Can’t get to sleep? Broken Sleep? Or sudden wakefulness in the night?
You are not alone. Thousands of people suffer the same and are probably laying awake with the same frustrations as you.
It is normal to wake occasionally during the night. Problems arise when you can’t get back to sleep again or suffer consecutive nights of not being able to get to sleep and just laying awake having counted all the sheep in England, Wales and Scotland.
Here are some helpful tips on getting those all important Zzzz’s
A Regular Sleep Pattern – Try and get into a good routine. Going to bed and getting up at a similar time each day will teach the body and mind to settle at bedtime and encourage a good sleep pattern and habits
Exercise – Exercise your mind as well as your body. Counting sheep isn’t always the answer; this is quite an easy task and can be difficult to keep the mind focused without it wondering off with other thoughts and worries. Try something that requires a little more ‘mental energy’ like counting backwards (from a number a little higher then 20).
Physical exercise is needed to tire the body so it will want to sleep and rest. However high impact exercise within 2-3 hours of bedtime can actually invigorate the body instead, low impact is better for relaxing the body and preparing the body for resting and sleep.
Comfort – In a life time you will spend a lot of time in bed, make sure your bed is a comfortable one for you. Too soft or too firm and you’ll be tossing and turning all night. If you need 2 pillows get 2 pillows. If you share a bed, get one that is big enough for both of you and have covers that will cover all the occupants in the bed. Research the tog rating of your duvet so you are not to hot or too cold. What is good for one person could be totally wrong for another. Get to know what you like and try not to ‘make do’. A comfortable bed is a bed you will want to sleep in.
Food and Drink – It is difficult to get to sleep if you are hungry or thirsty. Equally if you have eaten a huge meal just before bedtime this can lay heavy in your stomach resulting in a very uncomfortable night. Although you don’t want a night interrupted by thirst you don’t want to have a night interrupted by needing to visit the toilet either. Avoid drinking too much just before bedtime and pay your bathroom a visit just before getting into bed.
TV and gadgets – Many TV programmes are stimulating, as is the light, the TV and other back lit gadgetry. These can actually stimulate the mind rather than quiet the mind. How about trying to listen to music or an audio book or even a good old fashioned printed book instead? These will help to calm and quieten the mind better in preparation for sleeping.
Improve Your Sleep Environment – Although all of the following may not be possible it is worth trying a few small adjustments.
- Avoid and eliminate noise as much as you can. This can be difficult if the noise is from traffic and outside the home. Sound carries differently throughout a building, so a change of room (if possible) may help.
- A bedroom that is to hot and stuffy or too cold so it leaves you shivering all night will not create the best night’s sleep for you.
- When bed shopping, do test them all to find the best bed for you with the most suitable pillow and duvet tog. You spend a long time in bed and it’s worth the investment and taking your time over.
- Keep work as well as TV and computer gadgets out of bed. Over time your brain will associate ‘bed’ with work related activities and will not settle at sleep time.
- It is a proven fact that electronic devices e.g. TV, phone, gaming devices will have a detrimental effect on sleep quality. Do you really need to send texts and read emails in the small hours?
Quieten Your Mind – If as soon as you start to settle and you switch the lights off, your mind instantly wakes up and switches on; then you are not alone. You can find yourself tossing and turning for hours, going over the day’s events, worries and anger.
Should you find yourself thinking of things you need to remember or things you need to do the next day, try keeping a pen and paper beside the bed to leave yourself a note eliminating the need to worry about remembering.
Looking at stress management techniques can help to calm the mind.
Relaxation – If you have laid awake for hours and you just can’t drop off, don’t worry about it – this will just compound the problem. Instead enjoy this time of piece, quite and relaxation. You can also try some relaxation techniques like; Progressive Muscle Relaxation, Meditation, or Visualisation.
Failing that and instead of tossing and turning and becoming frustrated, why not get up and do something (non-mind stimulating) like reading a ‘real’ book (avoiding TV etc). Then try again a little later.
Napping – If you like a nap, try not to nap too late in the day as this can keep you awake at night. As previously mentioned, sticking to a regular bedtime will help reinforce your own personal sleep pattern, enabling a better night’s sleep.
Please note this is simple advice for those who experience the occasional sleepless night. If, however, you are suffering from more than just the occasional one and you are starting to get very upset and frustrated by your constant lack of sleep then do visit your GP. There is lots of help available and you’ll feel better for asking for the help.
Don’t suffer in silence.