According to the Sleep Health Foundation, insomnia affects around one in three people. But help is at hand with these simple tips for a better night’s rest.
As anyone who has ever stared at the ceiling in desperate anticipation of sleep can attest, insomnia is no bed of roses. Not only is sleep deprivation intensely frustrating, it can have some nasty flow-on effects – ranging from exhaustion and headaches to poor immunity and weight gain. If counting sheep is sending you baaa-king mad, here are some other little tips to try in your quest for a good night’s sleep.
- Create a feeling of calm in the bedroom
Your bedroom should inspire you to recount the catch cry of The Castle’s Darryl Kerrigan: “Aaah, how’s the serenity!” If it doesn’t, you’re in trouble… This obviously means making sure the room is dark, quiet and temperature controlled, but it also means creating a space that makes you feel relaxed and happy. This might be as simple as keeping your room clutter-free or giving it a colour makeover with some stylish new bed linen.
- Keep a consistent routine
Waking up and going to bed at consistent times – even on weekends – will help you make friends with melatonin, the ‘sleep hormone’. Melatonin is what regulates the body’s circadian rhythm and induces that feeling of sleepiness.
- Avoid caffeine after midday
Caffeine might get you through the mid-morning slump but after that, switch to something herbal. Caffeine is a double-edged sword when it comes to sleep. Not only can it make getting to sleep more difficult, it can also prevent the more restful, regenerating kind of sleep.
- Make sure your bed is comfortable
Like Goldilocks, you need to make sure your mattress is just right – not too firm and not too hard. Likewise, your pillow should support your sleep style. If you’re predominantly a stomach sleeper, go for something soft. If you tend to sleep more on your back, go for something flatter and firmer. Buy good quality sheets and take care of them prolonging life of bedding to avoid irritation through pilling. Also, make sure you pre-wash new sheets to rid them of stiffness and chemical residues. Tips to beat insomnia
- Minimise allergens
Nasal congestion and itchy eyes don’t make a great launching pad for nodding off. If you suffer from allergies, wash bedding regularly and replace pillows at least every couple of years. Also make sure your room is well ventilated and air out your mattress in the sun on a regular basis.
- Carb up
A small, carbohydrate-rich snack before bedtime will help to stimulate melatonin levels and regulate your blood sugar. A good choice for this is a banana or a plain biscuit. Be wary of overeating though – overloading your system or giving yourself heartburn is not going to do your sleep campaign any favours.
- Exercise regularly…
Regular exercise can help to burn off that excess energy that has your toes tapping at 2am. It can also help to diffuse the tensions that keep your mind ticking over when you’re trying to get to sleep.
- …but avoid heavy exercise in the evening
Heavy exercise just before you’re about to try and nod off will not help the cause. Try to avoid any kind of strenuous exercise for at least three hours before bed. If you want to do some sort of exercise in the evening, try something calming like yoga or pilates.
- Have a bath before bed
One of the keys to relaxation is body temperature. The deepest sleep occurs when your body temperature is at its lowest. Having a bath before bedtime sends a message to the brain to lower your body temperature, which is conducive to sleep.
- Write it down
Stress is probably the number one nemesis of sleep. While it isn’t really possible to avoid stress altogether, putting your thoughts down on paper is one way to stop them racing around your head when you’d rather be sleeping. You can either make a point of sitting down at some point in the evening to note down the things that are occupying your mind, or – if you’re the kind of person who wakes up bolt upright with grand plans or worries in the night – keep a notepad next to your bed.
The causes of insomnia are many and varied, as are the solutions. With any luck, some combination of the tips covered above will help you break the curse and you’ll be catching zzz’s with the greatest of ease in no time!