Are you sick of lying awake at night trying to nod off? Do you worry that you’ve got into bad habits when it comes to your night time routine? For some people, falling asleep is as simple as climbing between the sheets and closing their eyes. For many others though, it’s not so straightforward. In fact, it’s thought that as many as one in three of us regularly experience insomnia.
If you’re unlucky in the sleep stakes, keep reading. Here are some important do’s and don’ts for when you can’t sink into peaceful slumber after lights out.
DO get up and do something relaxing
Given that your goal is probably to fall asleep as quickly as possible, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the best approach is to simply lie there and wait for unconsciousness to take hold. The trouble is, as the clock ticks, you may find that rather than getting closer to drifting off, you instead become increasingly alert and stressed out. In other words, trying to force yourself into a state of slumber if you’re not tired or your mind is too active can be counterproductive.
So, rather than counting sheep or staring at the ceiling, it may be better to get up and do something that will relax you. For example, perhaps reading a few pages of a good book will help to put you in the mood for snoozing, or maybe listening to a radio show will take your mind off your state of sleeplessness. If you think worries about the next day are getting between you and a good night’s kip, why not write a to-do list? Clarifying your thoughts and putting them down on paper could make you much calmer and give you a better chance of nodding off.
As soon as you find that you’re feeling drowsy, go back to bed and see if sleep comes more easily this time.
DON’T switch on the TV or reach for your phone
Catching up on a little TV or seeing what’s new on social media can seem like a good way to pass the time if you’re struggling to snooze. In reality though, this screen time could make it much more difficult for you to get to sleep. Devices like TVs and phones emit short-wavelength-enriched light that can interfere with your ability to drift off. Exposure to this light has been shown to suppress the production of the hormone melatonin, which plays an important role in making you feel tired and helping you get to sleep.
So, as appealing as these gadgets may be, it’s best to avoid staring at them late in the evening. To reduce the temptation, try keeping your phone, tablet and TV remote out of arm’s reach when you’re in bed.
DO try to make your bedroom as comfortable as possible
Feeling a little chilly? Is the street light from outside annoying you? Perhaps the barking of next door’s dog is driving you crazy. Rather than putting up with discomforts like these, it’s important to be proactive. While a full-scale rearrangement of your bedroom might not be an option in the middle of the night, there are simple things you can do that should make a difference. For example, maybe adding or removing blankets, popping in a couple of earplugs or making sure your curtains are fully drawn will help you nod off and enjoy an undisturbed night’s rest.
When you get a chance during the day some time, you might want to make bigger changes to your boudoir. After all, having a restful and comfortable sleeping environment can make all the difference when it comes to getting enough shuteye. For example, you should have a supportive, spacious bed and soft, clean bedlinen. It’s also important to get the temperature of your bedroom right. Experts advise keeping these areas at between 18°C and 21°C. Meanwhile, if you don’t already have them, consider investing in blackout blinds or curtains to give you added control over light levels.
DON’T make a bee-line for the fridge
In your state of sleeplessness, you could find yourself drawn to your fridge. It’s common to feel peckish during the night if you’re awake for long periods of time. As a general rule though, it’s best to steer clear of midnight feasts. As well as potentially being bad for your waistline, these unscheduled snacks can send your digestive system into overdrive, make it more difficult to get a good night’s rest. If you’re really hungry and have to eat, try to stick to foods that are rich in an amino acid called tryptophan, which is known to help boost the production of melatonin. Milk and oat cakes are good examples.
Most of us know that it’s important to steer clear of caffeine close to bedtime, but you might not be aware that alcohol can also get in the way of a decent night’s kip. On the contrary, it seems logical to think that because it acts as a depressant, a glass or two of booze will help you to sleep more soundly. It’s true that alcohol can make you fall asleep more quickly, but it’s also likely to disrupt your rest later in the night, meaning you wake up feeling groggier.
Time to visit your GP?
If you take advice like this on board but you still can’t seem to get enough sleep, you may benefit from booking an appointment with your doctor. Not getting enough rest for a prolonged period of time is much more than just a mild annoyance; it can have a serious impact on your mental and physical health. Studies have shown that as well as being associated with a higher risk of depression and anxiety, insomnia can make you more likely to develop medical problems ranging from diabetes to heart disease. This means it’s a problem you simply cannot afford to ignore.
Your GP will discuss the possible causes of your sleeplessness and advise you on the best ways to tackle it. They might suggest further changes to your bedtime regime or lifestyle, and they could recommend more specific treatments, such as cognitive behavioural therapy or medications.