It’s hard to have a positive outlook on life when you’re completely wrecked. I’m a terrible sleeper. Over the years I have employed almost every imaginable technique. I even participated in some research undertaken by Dr Tony Fernando, a psychiatrist and lecturer at the University of Auckland. He estimates that at least 10 per cent of people have chronic insomnia (sleeping problems that last for a month or more). So if it’s a problem for you, you’re certainly not alone.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to sleep problems.
Everyone is different so you really have to try different things for yourself and see what works. And what worked for you last month may not work for you this month. Here are a few things that have shown some promise for me:
Go to bed relaxed – Do whatever you need to do to relax yourself. If you go to bed wound up then it’s no surprise that you’ll sleep poorly.
Have an evening routine – Having a routine can help put you into the right state. Look at all aspects of your routine: food/drink, clothing, activities.
Clothing – Have dedicated pyjamas – ie. Don’t just sleep in the underwear your were wearing during the day. Having pyjamas helps build up the routine of going to bed.
Get fresh air – Ideally have the window open if it’s not too cold.
Make sure you are the correct temperature – Have the correct number of blankets – think about what’s under you as well as whats on top.
Aromatherapy – Using an oil burner with lavender in it does help me sometimes (only use a couple of drops if it’s Lavender as more can have a stimulating effect).
Calm your mind – Concentrating on a candle flame is a really great way to still the mind after a stressful day. Just sit with the flame and focus your attention on it. When your mind wanders just bring it back to the flame. You’ll only need to do this for 5-10 minutes to start feeling a difference. Start small and gradually increase. Doing it regularly will definitely produce results.
Be active and get regular exercise – This helps me a lot. If you’ve exercised your body during the day then it is more ready for sleep.
Fatigue is the best pillow. – Benjamin Franklin
Avoid caffeine – If I have caffeine after lunchtime it’s normally a recipe for an extra bad night’s sleep. On the other hand my Dad finds a cup of coffee actually helps him sleep, so do whatever works for you.
Have a early and light evening meal – This means your digestion has settled down by the time you try to go to sleep. It can also help to avoid foods that are too spicy.
Avoid lots of liquids – Obviously this could mean you have to get up in the night to go to the toilet which is very disruptive to your sleep habits.
Go to bed (and get up) at the same time each day - Again this can help with getting your body into a rhythm of sleeping at that time.
Avoid naps during the day – Even if you’re really tired it may be better to stay awake so that you’re really tired when you get into bed.
Avoid stimulating activities immediately before bed – Watching scary movies, playing Xbox, and so on can get the adrenaline going and be really stimulating. You’ll probably be better off with a quiet book and some relaxing music. I can’t write articles for this blog late in the evening for example. My brain won’t switch off when I get into bed if I do.
Prayer – I don’t suggest you pray for a good nights sleep, but rather an unselfish prayer for world peace, the recovery of a sick friend, the good health of your friends and family etc.
Be comfortable – Make sure your bed is the correct hardness/softness for you. Have a pillow that is the right height so that your neck is comfortable.
How much sleep do you really need? – After a particularly busy and stressful time in my life I realised that I didn’t need as much sleep as I thought I did. This was a great revelation. I no longer fret over the amount of sleep I get as I know that I can get by. The average adult needs 7 or 8 hours a night but again this will vary as some can get by on less. If you need much more than this then there may be other factors involved.
The amount of sleep required by the average person is five minutes more. – Wilson Mizener
Use your bed only for sleeping (and sex) – This was advice I got during the research I participated in. Don’t read books, do Sudoku, watch TV and so on in bed. This way your body knows that being in bed means it’s time for sleep.
Lighting – Make sure your room is dark. Avoid alarm clocks and stereos with glowing displays. Make sure your curtains are thick enough to keep out any light. When you’re preparing for bed dim the lights or use a lamp so it actually feels like night time.
Relaxing music – Listening to relaxing music can help set the scene for sleep.
Put your mobile phone on silent – If you have friends who text you just as you’re drifting off to sleep then this is really the only way to avoid it. Not only does a text wake you up but it also gets you thinking about whatever they’ve contacted you about.
I’ve also tried Acupuncture, Homeopathy and herbal remedies which all helped.
If you’ve tried all these sorts of things and still have no luck then you should probably consult a medical professional in case there is something else that is causing it.
Good luck and sweet dreams.