Apparently I was an insomniac. I actually didn’t realise, because for as long as I could remember I’d slept this way. It would usually take me two hours to fall to sleep. I’d wake up in the middle of the night, and every morning I’d wake up feeling pretty knackered. Sometimes I’d only get a couple of hours of sleep.
Realising that I was an insomniac was quite helpful. I decided to research how I could support myself to sleep better – and here’s what I found out.
I hope that what I learnt can also help you to sleep better and feel more rested.
- The body is a creature of routine. It likes to trust you to get it into and out of bed, at the same time every day. If sometimes you’re unable to do this, your body will forgive you, but its needs need to be respected.
- Sleep goes through a number of phases, and one of these very important phases is deep sleep. I have always described myself a ‘light sleeper’, which simply meant I wasn’t great at falling into a deep sleep quickly. You can train your body to fall into a deeper sleep more quickly, and it’s not that hard to do. This is how you do it: go to bed half an hour later and get up half an hour later. Simple. Yes, you will feel sleepy at first, but then you will train your body to fall more quickly into a deep sleep.
- Doing anything other than sleeping in your bed (although intimacy is allowed) does not help you to sleep. I know there are people who read in bed and fall to sleep, but they do not have an issue with sleeping. If you find falling or staying asleep difficult then try not to read, watch tv or check your phone. This is because your body will begin to associate the bed and sleeping time with a whole host of stimulating activities, which will not help.
- Dedicate your bedroom to sleeping alone – do not use the room for other activities if you can help it.
- An hour before bed do not look at anything with a blue light screen i.e. computer, mobile phone, tablet – as there is evidence that it stops you from sleeping.
- Exercise helps you sleep, so try and do gentle exercise – even if you are tired – a few times a week. A walk around the block or going for a swim, will all help you get into the habit of sleeping better.
- Get out of bed when you wake up, do not lie there feeling tired, pressing the snooze button. I know you will be tired, but lying there will make it harder to sleep well, as you will associate bed with lying in bed awake. Get up and sit on the sofa if you are tired.
- At the point you cannot sleep there are a number of things I have found helpful:
- Remember that tomorrow you will feel tired, and despite that not being ideal, you will just be tired and you have survived being tired before.
- If your mind is racing, try and be aware of your thoughts, but choose not to follow their trail. For example, if you are thinking about a meeting the next day, say in your mind, in a slow voice, “just now I am thinking about my meeting” then the cupboard you meant to tidy out pops into your mind, “now I am thinking about that cupboard I needed to tidy it out”. Make sure your minds voice stays slow, even insert in a yawn here and there. Repeat until sleep.
I do hope these tips help you enjoy improved sleep and feel more rested. Most of the information was gained from this book, if you want to read more.
If you are finding it hard to sleep because of anxiety, then sometimes getting the rest we need can be really difficult. If the tips above don’t work, it’s not because you have failed, simply that life can be really hard at times. And sometimes that’s when counselling might be of help.
If you have any tips that work for you, please comment and share your experience below.