Can’t sleep? Ten tips to beat insomnia…

Here are my top tips to get you started on the road to breaking the cycle of insomnia.

1. Keep your bedroom comfortable. This may seem obvious but take a look around your bedroom, does it look relaxing? Try to keep it a comfortable temperature, there is no ideal for everyone but between 16- 18C is generally best, with blankets if you get chilly!

2. Your bedroom should have two uses, sleeping and sex! It’s not for watching TV, work or eating! You need to strengthen your association between your bedroom and your sleep, so remove anything ‘busy’ from your room – ie.desks, TVs, radios…they’ve gotta go!

3. Only go to bed when you’re tired- we have all gone to bed ridiculously early because of a late night the night before, then find ourselves tossing and turning until the early hours, with the added panic that we have to get up the next day. This is how insomnia begins, by being in bed and feeling frustrated and stressed causes us to weaken the bond between bed and sleep. Simple rule- if you are in bed, awake and not sleepy then get out of bed.

4. Make good use of light during the day- just as we need dark to sleep, we need the light to wake up. Our bodies are ‘programmed’ to use the light and dark to tell us when we should sleep and wake up, so try and get as much daylight as possible. This will help to regulate your body clock.

5. Try to keep to regular schedules- if you decide to take a course of treatment in CBT for insomnia, we would look at calculating the ideal bed and wake times for you, however it’s a good idea to start keeping to a schedule asap. This doesn’t just mean for bedtime; mealtimes, exercise times and anything else you do regularly will help to regulate your body clock.

6. Caffeine before bedtime. Caffeine is a stimulant and it will keep you awake. If you’re struggling with sleep loss then this might feel like a positive during the day but at night it becomes a problem. The stimulating effects of caffeine last for around 3-4 hours so you should stop drinking caffeine at least four hours before bed. That’s not just tea and coffee either, many soft drinks and even cocoa drinks contain caffeine so it’s best to avoid any of these before bedtime.

7. A little nightcap might seem like a good idea, as the sedative effect of alcohol may help you drift off to sleep. Unfortunately, as the effect wears off the body starts to experience withdrawal which makes us restless and can lead to night-time waking. If you have a sleep problem then it’s best to avoid alcohol for 4 – 6 hours before bedtime.

8. No napping- As lovely as an afternoon siesta can be, if you suffer from insomnia then this nap time can make things worse. In order to sleep well at night we need to be tired and napping in the day reduces this drive for sleep so get off the sofa and go for a walk!

9.Exercising before bedtime also has a stimulant effect and although it’s useful for overcoming some of the issues – like stress or depression – that may be stopping you from sleeping at night, strenuous exercise is best avoided within 2 hours of bedtime

10. Big meals late in the evening- If your body is digesting a big meal then it’s likely to keep you awake and so it’s best to leave plenty of time between dinner and bed.

These ten tips will get you started but if you would like a personalised sleep programme email kathryn.pinkham@theinsomniaclinic.co.uk

Sleep tight!

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