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Counting sheep, unable to sleep

We often use the term ‘sleeping like a baby’ for when we’ve had a really good night’s sleep but babies are renowned for not going to sleep easily and waking several times in the night! For some, this may well be a more appropriate description of their current sleep pattern. It’s common in times of stress for our sleep to get disturbed as our mind is constantly racing with a million thoughts. Once the stressful time has passed our regular sleep pattern usually returns. But for some this is not the case. So, what can be done?

Here are a few tips that may help restore your sleep pattern:

1. Stop panicking! The more we worry about the amount of time we have left to sleep the less likely we are to drop off. Forget the clock and accept that lying at rest in bed, while not as good as actually being asleep, is still giving your body a rest.
2. Prepare for bed. Start the wind down process an hour before you get into bed – get changed, switch off all screens (the blue light they emit stimulates the wakeful part of the brain), do something relaxing like take a bath, read, make a hot drink such as milk or chamomile tea.
3. Look at your sleeping environment. Is it a calm and tranquil place that invites rest or is it full of clutter reminding you of the pressures of life? Decide what needs to be done to make it a relaxing haven and take action. The investment will be worth it.
4. Adjust the temperature of the bedroom. If it is too warm it will be harder to sleep, a slightly cooler room is more conducive to sleep but make sure it’s not so cold it leaves you shivering!
5. Keep a note book by your bed. It’s amazing how, as soon as we start to relax, things pop into our head that are either worrying us or that need our attention. When this happens write these things down. It gets them out of your head and you can rest in the knowledge that you will remember them in the morning and can deal with the situation then.
6. Get up and go to bed at roughly the same time every day. We are creatures of habit and our body recognises its natural sleep pattern so try to avoid those long day off lie-ins.
7. Don’t go to bed if you’re not tired. Forget what it says on the clock, if you’re not feeling tired stay up a bit longer until you feel sleepy but keep doing something relaxing.
8. Don’t toss and turn. If you’re lying awake, unable to drop off, get up for a bit, have a walk round the house or watch the night sky then return to bed once you feel tired again.
9. Be comfortable. Don’t put up with that lumpy old pillow or the mattress you’ve never found comfortable – a good night’s sleep is well worth the investment!
10. Practice relaxation. Mindfulness, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, massage are all techniques that can help release tension that may be keeping you awake. Sometimes we are not aware of the amount of tension we are carrying until we do something about it.
11. Exercise. When you’re busy all day it’s common to feel too tired to exercise. To the contrary, exercise can actually energise you and give you more energy rather than adding to your exhaustion. The physical activity also helps improve sleep because you are physically tired as well as mentally tired. Just remember not to exercise too late or your body will become over stimulated.
12. Talk about it. Things preying on your mind are a common cause of sleeplessness. Try to unpack your day before bed – talk to a partner, phone a friend, write in a journal. This helps to calm the mind and, even if you can’t find solutions to problems, they can feel less daunting from being shared.
13. Caffeine. This may be obvious but sometimes we can inadvertently be taking on more than we realise so watch out for caffeine after lunch time because this could be contributing to your insomnia.


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