Do you find it difficult to get off to sleep, awaken early or are you wakeful during the night? It can be so frustrating not to be able to get a good night’s sleep, and can cause fatigue and interfere with your daily functioning.
Sleep can be disturbed for many reasons, including stress, anxiety or depression. Physical health problems can also disturb sleep, such as pain, some drugs or medications, sleep apnoea, reflux disease or thyroid disorders. So have a check-up if your sleep is troubling you.
Here are some strategies to improve your sleep:
- Even if you are not actually asleep, remember that resting is still beneficial to the mind and body.
- Keeping a sleep diary may be a good place to start; i.e. keep a record of the day, your activities and sleep, and see if you can notice any patterns.
- Reflect on what has helped you get off to sleep in the past, and try these things again.
- Aim to re-establish a sleep routine, that is, going to bed at about the same time each night, and getting up at the same time each morning.
- Develop a bed-time ritual, for example – hot milk drink, teeth and toilet, then bed.
- Remember that bed is a place for sleeping; not doing work, watching television or being on the computer or Ipad.
- It is advisable not to use the computer or television in the hour or so before sleep. However, programs are available to turn off the ‘blue light’ on your computer.
- Have a wind-down or relaxation time before going to bed e.g. enjoy a warm bath (a good hour or two before bed), read for a while or listen to an audio-book.
- Specific relaxation techniques can be helpful to assist you in going to sleep. Many people have found the ‘Keeping the blues away’ relaxation CD a useful aid for sleep (available from this website)
- Listen to relaxing music e.g. quiet classical music, relaxing music or nature sounds. Some people like to have a fan or white noise in the background.
- If you wake up during the night and are lying awake, firstly try not to let it worry you, and repeat your relaxation techniques. If you are still awake after 30 minutes then get up and repeat your wind-down.
- If you are not sleeping well at night, avoid sleeping during the day, or dozing off in the chair at night. A day-time nap is fine if you are tired and managing to sleep at night.
- Manage stress, so that your mind is more peaceful when you go to bed. If something is worrying you at night and there is nothing you can do about it, try writing it down so that you can deal with it the next day. Keep a pen and paper next to the bed.
- Make sure that your bed and pillow are fresh and comfortable, and the bedroom is at a comfortable temperature. Nice pyjamas can help.
- Some people find that a couple of drops of an essential oil such as lavender, on the pillow, are soothing. [General safeguards for aromatherapy are: always check first that you are not sensitive to the smell of the oil or allergic to it (by a patch test on the skin with the oil diluted in water); avoid contact with the eyes; do not use if pregnant. Essential oils are flammable, so avoid open flames.]
- Exercising during the day means you will be more physically tired at night. Avoid exercising heavily in the late evening, as this tends to make you more alert.
- Avoid too much caffeine or alcohol – both can disturb sleep. There are some wonderful herbal teas e.g. lavender and chamomile.
- Avoid overeating in the evening. On the other hand having a light supper (for example, a banana and milk drink) can aid sleep as these foods contain an amino acid, tryptophan, which can aid sleep.
- Magnesium powder or tablets helps relax your muscles and heighten physical relaxation, which can also aid sleep.
- Sex helps some people sleep, and not others!
Thank you to some of the Facebook community for contributing ideas for the list. Also, I plan to record a CD to aid sleep this year. Let me know if you are interested in it, and watch the website shop. In the meantime the ‘Keeping the blues away’ CD is helpful to relax by as you go to bed!
If you are struggling after trying these strategies, see your GP or health professional to discuss.