Things to Do When You Just Can’t Fall Asleep
Sleep is essential for growth, development and psychological processing, not to mention good skin health and all round well-being. Sleep should be at the top of the wellness triangle above nutrition and exercise. So why do so many of us struggle to get a good nights sleep?
The sleep market is booming with savvy entrepreneurs jumping on the band wagon offering a wealth of tech ‘quick fixes” to help the 48% of the population who struggle to sleep find that elusive solution.
Do we need these 21st century aids? Not according to Dr Guy Meadows of The Sleep School. “We are born to sleep, it is a natural biological behaviour” says Dr Meadows. If we get knocked off course then we can teach ourselves back to good sleep practices. Those of us who don’t sleep well – and I count myself amongst the ever growing number – try to establish a conditioned bedtime routine. However Dr Meadows feels that this often increases the association of bed with anxiousness and struggle – in other words insomnia. How many of us are falling asleep on the sofa but the moment we take ourselves off to bed then toss and turn restlessly unable to drift off into the land of Nod.
Efforts to try and solve the sleep problem actually push sleep further away.
We all have a sleep drive. Adenosine is the brain chemical that tells our brain we need sleep and this can be masked by stimulants so all these including caffeine should be avoided a few hours before bedtime and we should take notice of our internal body clock. Our social/work life may ignore our natural type. Ask yourself are you a Lark* or an Owl and go with that as much as possible.
Before getting in to bed we need to ensure that our nighttime environment is as comfortable as possible;
Avoid Caffeine from 4pm (or 6 hours before your bedtime) and drink chamomile tea just before bed
Make sure your bedroom is the right temperature – Between 18 and 20 degrees
Darken your room or use an eye mask if you like it pitch black!
Charge your phone away from your bed and try not to look at it for at least an hour before bed
Eliminate noise (wear ear plugs if needed)
I tend to read when I go to bed and then when sleepy I put in headphones to listen to Desert Island Discs or something similar in the hope that I will drift off – this is not the right approach! Dr Meadows believes that unless we are experiencing extreme anxiety or traumatic events we should try not to depend on anything accept our learned behaviour to help us sleep better.
Dr Meadows answer is to adopt an Acceptance and Commitment Theory. Our anxious and busy thoughts that seem to race even faster as we lie there waiting for sleep should be embraced rather than blocked out.
Stop trying to force sleep.
We sleep in 1-2 hour cycles and as we get older more preys on our mind and we are more likely to wake between cycles. To encourage sleep we should;
Let our thoughts wash over us
Let them come and go
Concentrate on our breathing
Obviously sleep is best for us but resting is almost as good and if we can train our brains to just accept this resting – and not get up and make tea, check emails, put another podcast on or even catch up with the house chores – we will eventually learn to sleep better.
To really feel the benefits of a good sleep routines, the actions we do as soon as we wake up can have just as much impact as the ones we do before we hit the hay. When you wake (before you look at your phone);
Let in some natural light
Use a clock radio and AVOID SNOOZE (I know it is hard)
Plan a healthy breakfast
Drink a pint of water
Don’t get tempted by all these new gadgets and gizmos – we just need a little time and a lot of patience.
Heres hoping – happy sleeping.
*Lark – Morning person