Insomnia means a lack of sleep, but it also refers to non-restful sleep, early morning waking, waking in the night, or difficulty falling asleep. Sleep forms an integral part of our daily routine and a lack of it can cause irritability, reduce our ability to concentrate and focus and even impair our motor function. Sleep loss can also raise blood pressure, increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes and even weaken the immune system. Sleeplessness can also be a sign of anxiety and depression and it can exacerbate them both. People vary on the amount of sleep they need but on average, a person needs approximately 7-8 hours daily.
Here are some handy tips for helping you sleep.
- Only use your bed for sleep (incl. sex).
- Establish a regular bed time / getting up time and keep to a regular bed time routine.
- Try having a warm bath or shower before going to bed.
- Exercise 5-6 days per week for 30 minutes in the mornings or afternoons.
- Make sure you get daily exposure to natural light.
- Try using mindful breathing or relaxation techniques before going to bed.
- Ensure your pillows and bed are comfortable.
- Make sure your sleep environment is relaxing and pleasant and the room temperature is comfortable.
- Reduce your alcohol (and drug) intake as these can disrupt your sleep.
- Try downloading screen dimming software if required. (E.g. Dimmer, Flux are both good programmes).
- Move your clock so that it cannot be seen if you wake up in bed.
- Turn off phone email and text alerts
- Keep a journal by your bed so that you can jot down things that come to mind when waking.
What not to do:
- Avoid taking naps during the day.
- Avoid drinking coffee, tea, or energy drinks and lots of liquids during the afternoon.
- Avoid taking stimulants (chocolate, nicotine, medication) near bed time.
- Don’t eat heavy meals late.
- Don’t watch TV or mobile devices in bed or engage in activities that stimulate the brain.
Finally, if you are not asleep after 20 minutes of going to bed, get up and do something relaxing such as reading, try a hot milky drink, then return to bed later.
Natural and herbal remedies may assist you to sleep, however these suggestions are recommended without the use of prescribed hypnotics and medication.
If, after a period of time of trying these tips you are still suffering from insomnia, a course of CBT may help you to find ways to sleep.