever to pay sleep the respect and attention it deserves. As a survivor of burns, I know that you will have worked incredibly hard to make improvements to your physical health. Focusing on improving your sleep can support your body’s physical healing and can help give you the mental strength to cope with what each day brings.

Severe trauma leads to heightened levels of anxiety, as a survivor of burns it’s highly likely that your sleep has suffered.  It may be hard for you to switch off unpleasant or worrying thoughts. You may not feel safe to relax into sleep.


When bedtime arrives, you’re wired-tired instead of sleepy-tired.

When you’re wired-tired, your body is on alert. You may feel exhausted but your fight-flight system is activated, preparing you to deal with danger. The fight-flight response evolved way back when we were cave dwellers confronting the very real threats posed by wild animals. These days however we can activate fight-flight just by imagining or remembering a frightening situation.

Sleep and fight-flight are not good bed-fellows. The more wound up you feel, the less able you are to drift off.

Sleepy-tired, the state you need to be able to drift off, feels very different. It’s when both your body and mind are relaxed and the only thoughts you have are calming pleasant ones.

It’s not only anxiety that interferes with sleep. Physical pain from burns and scars can make it difficult to get comfortable, itchy skin that many survivors of burns have during the healing process can also make it harder to sleep, as can certain medications.


So what can you do if you’re not sleeping well?

When you have night after night of broken sleep it’s easy to lose hope. It may have been going on for so long that you’ve forgotten what it feels like to have a good night.

You no longer believe that a good night’s sleep is possible for you. As a recent client told me – I just don’t dare to hope that I could actually sleep well. The good news is that after just two sessions with me she was starting to rebuild her confidence in her ability to sleep normally. With the right science-based approaches, you too can learn to sleep well again.

The sleep support that I offer is built around five elements –

  1.     Good 24/7 Sleep Habits – daily routines and behaviours to promote sound sleep
  2.     Positive Sleep Mindset – rebuilding confidence in your ability to sleep well
  3.     Sleep Efficiency Training – a powerful tool to track your progress as you create a positive association between bed and sleep
  4.     Mind Management –  learn techniques to manage thoughts that interfere with sleep
  5.     Practical Relaxation techniques – to calm body and mind and strengthen personal resilience

The body is designed to be a superb sleep machine. It wants to sleep! With this comprehensive approach you’ll learn the skills and mindset to bring refreshing sleep, sustainably and healthily.  When you sleep well you reap the myriad of physical, emotional and psychological benefits that Zzz’s bring. Good sleep will support you as you heal and move forward with your life.  That’s why I’m absolutely delighted to be supporting survivors of burns and scars with the Katie Piper Foundation.

I’d like to finish with three top tips to bring better sleep –

  1. Learn a simple breathing exercise. If you’ve never tried anything like this before then I urge you to give it a go. It’s such a simple yet powerful tool. It’s free too! Breathing a little deeper and slower calms the nervous system and helps you to relax. When you’re relaxed you’re more able to tolerate physical discomfort. Focussing on your breath also quietens unwanted thoughts that get in the way of sleep. It’s important however that you practise the exercise in the daytime at first so you become familiar with it. Then it becomes much easier to use whenever you need to. If you want to go a step further – Jay Clarke who runs nature therapy sessions at the KPF Rehabilitation Centre has some excellent, short meditation sessions on her You Tube Channel.
  1. Stick to regular bed and getting-up at times even on weekends. This might sound a bit harsh but sleep thrives on consistency.  If you have a long lie-in at the weekend then you’ll find it harder to get to sleep that night. If you absolutely must lie-in, limit it to an hour. Avoid daytime naps and again if you really must nap, limit it to 20 minutes (set an alarm).
  2. Get some natural daylight in the morning each day. Aim for at least 15 minutes. Even on the cloudiest day, the intensity of natural light is far higher than indoor lighting. Protect your skin from strong sun if necessary. Natural light is important for maintaining your internal body clock, making it easier to feel sleepy at the appropriate time. If you combine this with some gentle exercise, your sleep will thank you for it!

For more sleep tips and to try out my free 7 day Better Sleep Trial visit my website